Martin: Lincoln didn’t sleep here

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(HOST) For years commentator Mike Martin believed that Abraham Lincoln had slept in his hometown. Now he’s made some new discoveries, and he’s thinking about just what Presidential places mean to us.

(MARTIN) My hometown of Essex Junction owes its name to the roads and rails that all criss-cross right in the middle of town. It’s also home to the Champlain Valley Fair, an IBM plant, and an Amtrak station, but some only know it for the dreaded Five Corners. Odd-numbered intersections have long traffic light cycles, so when the IBMers get off their shift, or school lets out, or the Fair’s in town, and the train crossing lights start flashing, the Five Corners requires a good long wait at one of Vermont’s trickiest crossroads.

But there is one thing about the Five Corners that I was always proud of as a kid: the Lincoln Inn. The Lincoln Inn is a historic-looking building that presides over the busy intersection, and many people think it got its name because Abraham Lincoln once slept there. It sort of makes sense, I mean Honest Abe loved the railroad, and Essex Junction was a quaint whistle stop back then. So, mean remarks about my hometown’s traffic jams have always rolled off my back, because, after all, we have the Lincoln Inn; we’ve had at least one brush with greatness.

To find out more, I went to the Brownell Library – formerly known as Lincoln Hall – which is just across the Five Corners from the Lincoln Inn, on Lincoln Street. With its generous librarians’ help, I learned that the Five Corners used to be a grassy commons named Lincoln Park. So when the Essex Junction Hotel Company opened their new establishment in 1914, they naturally named it the Lincoln Inn. So there you have it.

Except that Abraham Lincoln never set foot in Essex Junction, or Vermont either for that matter. Of course, Lincoln’s son Robert summered in Vermont and built his lovely estate Hildene near Manchester. And the Equinox Hotel even prepared a room for the President once, but Lincoln never did get to vacation in Vermont with the rest of his family.

The funny thing is that even though President Lincoln never slept at the Lincoln Inn, just having his name there lent an aura of dignity to our town. And I imagine that’s why we name places after our great men and women, to remember them, sure, but also to borrow a little bit of their greatness.

There’s been some debate lately about naming airports and roads after people who are still alive, and some have proposed naming places for Barack Obama before he even becomes President. I’m not sure what the proper memorial waiting period should be, but it’s important to be able to look up to our Presidents, especially in troubled times.

However, they still will need to earn our respect and admiration. Then, in the coming years, we can pay less attention to where our Presidents slept and more to where they were awake, on the job, and hard at work for us.

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