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The site where Abraham Lincoln formed his earliest memories — including the first time he saw blacks on their way to be sold as slaves — is about to undergo major renovations.
The first phase of the plan to upgrade the Boyhood Home at Knob Creek will wrap up next month with the end of public commenting on an environmental assessment, park Superintendent Keith Pruitt said. Construction may begin this summer on the project, which could cost $2.24 million, according to a preliminary estimate.
A major focus of the work will be turning a 1930s roadside tavern into a visitors center with informational displays. The building off U.S. 31E near Hodgenville is closed to the public for safety reasons.
Work to the old tavern though, likely will be limited at first — until further funding can be found. Other projects will include expanding the parking lot, building exterior restrooms and trail development.
Before that, construction documents for contractors will be drawn up by spring, Pruitt said.
The National Park Service acquired the site in 2001 as part of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park. The farm where Lincoln was born is about 10 miles away, just south of Hodgenville.
For now, the Boyhood park has a temporary visitor contact station, hiking trails and a replica of the boyhood cabin, which the NPS recently restored. Logs in the cabin were taken from the home of Austin Gollaher, who Lincoln said saved him from drowning.
Lincoln lived at the Knob Creek farm from ages 2 to 7, when his family moved to Indiana. A few years ago archeologists searched for his family’s cabin at the site but could not find it.
LaRue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner said the Boyhood Home renovations will be “nothing but a plus for us.” For instance, it will draw more tourists and help spread the word about the important role Kentucky played in Lincoln’s development.
The area saw a significant increase in tourism during Lincoln’s bicentennial birthday celebration, Turner said.
The NPS — which recently re-opened the Memorial Building housing the birthplace cabin replica — expects to increase staffing at the Boyhood Home after its renovations.
As for the environmental study, it doesn’t appear to show problems with the project. “We think it’s positive,” Pruitt said.
The park grounds are meant to demonstrate the mix of agriculture and woodlands around in Lincoln’s day.
The public is invited to view and comment on the environmental assessment through Dec. 17. To do so, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.