The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Lincoln Memorial is closed briefly after messy party litters steps

Saturday morning clean-up of broken bottles and spilled wine came on the eve of a celebration for the memorial’s 100th anniversary

The 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Memorial's dedication is this month. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Lincoln Memorial was briefly closed Saturday morning on the eve of its centennial anniversary festivities after a graduation celebration left the most visited site on the National Mall a bit of a mess, the National Park Service said.

“The Lincoln Memorial is closed this morning following a local university graduation celebration that left litter, broken bottles and spilled wine and champagne covering the steps,” the Park Service said in a tweet shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday. “We will reopen as soon as the area has been cleaned and made safe.”

The Park Service did not name the university or the event, but at about 11:30 a.m. added: “Thanks to our facilities staff for the quick clean up this morning. The Lincoln Memorial is open. We appreciate your patience.”

Georgetown University, which held its college graduation Saturday and whose undergraduates annually gather for a sunrise celebration at the nearby memorial on commencement day, said through a spokesperson, “We are monitoring the concerning and disappointing activity at the Lincoln Memorial.”

The spokesperson added, “While Georgetown is one of several institutions celebrating graduation ceremonies this weekend, we have had no University-sponsored events at or around the Lincoln Memorial. We expect all members of our community to be responsible citizens of our campus and our city and be respectful of the history and institutions of Washington, D.C.”

The University of Maryland held commencement ceremonies in College Park through Friday, and George Mason University on its Fairfax and Arlington campuses through Saturday outside Washington, their spokespersons said. In the city, American, Catholic, George Washington and Howard universities held graduation events earlier this spring, although AU held a special ceremony Saturday morning for 2020 and 2021 graduates whose in-person ceremonies were postponed by the pandemic.

AU spokeswoman Sandra Rodriguez said its small make-up ceremony drew about 500 of its 2020 and 2021 graduates and said, “We aren’t aware of any students involved as our commencement activities are all on campus.”

The iconic marble shrine to the nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was dedicated on May 30, 1922. The 100th anniversary of the dedication has been the subject of a month-long series of events.

The schedule includes a free public ceremony at 10 a.m. Sunday hosted by the Lincoln Group of DC, in partnership with the National Park Service to highlight in word and music the memorial’s meaning to American society over the decades.

As Lincoln Memorial turns 100, group hopes to right a century-old wrong

Ceremony participants will include Lincoln scholars Harold Holzer and Edna Greene Medford, Tuskegee University president Charlotte Morris, actor Steven Lang, performer Felicia Curry and a U.S. Marine Corps quintet.

The Lincoln Memorial, inspired by the Greek Parthenon, has become a gathering place for Americans over the years, a backdrop for national celebrations, and “the foremost place for people to gather or assemble or speak their mind to the government,” NPS spokesman Mike Litterst said, “So, to have an event here, especially after two years of reduced visitation or people not traveling, it seems altogether fitting and proper in more ways than one.”