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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Only Thing I Have to Say About Reagan's Funeral 

You may have missed this tidbit in all the coverage about Ronald Reagan:
Deep in the bowels of the Capitol, a long flight of stone steps leads to a tiny barred cell. Inside rests a platform that has been called on 25 times to play its part in national mourning: the catafalque hastily built to bear Abraham Lincoln's coffin.

This week, it will be the platform on which Reagan will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

The catafalque and the tiny room in which it has been stored for 139 years are physical links to two of the nation's presidential icons: Lincoln and George Washington.

Since Lincoln's time, the catafalque has been housed in the tiny cell designed to be Washington's final resting place.

The 7-foot-long, 2-foot-high catafalque, or bier, was built of pine boards in the days immediately after Lincoln's death on April 15, 1865. Covered in black velvet cloth with ornate gatherings at each corner, it has undergone several minor renovations but remains largely as it was in Lincoln's time, according to the Office of the Architect of the Capitol.
After they're finished using the catafalque, I assume they'll put it back in the tiny room, which was actually going to be the tomb for George & Martha Washington. When I used to work on the Hill, anybody could visit the room, but I'll bet there are tighter security measures in place these days. If it's a slow day, you could probably get an aide from your Representative or Senator's office to take you to see it.

UPDATE: Since I seem to be getting a lot of traffic from Google from people looking for information on the Lincoln Catafalque, I thought I'd post this link, which is probably more in line with what such searchers are looking for.

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