Begun in 1934 as the idea of Harriet Knudson, a member of the Springfield Civic Garden Club, as a living memorial to Abraham Lincoln, the 63-acre garden along the shore of Lake Springfield was designed by Jens Jensen. It was to be composed only of native plant communities from the three states in which Lincoln resided: Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Unique to this commission, since many of the species proposed by Jensen were unavailable commercially, school children and garden clubs were brought in to collect and plant acorns and seeds from areas that were being lost to new construction throughout the region.
The design for the garden illustrates an amplification of ideas employed the previous year by Jensen at Mahoney Park, expanding here to a series of finger-like open spaces, each surrounded by native woodland. Jensen’s design also includes eight council rings, positioned on short spurs off the main trail or on the edge of clearings.
The garden was one of Jensen’s last major public landscape commissions. Today, stewardship of the garden is overseen by the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation, an organization established in for that purpose in 1952. The garden was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.