Lincoln spent some of his most formative years growing up in New Salem, Blanchette said. And the township is at the heart of the "log cabin" image that has crystallized around the 16th president.
The site was recreated in the 1930s and '40s using the remaining foundations.
"You can stroll through the log village and try and imagine what life would have been like in the 1830s," Blanchette said, which lets visitors experience a period when Lincoln transformed himself from a "young man with no real direction in life" to someone with "purpose and a vision."
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace: Hodgenville, Ky.
The president's birthplace is "literally the first memorial of any kind of Abraham Lincoln," said Bill Justice, superintendent of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park, which has its origins in an early 20th-century project by the Lincoln Farm Association.
The park, designed by John Russell Pope years before he began work on the Jefferson Memorial, includes two sites: the Memorial Building, which stands on the farm where Lincoln was born in 1809, and his boyhood home at Knob Creek.
It was at his boyhood home that Lincoln formed his earliest memories, Justice said, such as planting pumpkin seeds between the farm's corn rows.
At Knob Creek, visitors get a more hands-on idea of what those early years were like: The field is "pretty much unchanged," Justice said.
A favorite activity of his at the park is visiting the creek.
"The best thing to my mind, it gives me goose bumps when we go over there, is to stand there," he said, "and look down on the field and contemplate that you're pretty much looking at what Abraham Lincoln saw."