Did you know Abraham Lincoln had a summer cottage? I didn’t!
I recently discovered “The Lincoln Cottage” while perusing Tripadvisor. I was visiting my daughter, Talia, in Washington D.C., and she had asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to do. I was reviewing my options.
The Lincoln Cottage is a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Monument. It is located on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. It opened to the public on February 18, 2008 after an eight year restoration project.
President Lincoln and his family escaped to the Cottage during the summer months when the heart of D.C. became hot and muggy. In total, the Lincolns lived at the cottage for 13 months during the four years he was president. The Cottage is located about three miles north of the White House.
The Cottage is also located about 4 miles from my daughter’s home. A new-to-us Lincoln attraction and right near her home! It was the perfect activity for Day 2 of my visit. Tickets were $15, and we bought them online in advance. Just as an fyi, the entrance to the site is monitored by a guard shack, and IDs are required for all visitors.
Our tour started in the Visitor Center across the street from the Cottage. Our group was small, only five of us, including the tour guide. Our tour began with a short film and then proceeded across the street, to the Cottage.
Once inside the Cottage, our guide said we were allowed to take pictures as long as we did not use a flash. However, she did ask that any pictures not be posted on social media. So out of respect for the request and for the Lincoln Cottage, I will not post any pictures of the inside of the Cottage. Outside pictures are allowed.
Back in 1857, a Soldiers Home was located on the site, and the commissioner of the home began inviting the president and the secretary of the war to stay in officers’ cottages during the summer months. James Buchanan was the first president to accept, and it’s possible he recommended the Cottage to Lincoln. Other presidents stayed here as well. Eventually, the tradition ended, likely because of the growing residential population of the Soldiers Home.
When President Lincoln lived in the Cottage, he commuted by horseback to the White House, often stopping to talk with troops and with those living in the contraband camps along his route. He passed by the home of Walt Whitman each day, and the two men would exchange bows. During his time at the Cottage, Lincoln crafted the Emancipation Proclamation, and it was during our tour, we learned of the Proclamation’s political strategy.
The Cottage does not have any furniture from its Lincoln years. Herbert Hoover moved the Lincoln furniture to the White House during his presidential term, and other furniture was moved to the Smithsonian. However, the light fixtures, the fireplaces and even portraits of George and Martha Washington which hang on the walls are the same ones that graced the home when the Lincolns lived there.
The original floor is still in the Cottage, but has been overlaid by a new floor. However, there is a square cut out where the original floor can be viewed. The library room retains its original wood paneled walls, and ghost lines of where bookshelves once were can be seen. Even though the home is mostly empty, our tour guide filled the rooms and brought its history to life with stories and descriptions from Lincoln’s time.
One such story was a visitor from Great Britain who came to the United States with two purposes in mind. One goal was to see Niagara Falls, and the other goal was to meet the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The visitor did meet Lincoln at his Cottage Home, albeit the president was in his slippers.
I couldn’t help but feel heartache to have learned the Lincolns visited the Cottage on April 13th, 1865, the day before Lincoln was assassinated. They had come to make preparations to spend the coming summer at the Cottage. It would have been their first summer there without the Civil War going on.
After our tour, Talia and I walked about the beautiful, well-groomed grounds, taking pictures and enjoying a sunny Fall day. At one spot, we could even see a faint outline of the United States Capitol Building.
We also noticed a very large tree with a strange looking tree trunk. Later, when we went back to the Visitor Center to view the exhibits there, we asked about that tree.
Yes, that very tree was here during Lincoln’s time. Some good things endure; thank heavens.
I really enjoyed visiting The Lincoln Cottage, and I hope you enjoyed reading my post. Like so often when I visit historical sites, I came away with new knowledge of events and people from long ago. What made it even better was that I was with my daughter, Talia.
Our time at The Lincoln Cottage was done; however, the day was not yet over. There was a little more fun yet to be had. And that, dear reader, will be the subject of my next post.