President Lincoln’s Cottage

You don’t need old furniture to learn history

November 29, 2012

Lincoln and his family summered at the cottage to escape downtown’s grossness.

Abraham Lincoln had two homes while in office: the White House and this 34-room “cottage” — the word refers to the style, not size — on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, a haven for retired or disabled veterans. (It’s still in use, now called the Armed Forces Retirement Home.)

Here the Lincoln family lived during the summer and early fall of 1862, ’63 and ’64, away from the heat and humidity of downtown. The president commuted three miles each way to work, in spite of attempts to kidnap or kill him.

The house is largely empty of furniture and decoration, a choice that brings visitors closer to Lincoln. Stripped of history’s material trappings, his life and ideas roam free. Guides tell stories of Lincoln greeting visitors in his bedroom slippers, laboring over the Emancipation Proclamation, reading Shakespeare and fretting about the 1864 election.

President Lincoln’s Cottage, 140 Rock Creek Church Road NW; advance tickets required; 202-829-0436.

Did You Know?

›› According to reports of the time, Mary Lincoln held at least one séance at the cottage. (Two of the Lincolns’ sons had died by this time.)

›› StudioEIS, the company that created the statue of Lincoln and his horse, has produced several Founding Fathers and Lincolns. To make its Lincolns as accurate as possible, the team measured items of Abe’s clothing held by the Smithsonian.

›› In the 1970s and early ’80s, the Lincoln family’s library and drawing room served as a tavern for Soldiers’ Home residents. It was called the “Lincoln Lounge.”

Learn More! Explore D.C., a free iPhone app from The Washington Post, is a guide to the city’s attractions, big and small. Download it today from the App Store.

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