Lincoln Cottage at the Soldiers' Home

Lincoln Cottage at the Soldiers' Home photo
(Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
This Gothic Revival house, where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, is open for public tours after a seven-year renovation.
Mon-Sat: Hourly tours 10 am to 3 pm; Sun: Hourly tours 11 am-3 pm. Closed Thanksgiving
Christmas and New Year's Day
(NW Washington)
Admission to the visitors center is free. Tours cost $15, $12.50 military, $5 ages 6 to 12
202-829-0436
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Editorial Review

Historical importance: This Gothic Revival house (called a cottage, but with 34 rooms) is three miles north of the White House and about 300 feet higher, making it much cooler in the summer. (Several other presidents also used it.)

From 1862 to 1864, Abraham Lincoln, his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and son Tad lived here from June to November -- nearly a quarter of the time Lincoln spent in office. It's where he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation and met with generals, diplomats and Cabinet members. Lincoln always took the same route from the White House to the cottage, and one night as he rode home, a sniper put a bullet through his stovepipe hat.

Tour highlights: Ghostly marks of shelves line the paneled library, and there are copies of Lincoln's favorite books and a checkerboard on tables. (He used to play checkers with Tad.) The visitor center has four small rooms with exhibits and an introductory video, and a large mural shows Lincoln talking with a convalescing soldier and Tad in his miniature uniform.

A signed copy of the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and the pen Lincoln used to sign it are on display. Furnishings are scant (some period, some reproduction). In seven of the 10 rooms on tour, lighting effects and actors' recordings of anecdotes illustrate Lincoln's thoughts on the war and slavery.

Bring the kids? Recommended for age 8 and older. The dramatic re-creations are effective. There are interactive exhibits and the "Cabinet room" has writing-desk-like computers where kids take on the roles of Lincoln's staff. Strollers not allowed in the cottage.

Tour information:Regularly open for guided tours (about an hour) Monday-Saturday on the hour from 10 to 3, Sundays from noon to 3. $15 for Adults, $12.50 for military and $5 ages 6-12. Reservations recommended.

Wheelchair access: Good.

While in the neighborhood: Just north of the main Eagle Gate is Rock Creek Cemetery, where many Cabinet members, congressmen, Supreme Court justices and presidential relatives Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Henry Adams are buried.

Fun facts: Lincoln was particularly fond of Shakespeare and once put his secretary John Hay to sleep reading out loud from "Richard III."

--Eve Zibart (Updated July 2012)