Monday, August 11, 2008

Lincoln Cottage

The front of the Lincoln Cottage (far right)
on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home

Among other activities this weekend, I had tickets for a guided tour of the Lincoln Cottage on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH.) The cottage was built in 1842 by George Washington Riggs, founder of Riggs National Bank, and was located on 300 acres of rural farmland two miles north of downtown Washington. In modern parlance, Riggs built a cabin in the woods! Around 1850, Riggs sold the property and buildings to the U.S. Government, which acquired it for the purpose of creating an Old Soldiers Home. (Ironically, Jefferson Davis, who was then Secretary of War for President Franklin Pierce and would later become president of the secessionist Confederate States of America, shared in the effort to create this retirement home.)

The back of the Lincoln Cottage on the grounds of the AFRH

President Lincoln and his family lived in the cottage for one-quarter of Mr. Lincoln's presidency. They would take up residence every June and depart in November during his administration. President Lincoln would commute to work at the White House during the day, but spent evenings and weekends at the cottage. He could often be seen alone astride a horse riding back and forth between 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW and this bucolic oasis above the city. It was here that President Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. His last visit to the house was the day before he was assassinated on April 14, 1856. He and Mrs. Lincoln traveled to the cottage to make preparations for their stay that summer.

U.S. Soldiers' and Airmens' Home National Cemetery--
the predecessor to Arlington National Cemetery

In addition to the cottage, there is a military cemetery across the street which predates Arlington National Cemetery and served as the primary burial ground of early Union dead during the Civil War. The cottage is open seven days a week, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Tours are available and it is highly recommended that you obtain tickets before visiting. As the cottage is located on the grounds of the AFRH, visitors are restricted to the cottage and the Robert H. Smith Visitors Center.

Robert H. Smith Visitors Center

The Lincoln Cottage also has a blog, which is updated several times a week and provides interesting facts and information. If you're visiting Washington or you love Civil War history, this is a definite must-see.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 08/08


Professor said...

What an interesting area and thanks for the great history lesson! Somehow I've missed this when I've journeyed to DC- it's not on my "must do" list the next time I get to town! Thanks!

Jack and Joann said...

Great post. We have lived in Northern Virginia for over 28 years but have never been to this historic site. Thanks for the info. You should visit Brookville Daily Photo and tell him about this post. He's related to Abraham Lincoln and his name is Abraham Lincoln. He has a great blog if you haven't seen it, you must do so.

Virginia said...

Great photos and info today. You are just the best tour guide of D.C. that I have ever had. never knew about this place either.

D.C. Confidential said...

Prof: You betcha! I should have said in my entry that the Lincoln Cottage only just opened a National Trust for Historic Preservation site about a year and a half ago. Prior to that, it was just a building at the AFRH that served a variety of functions over the decades.

J&J: Welcome! Thanks for stopping by! I'll be sure to stop by Abe's blog today. He's left comments here a few times and I visit his blog from time to time.

VJ: Thanks! Just consider me your free guide to our Nation's Capital! You can enjoy all the sites without the headache of traffic, the crush of tourist, or the discomfort of brutal heat, humidity, and mosquitoes!

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post. I have not been there and thought I knew just about everything about President Lincoln. I also have some old, and rare, books about the president and the cottage is not mentioned in them.

It is amazing to me how little we actually know about anybody, much less a president.

Thanks for the alert. I enjoyed reading this and also enjoyed seeing it in your photographs.

Abraham Lincoln
Brookville Daily Photo

D.C. Confidential said...

Abraham: The cottage was a surprise to me, too. The docent who led our tour told us more than 16,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln. I think that's astounding! Anyway--glad you enjoyed these photos and the information.