Monday, August 11, 2008
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.)
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.
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.
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