by Matt Ringelstetter
As much time we spend here talking about President Lincoln, it’s important to remember that other people have lived on the grounds of what is now known as the Armed Forces Retirement Home, an independent federal agency. For the past 150 years, the Soldiers’ Home has provided a comfortable place to live for retired service men and women. The first residents actually occupied the Lincoln Cottage itself for a time, or as it was then known, the Riggs Cottage. These were mostly elderly veterans from the War of 1812 and wounded soldiers who had fought in the Mexican War. In 1857, the Sherman Building was completed and served as the main dormitory for the retired vets. Today, most of the residents live in Scott and Sheridan, the two largest buildings on campus. The home has been in continual use since 1851, and currently offers 272 acres of space located within one of America’s busiest and most exciting cities. Besides a peaceful setting, the Armed Forces Retirement Home also provides residents with a nine-hole golf course, bowling alley, barber shop, arts and crafts studios, auto shop, 600 seat movie theater, and a cafeteria equipped with a soft-serve frozen yogurt machine (a favorite among Lincoln Cottage interns). The Home has everything the residents need to make their stay a comfortable and pleasant one.
Yet the Home’s mission was never to preserve and operate a museum for the public, so in 1999 the National Trust for Historic Preservation entered into a cooperative agreement with the Home to preserve, develop, and open the Cottage to the public. Seven years and $15 million later, the National Trust is set to open President Lincoln’s Cottage to the public in February 2008. The National Trust is a private, non-profit membership organization and is solely responsible for operating, funding, and maintaining the site. www.nationaltrust.org
Matt Ringelstetter is a 2007 intern at President Lincolns’ Cottage.