Erin Carlson Mast
Original images of President Lincoln’s Cottage from the Civil War period are rare. Over five years of research before and during restoration yielded only a couple handfuls of prints, drawings, photographs, and lithographs of the Cottage that date to around the 1860s.
Two months ago, Col. and Mrs. Gary Vroegindewey donated several cartes de visites and other materials to the site. Amongst the other materials was an original 19th century stereocard showing the Cottage in the 1860s. This stereocard offers new information about how the Cottage looked during the summer months when Lincoln was in residence. Unlike the handful of other photographs of the Cottage from around the same period, this image shows the Cottage in the thick of summer with a lush garden, wisteria covering the veranda, and awnings on all of the south facing windows of the second floor.
The back of the stereocard specifically identifies the image as the “Summer Cottage, Residence of President Lincoln, near Washington, D.C.” This type of language has led some to believe the Cottage is located outside the District. The Cottage is of course in the District of Columbia, but during the 1860s was located in Washington County, D.C. as opposed to Washington (City), D.C. The two merged in the early 1870s with Georgetown, D.C. to become simply, Washington, D.C.
The stereocard was published by Richard Walzl, 103 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD, who was active in the late 19th century and into the 20th century and publisher of The Photographer’s Friend. Prominent architectural features added to the Cottage in the early 1870s (notably the extension of the porch) are noticeably absent, however, which is explained by the indication on the back of the stereocard that it was created using a negative produced by a “G. O. Brown,” who apparently created the negative in the 1860s.
Special thanks to Col. and Mrs. Vroegindewey for their generous donation to President Lincoln’s Cottage.