The Lincolns’ First Move to the Cottage

Detail of Mary Lincoln’s letter to a friend in May 1862.

President Lincoln and his family moved to the cottage at the Soldiers’ Home for the first time 150 years ago this week. The family decided to move for a number of reasons – to mourn the loss of their second son, Willie, to escape the unhealthy conditions of downtown Washington, DC , and to try to find some solitude from the chaos of the city.

Mary Lincoln wrote a letter to a friend, Julia Ann Sprigg, on May 29, 1862 about their expected move in the coming weeks – “The 1st of July, we go out to the ‘Soldiers’ Home,’ a very charming place 2 ½ miles from the city, several hundred feet, above, our present situation, to pass the summer.” The family would move before July, however, based on two separate accounts that indicate the family moved at some point between June 8 and 13, 1862.

The article, “A Very Charming Place,” written by Cottage staff member Zachary Klitzman for our latest edition of the Cottage Courier, discusses the Lincolns’ move to the Cottage. You can read the entire article here –

To learn more about President Lincoln’s Cottage, visit our website:

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Property Entrance Change

On Tuesday, June 5, 2012, the entrance to President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home will change to the Randolph Street gate.

Construction on the new traffic pattern at our normal entrance, Eagle Gate, will take place until November 2012, at which point Eagle Gate will be reopened and will continue as the sole entrance to the property.

For questions or concerns, please call our Museum Store at (202) 829-0436 x31231.

Directions to President Lincoln’s Cottage via the Randolph Street Gate:

entrance mapFor GPS or Google Maps Users:

Enter “300 Randolph Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20011” to map the approximate location of the Randolph Gate entrance. This is not an official street or mailing address, but is close to the intersection of Rock Creek Church Road NW and Randolph Street NW.

RAIL: Georgia Avenue/Petworth (Green & Yellow Lines) is 0.5 miles from Randolph Street Gate and is the closest metro station to President Lincoln’s Cottage.

BUS: The H8 Metro Bus stops at “Rock Creek Church Rd NW and Third Street NW” one block before the Randolph Street Gate entrance. After exiting the bus, continue up the hill, and the gate will be on your right.

BIKE: Rent a bike from Capital Bike Share, at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Rock Creek Church Road, across from the metro station. On your bike, follow Rock Creek Church Road to Randolph Street Gate (about a 0.5 miles).

TIP: Most bus and rail employees are not familiar with specific tourist attractions along their routes. They will need to know the line, route, and stop you are looking for in order to assist you rather than the name of the site. When in doubt, contact our staff for support (202)-829-0436 x31231.

Driving from Downtown DC:

Drive north on North Capitol Street for approximately 3.2 miles. You will see the Soldiers’ Home National Cemetery on your left. At the bottom of the hill, turn left onto Allison Street. Continue onto Rock Creek Church Road, NW. Turn left into the gate at the intersection of Rock Creek Church Road and Randolph Street.

Drive north on 14th Street NW or Georgia Avenue NW (but not 16th Street). Turn right on Randolph Street NW. Randolph Street terminates at the gate to the Armed Forces Retirement Home; continue through the gate.

Driving from Maryland:

Take I-495 to Georgia Avenue southbound exit. Travel approximately 5.3 miles south on Georgia Avenue NW (you’re getting close when you pass Upshur, Taylor and Shepherd Streets). Turn left on Randolph Street NW opposite the Wendy’s. Randolph Street terminates at the gate to the Armed Forces Retirement Home; continue through the gate.

Driving from Virginia:

Take I-66 eastbound to Constitution Avenue NW. Turn left on 18th Street NW. Turn right on H Street NW. Turn left on 14th Street NW. Turn right on Randolph Street NW. Randolph Street terminates at the gate to the Armed Forces Retirement Home; continue through the gate.

Tip for Cabs:

State to your driver that you’re going to the Armed Forces Retirement Home (aka “Old Soldiers’ Home”) campus, Randolph Street entrance. Do not let your driver go to 3700 N. Capitol Street–it is not an entrance. Please use common sense: never get into a cab with a driver that is uncertain about where he or she is going. We cannot be held responsible for cab drivers who get lost.

For more information, please visit our website at

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Girl Scouts at President Lincoln’s Cottage

President Lincoln’s Cottage would like to give a special welcome to all of the Girl Scouts from around the country that have traveled to Washington, D.C. for Rock The Mall starting June 1. There are so many fun and engaging places to visit in this city and President Lincoln’s Cottage is one of them! When scouts visit the Cottage with their families, they learn about President Lincoln’s leadership during one of the most tumultuous times in American History – the Civil War. The Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home served as a great place of solitude from downtown Washington for Lincoln and was where he developed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Cottage offers a special admission price just for Girl Scouts! Included with the Girl Scout Ticket scouts receive a President Lincoln’s Cottage patch and an activity sheet that help scouts earn one of the following badges: Listening to the Past, Communication, Folk Arts or Building Art.

CLICK HERE to purchase your ticket. Advanced ticket purchase is strongly recommended, we cannot guarantee a spot on a tour without a reservation.

For more information about President Lincoln’s Cottage, visit our website at Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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A Beautiful Spring at President Lincoln’s Cottage

We couldn’t resist sharing some photos of the Cottage on this beautiful (and hot!) day. We hope you will follow in Lincoln’s footsteps and escape the heat and humidity of downtown DC by visiting the Cottage and enjoying the cool breezes and beautiful grounds – it is lovely at this time of year!

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Don’t forget about our Memorial Day activities this Monday. Will we see you there?

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Decorating Our Fallen Soldiers: Memorial Day Past and Present

President Lincoln often walked among the graves of the first National Cemetery, just steps from the Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home.

By Curtis Harris

Today, Memorial Day often has a festive atmosphere. It serves as the unofficial kickoff for summer and vacation season as Americans enjoy barbecues and picnics. However, in the aftermath of the Civil War, Memorial Day held a solemn place in the public mind.

Around 625,000 Americans perished in the Civil War which almost equals the total number of dead from all of America’s other wars combined. Nearly every American lost a loved one in this conflict, and certainly knew someone who had, whether they were from the North or South, native-born or immigrant, white or black. To cope with this incredible loss, communities across the North began decorating the graves of their loved ones with flowers.

By 1868, this ritual was so widespread that General John Logan, head of the Grand Army of the Republic, an association of Union war veterans, proclaimed that May 30 should be the official observance across the Union for decorating the graves of soldiers. This Decoration Day, as it was then called, is the genesis of our Memorial Day.

In Southern states, the outpouring of grief was just as pervasive as both former slaves and Confederates carried out the practice of decorating graves from the war dead. In the former Confederacy, formalized decoration days normally occurred in late April or May.

By 1920, sectional reconciliation had occurred and the 30th of May was nationally recognized as Decoration Day, although, currently 9 states still observe some form of Confederate Memorial/Heroes Day. After World War II, “Memorial Day” became the preferred term for Decoration Day and in 1968 Congress officially moved the observance of the day from the fixed date of May 30th that was proclaimed by General Logan to simply the last Monday in May.

This measure symbolically linked Memorial Day not just with its Civil War beginnings but with all American wars. The day now honored all service members who had died in combat. It’s a reminder that Americans have sacrificed for each other before, during and after the Civil War and will continue to do so.

On this Memorial Day, the Armed Forces Retirement Home and President Lincoln’s Cottage will honor these persons with wreath laying ceremonies and tours of the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.

The 1st wreath laying ceremony will occur at 11:15am at the Soldiers’ Home and a 2nd ceremony will take place at the cemetery at 12:15pm. Tours of the cemetery will take place at 11:30am and 1:30pm and are free of charge. Reservations are not required but are appreciated. Regularly scheduled Cottage Tours will also be available at the normal price of $15 for adults, $5 for children (ages 6-12), and $12.50 for active duty military. Advance purchase for Cottage Tour tickets is strongly recommended and the only way to guarantee a spot on a tour. Please visit our website to purchase tickets:

Be sure to bring a picnic lunch to relax and enjoy the beautiful grounds on the south lawn of the Cottage!

Mr. Harris is a Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Latest Happenings and Upcoming Events

spring newsletter 2012The latest edition of the Cottage Courier is now available on our website! Stay up-to-date with all that is happening at President Lincoln’s Cottage by subscribing to receive our quarterly e-newsletter.

The next Cottage Conversation will take place Monday, May 21, with Harold Holzer at 6:30pm and you don’t want to miss the Memorial Day festivities on May 28. Find out more here. The 1863/2013 Sesquicentennial Ornament is now available for purchase. Click here to buy and be sure to collect the entire series!

Readers also do not want to miss the article A Very Charming Place by Zachary Klitzman, which discusses a letter Mary Lincoln wrote referencing her family’s planned move to the Soldiers’ Home.

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Reflections on Evolving Views

By Erin Carlson Mast

One hundred and fifty years ago, our country was deeply divided over an issue of individual liberty—slavery.  We are currently divided over yet another issue of personal freedom.   What’s more, political analysts and journalists are drawing comparisons between Obama’s recent self-proclaimed evolving views on the issue of gay marriage to  Lincoln’s evolving views and policies regarding slavery. As a place that spends a great deal of time studying the ideas and actions of our 16th President, as well as the political, economic, social, and religious culture of his day, when Lincoln makes national news, President Lincoln’s Cottage feels an obligation to provide non-partisan, thoughtful comment for reflection.

Consider this: Today, many of our visitors want to know why it took Lincoln so long to act on slavery.  The answer is complex.  Many things only seem obvious in retrospect.  Lincoln is, appropriately, most remembered for the Emancipation Proclamation, developed at the Cottage, in which he helped an entire population take a step closer to enjoying their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But when he issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, while living here, there was strong opposition.  (It is worth noting, Lincoln did not have a spotless record when it came to other issues involving civil liberties.  And let there be no mistake, many other populations, such as women, were still being denied rights in Lincoln’s lifetime that we take for granted today.)

On the other hand, consider this:  Enslaved people were unable to change their status through democratic means—they were denied the right to vote.   Many enslaved persons did not let that deter them—they self-emancipated.  Today, more Americans are empowered to affect change if they choose to engage in the political process.   Granted, people are still disenfranchised in our country, but more people today can participate in the process and let their voice be heard than could in Lincoln’s time. Participating in the process is Lincolnian.

Lincoln pledged an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.  But Lincoln notably heralded the Declaration of Independence as the purest statement of who we are as a people.  When some of Lincoln’s contemporaries argued that the Founding Fathers didn’t really mean to imply that all men were truly created equal, he challenged them, suggesting that if we walked down that path, there would be no end to who could be denied their rights.

Ms. Mast is the Director of President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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