Tag Archives: D.C.

President Lincoln’s Cottage Makes Washingtonian’s List of “Hidden Gems”

Washingtonian MagazineThe April Issue of Washingtonian Magazine featured 62 “hidden gems” in the Washington, DC region, including President Lincoln’s Cottage. Although the site has been open for over two years, it is still unknown to many, which makes it perfect for this list of fascinating places that are “off-the-beaten-path.”

Dan Mote, president of the University of Maryland, commented on his experience at President Lincoln’s Cottage, “the restoration is authentic…to be in his (Lincoln’s) presence is quite amazing.”

As spring approaches, it is an ideal time to visit President Lincoln’s Cottage. President Lincoln and his family moved to the Soldiers’ Home in June and stayed until November of 1862, ’63 and ’64.  So whether you are here to see the storied cherry blossoms around the tidal basin, or visiting any other time of the year (we are open year-round!), try leaving the well-worn tourist path of the National Mall behind, and take a relaxing trip about three miles north to Lincoln’s presidential retreat in northwest Washington, D.C. 

Tours of the Cottage are offered on the hour.  For more information and to reserve your tickets visit our website: www.lincolncottage.org.


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Abraham Lincoln Presidential China

By Leslie Bouterie

The spring season brings relatives and friends together for holidays, graduations, and family celebrations, and the dining table is often set with a special selection of china for the occasion. The Lincoln family followed this tradition in their family and presidential homes.

In one of her first official duties after becoming First Lady in 1861, Mary Lincoln ordered a full set of presidential china to be used for White House functions. Mary came from the prominent Todd family of Lexington, Kentucky, where formal entertaining and social status were of great importance. The Todd family welcomed family, friends, and prominent political leaders to their table, which was beautifully set for dining.

Upon her arrival at the White House, Mary was very disappointed with the inventory of White House china. She felt that the limited selection of disparate china services from previous presidents was inadequate for presidential entertaining, and she set out to replenish the White House china cabinets.

Working through the firm of E.V. Haughwout and Company in New York City, she selected Haviland and Company of France to produce a set of dinnerware for presidential use. She specified that the white porcelain was to have a scalloped edge, a hand painted solferino (red-purple) and gold rope border. The white center ground was to be decorated with clouds, superimposed with patriotic imagery of an American bald eagle with wings outstretched, holding arrows and olive branches in its talons, standing atop a shield with stars and stripes, and entwined with a banner bearing the national motto “E Pluribus Unum.”  At the same time, Mary ordered a similar set of Haviland china for Lincoln family use. The family china was also white porcelain, with a bright pink border, hand pained with Greek key-style gold decoration and the initials “ML”.

The solferino-bordered presidential china, dubbed the “Royal Purple” set, was greatly admired. It was so well-suited for official White House use that subsequent presidents ordered additional pieces to augment the original Lincoln purchase. The design of the Lincoln Presidential China remains popular today. For those wishing to dine in Lincoln style, The Woodmere Company of Pennsylvania has produced a modern version of the “Royal Purple” china very similar to that used by the Lincolns (available for purchase in our Museum Store).

This replica version of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential China is available for use by guests dining at President Lincoln’s Cottage. Both the Cottage and the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center may be rented for private and corporate events, and many hosts have chosen to enhance the “Lincoln experience” of their guests by renting Royal Purple china and serving a menu inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s favorite foods. The sumptuous table settings and special menus prepared by the superb caterers on the site’s Preferred Vendor List have made events at this historic site particularly memorable.

You, too, can dine in presidential style at President Lincoln’s Cottage! The Cottage offers intimate dining space for 10 to 20 guests in the Lincoln family Dining Room, and more extensive dining space for up to 100 guests on the second floor. Learn more about the Site Rental Program at President Lincoln’s Cottage: http://www.lincolncottage.org/events/index.htm

Ms. Bouterie manages Private and Corporate Events at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Tickets for July-December 2010 Cottage Tours Now Available!

Tickets for guided tours of President Lincoln’s Cottage are now available for purchase for July-December 2010 tours. They may be purchased online through Etix by visiting http://www.lincolncottage.orgor by calling 1-800-514-3849 (Etix).

All admission rates and discounts remain the same as for 2009. Please visit our website for more details.

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Another Snowy Day at the Cottage

This winter has been unusually snowy for Washington, D.C., leading to numerous opportunities to capture lovely winter wonderland photographs of the Cottage.

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Evening for Educators Hosted at President Lincoln’s Cottage

By Shira Gladstone

Over the last year and a half, several Civil War related historic sites in the DC area have formed the Civil War Washington Museum Consortium to provide quality professional development for area teachers.  This collaboration, made up of President Lincoln’s Cottage, Ford’s Theatre Society, Tudor Place Historic House and Garden, and Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, works with educators to enhance their understanding of Washington during the Civil War through place-based learning techniques.  The Consortium offers week-long summer workshops and periodic workshops during the academic year to teachers both local and nationwide.   

On Tuesday, January 26th, more than fifty educators from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia attended An Evening for Educators hosted by the CWWMC and held at President Lincoln’s Cottage.  This event allowed elementary, middle school, and high school teachers to explore the array of hands-on, engaging programs that the CWWMC has to offer for students of all ages.  Museum educators were on hand to answer questions about education programs offered by their respective sites and provide teachers with classroom resources.  Educators were also able to explore the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center, as well as take a tour of the first floor of the Cottage.  The night was a great success in building vital relationships between local teachers and Consortium sites!

For information about teacher and student programs at President Lincoln’s Cottage, contact Curator of Education, Callie Hawkins at Callie_Hawkins@nthp.org.

Ms. Gladstone is a Lead Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Riggs’s Country Seat

By George Wellman

George Washington Riggs (1813-1881) was the original owner of this 34 room cottage on a hilltop overlooking downtown Washington, DC. This Gothic-Revival style cottage was built for Mr. Riggs in 1842 on a large estate that served as his “country seat.” In 1851, the U.S. government purchased the property to establish quarters for disabled war veterans (a purpose the property serves to this day). We cannot converse about Cottage itself without talking about George Washington Riggs, the co-founder of Riggs Bank (now PNC Bank). Mr. Riggs also happens to be buried a block from President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Rock Creek Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Washington, DC. When you visit President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home, include a stroll to the burial site of George Washington Riggs, original owner of the Cottage.

Mr. Wellman is a Volunteer at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Loss of the West Point

Excerpt written by Captain Lyman Jackman and originally published in 1891, in History of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment in the war for the Union
Introduction by James Blake

The sad and tragic account of the sinking of the West Point as written in the regimental history of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment. The story of the West Point was described in detail to the Historian of the Sixth, Captain Lyman Jackman by Lieutenant-Colonel Scott who was able to secure his wife’s remains by appealing to President Lincoln, then in residence at the Soldiers’ Home in the house today known as President Lincoln’s Cottage.  –J. Blake

Loss of the West Point
When the Ninth Army Corps left Newport News to go to the help of the Army of Virginia, all its sick were sent to the hospitals. It was soon decided to send them by boat up the Potomac to Alexandria and Washington. So on the 13th of August, all the sick and convalescent, about two hundred and fifty, were put upon the steamer West Point. Some members of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment were of the number, among whom were Lieutenant-Colonel Scott and Sergeant C. L. Parker. The Wives of Lieutenant-Colonel Scott, Major O. G. Dort, and Captain John A Cummings, with the Major’s little son, four or five years old, were also of the party. Sergeant (afterwards Lieutenant) Parker gives the following account of the disaster which befell the West Point:
“We left Newport News on that beautiful morning of August 13, 1862, and had a fine passage down the bay past Fortress Monroe and up into the Potomac, and were all anticipating a safe and pleasant trip. Many of the sick had retired early, and nearly all were in their state-rooms, when, all of a sudden, about nine o’clock in the evening we were startled by a fearful crash and shock. The men rushed from their state-rooms, and all was confusion. We had collided with the steamer George Peabody, a larger boat than ours, which was coming down the river with scarcely any lading, having been up with troops and supplies. Our boat had struck her just in front of her wheel-house, damaging her wheel so that she could not move; she therefore floated helplessly down the river, with a large hole in her side, but above the water-line, thanks to the light lading.
“The scene which followed cannot be described. We found that our boat was fast filling with water, as the bow had been split quite open by the force of the collision. We supposed at first that the West Point was not so badly damaged as the George Peabody; but is proved otherwise, and we expected the captain of our boat would run her ashore, which was about half a mile distant, or at least ground her as near the shore as possible. But our feelings can hardly be imagined when we saw the captain, pilot, and crew pulling from the steamer, safely seated in one of her two small boats, than two hundred! Had this happened a little later in the war, there would have been a dead captain and pilot in that boat before they had got far from the steamer.
As we were now left wholly to our fate, we got the ladies and children upon the upper deck, and then tried to lower the remaining boat, in which to put them; but in the haste and confusion the boat was lost, and escape seemed hopeless. Mrs. Dort, in great distress, had called me from the lower cabin to her berth, to help dress her little boy. I rendered the requested aid, and helped her and the child upon the hurricane deck. We were all the time floating down the river, and as the forward part of the boat was now under water, we all tried to get upon the hurricane deck. This broke down under such a weight, and nearly all were plunged into the water. Many floated off and sank; others secured broken boards and pieces of the wreck, and floated as long as they could hold on. Some, however, drifted ashore, or were picked up by passing boats. When the deck broke down, Lieutenant-Colonel Scott was separated from the ladies, but before morning he was taken from the wreck, having held to the iron rods connecting with the tops of the smoke-stack, which remained out of water after the boat, sank. A surgeon of a Michigan regiment and myself got the ladies to the highest point of the broken deck, which was fast sinking. I heard the surgeon tell the ladies he would do his best to save them, and I think he did, for as he was drowned and was found two days later far down the river with one of the ladies holding fast to him, it is evident that he kept his promise. While trying to reach a higher point and assist the ladies to it, I was seized by a drowning comrade, and went down into the deep water. When I got clear of him, I was at some distance from the boat and never saw the ladies or children again. I commenced swimming for the nearest shore, but as I was very weak from recent sickness, my strength soon failed, and I turned back in hopes of finding something to cling to, as the boat had made its last plunge and gone to the bottom. The water was full of struggling humanity, and such cries for help may I never hear again! Those who could not swim, or who did not get something on which to float, soon disappeared beneath the water.
When I came up to the wreck, I found a few clinging to the smoke-stack and connecting rods. Having succeeded in grasping one of the roads with one hand, I held on with the rest till late in the night, when a schooner came along and took us all off. We were afterwards transferred to the George Peabody. Some escaped by the simplest means. One soldier, and a colored woman belonging to the boat, was saved by a water-pail turned bottom up, which they held to between them, thus keeping their heads above water. George Smith and Hiram Pool, of the Sixth, escaped by clinging to a door.
Others found like desperate chances fortunate ones. One hundred and twenty were drowned, including all the ladies and the major’s little boy. And it is sad to be compelled to say that all this loss of life might have been saved, had the captain and pilot stayed b y the boat and run her ashore, as they had ample time to do before she went down on that calm, clear night. It was the opinion of the boys that the captain and pilot were full-fledged rebels and that they ran against the other boat on purpose, for it was a perfectly clear evening, and any one on deck could not have failed to see the other boat approaching, even if it had had no lights out; while the fact that they deserted at once the sinking boat not only proves criminal delinquency, but strongly tends to prove the basest disloyalty. A court of inquiry who held, but it was managed like most of such courts, and I am sorry to say that both the captain and pilot escaped punishment. Had Lieutenant-Colonel Scott, or somebody else, shot them on the instant they were seen deserting the disabled steamer, he would have served them right, and his country well.”

A special thanks for Mr. Blake for sharing the official historical account of the steamboat accident that led to the meeting between Col. Scott and President Lincoln at the Soldiers’ Home.
Mr. Jim Blake is the Chairman of the Fifth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry reenactors.

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