Tag Archives: National Trust for Historic Preservation

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 www.lincolncottage.org. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!


Leave a comment

Filed under Education, History, Newsroom

Former First Lady Laura Bush Endorses Cottage Exhibit

Mrs. Laura Bush visiting the Cottage in 2007.

By Alison Mitchell

Mrs. Laura Bush, a Trustee and vocal supporter of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, first visited President Lincoln’s Cottage in November 2007 prior to our Grand Opening. Mrs. Bush recently endorsed our latest exhibit, Can Your Walk Away?, stating: “This is the ideal year to visit President Lincoln’s Cottage, the very place where Lincoln nurtured and developed the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago. The Cottage’s current exhibit, Can You Walk Away?, provides an invaluable lens through which the public can view our country’s ongoing struggle with slavery – both in the historical context and in present day trafficking.  Exhibits like this are evidence of the way historic places can shape the way we live in the present.” We are grateful for Mrs. Bush’s continued work to raise awareness about both historic preservation and the modern crisis of slavery.

Alison Mitchell is the Development Coordinator at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

1 Comment

Filed under Exhibits, Press Releases

Reflections for President Lincoln’s Cottage

By Scott Ackerman

Having worked at President Lincoln’s Cottage for about three and a half of the four years I often reflect on just how far the site has come,  and I am so proud that President Lincoln’s Cottage has grown into one of the most unique and innovative historic sites in Washington, D.C.

What has remained constant over the last four years is the commitment and dedication of our staff to preserving and fostering discussion about Lincoln’s life, his times, and his legacy.  As we move through the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, interpretation of Lincoln’s ideas continue to be more important and relevant then ever before, and it is a privilege to be engaged in such meaningful work.  One other constant during our first few years being open to the public has been the overwhelming support of our visitors.  We continue to be impressed not only by how many visitors come to President Lincoln’s Cottage, but by how many come back for a return visit with family members, friends, and colleagues.  Such continued expressions of support means that we have connected with our visitors on some level, that Lincoln’s ideas have been made meaningful, and that people are continuing think about those ideas long after they have left our site. For historic sites and museums, there can be no greater measure of a sites success and importance. So to all our visitors: thank you for your support, we could not do this without you, and we hope to see you again soon.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under History

New Exhibit Now Open!

President Lincoln’s Cottage is proud to announce that the temporary exhibit, Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times opened yesterday in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center. On loan from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, this exhibit will be open until November 14, 2011.

More books have been written about Lincoln than any other American, yet public knowledge about our most famous president is dominated by a series of iconic images: the son of an illiterate frontier farmer who taught himself to read; the savior of the Union; the Great Emancipator; the martyred leader.

Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times invites visitors to look beyond the myth. We hope that presenting Lincoln’s own words in speeches, letters and proclamations, will encourage a deeper understanding of the life, accomplishments and legacy of the nation’s 16th president.

To learn more about the exhibit or for information about visiting President Lincoln’s Cottage, please visit our website: www.lincolncottage.org


Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Exhibits, History, Press Releases

Lincoln’s First Amendment Record

federal phoenix

In this 1864 cartoon, Lincoln is mockingly portrayed as a “Federal Phoenix” rising up from the ashes of burnt logs "United States Constitution," "Commerce," "Free Press," "States Rights," "Credit" and "Habeas Corpus."

By Eve Errickson

Visitors to the Cottage last summer may have been surprised by the presence of Mr. Quick — a resident of the Armed Forces Retirement Home — on the grounds, distributing flyers that voice his protest of practices at the Home. While President Lincoln’s Cottage is a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has separate management from the Armed Forces Retirement Home, we recognize his First Amendment rights to present his views peacefully on the grounds of the Cottage. As the First Amendment declares: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or of the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Mr. Quick’s exercise of his rights inspired our staff to take a fresh look at the legal debate over President Lincoln’s actions to suppress the free speech of journalists and other private citizens who objected to the Civil War. His actions brought to light a complex intersection of laws which include the First Amendment and due process issues. In 1861, mob violence throughout the Union forced the closure of newspapers that published editorials opposing war between the states and targeted the writers themselves for public humiliations. In response, Lincoln focused exclusively on quick, regional stabilization — “without ruinous waste of time.”[i] The Union Army confiscated, monitored and censored communications sent via the mail and wire, including newspapers. Journalists and newspaper owners who persisted after government suppression were arrested and held without warrants or due process of law. 

The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in April 1861 was initially directed at quelling unrest in Maryland. In February 1862, Lincoln ordered the release of political and state prisoners once “The line between loyalty and disloyalty [was] plainly defined,” only to suspend the writ again and extended throughout the Union in 1862. Congress confirmed the suspension, after the fact, through passage of the Habeas Corpus Act in 1863.[ii] Prison records reflect that as many as 4,000 civilians were imprisoned as part of efforts to suppress anti-war sentiment—including politicians, foreign nationals, and diplomats. According to historian Mark Neely, Jr.:

The government thus unleashed every dogberry across the nation to make loosely defined arrests whose victims had no remedy to appeal to judges for writs of habeas corpus and might be essentially tried by court martial.[iii]

The intersection of the war and the suppression of free speech have invoked a wide variety of interpretations. As historian Akhil Reed Amar has observed, Lincoln focused on the preservation of the Union. For Lincoln, the Constitution was an expression of statehood, rather than an expression of individual rights, and saw no contradiction in trying to preserve a democratic union by force: “Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever” he said in his first inaugural address. [iv]  Others cite the absence of legal precedent and the importance of public safety—in essence, Lincoln believed that his actions were necessary to minimize the rebellion, even at the cost of essential American civil liberties and innocent lives.[v] Whether or not his understanding of Constitutional issues was grounded in good faith or indifference to civil rights is a continuing and robust debate among lawyers and historians alike.

Continue the article HERE
Ms. Errickson is an attorney and Director of Contracts at the National Trust For Historic Preservation.

[i] A Lincoln “Letter to Erastus Corning and Others” June 12, 1863, http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=612.

[ii] Mark Neely Jr., The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991) p. 69.

[iii] Mark Neely Jr., Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America: The Last Best Hope of Earth (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993) p. 126.

[iv] Akhil Reed Amar, “Abraham Lincoln and the American Union” Yale Faculty Scholarship Series, Paper 854, (2001), p. 111 http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/854 citing Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address.

[v] Dean Sprague, Freedom Under Lincoln (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965) p. 302; Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, his agenda and an unnecessary war (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002) p. 159.

1 Comment

Filed under E-Newsletter, History

New Discoveries and Preservation Projects at the Cottage

By Jeffrey Larry

Every so often a new discovery allows us to better understand not only what the Cottage looked like during Lincoln’s time but how it changed and looked at other times during its long architectural history.  Recently we discovered a circa 1860 painted photograph of Janet Riggs, the wife of  original owner George Riggs, standing in front of the north elevation of the Cottage.  A digital copy of this photograph, from the Maryland Historical Society, will arrive in a few weeks so stay tuned for a future blog entry about this exciting new addition to our collection.

decorative paint

East wall of vestibule

Another discovery, found during the interior restoration of 2007, was evidence of decorative painting, on the interior plaster walls of the vestibule that was made to look like walnut paneling.

Though much research must still be done, a preliminary paint analysis determined that this trompe l’oeil paneling was probably exposed during Lincoln’s residency.  As seen in this 2007 photograph, years of moisture infiltration has damaged the plaster.  Steps began this week to help eliminate this problem.  Wagner Roofing, who was responsible for installing the Cottage’s slate and metal roof in 2005, returned this week to install copper gutters and downspouts on the vestibule eaves.  There is no historical evidence of a drainage system on this roof but it is an important and subtle addition that will help remove moisture caused by splash-back on the exterior walls.  The new drainage system, though on a smaller scale, shares the same construction details as the existing gutters also installed by Wagner in 2005.drainage

drainageThe installation of a drainage system is the first step in the long process of research, discussion and discovery of the decorative painting on the interior walls of the Cottage vestibule.  It is important to note that this first phase was generously funded by the Hampton Hotels’ Save-A-Landmark program that celebrated their 10th anniversary here this past summer.  More than 50 Hampton employees made a real and lasting contribution by volunteering their labor to continue the preservation of this site.  

Mr. Larry is the Preservation Manager at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

Leave a comment

Filed under Collections, History, Newsroom, Preservation

Repointing of the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center

By Jeffrey Larry

The rehabilitation of the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center (VEC) at President Lincoln’s Cottage was completed in January, 2008. Though the deterioration of mortar joints on the building was mentioned in pre-construction proposals, no extensive repairs to mortar joints were undertaken. It was believed that repairs to roofing and flashing were sufficient in addressing areas of water infiltration. After approximately 1 year of service it became apparent that water continued to enter the building causing plaster damage and peeling paint.

An inspection in 2009 by Wagner Roofing Co. determined that the roofing and flashing repaired during the rehabilitation of the VEC was intact and was not the reason for the continued water infiltration. This left failing mortar joints as the only cause. Nearly 100 % of the mortar joints showed some signs of failure from cracked and loose mortar to complete loss of mortar. This was in part due to an incorrect mortar mix improperly applied at some point prior to the National Trust occupying the building in 2004.

Loose mortar

Complete loss of mortar

After a competitive bidding process, Pointing Plus (P.P.) of Washington, DC was awarded the contract to repoint the entire building. The D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities (DCCAH) provided the matching funds for a grant received from the National Trust’s Historic Sites Fund.

The project involves the removal of the incorrect mortar as well as any original mortar to a depth of approximately 1 inch. Mortar removal on historic buildings is often done by hand with chisels to avoid damage to soft brick or stone. The use of power tools such as saws or grinders is typically avoided.

Typical cut made with a thin diamond-blade grinder to relieve pressure

After an inspection of previous P.P. projects and a mockup on the VEC, it was decided that the use of a thin diamond-blade grinder would be allowed to remove the mortar and all removal would be closely monitored. A cut would be made down the center of the joint to relieve pressure and the remaining mortar would be removed by hand.

The first step before removing the old mortar was to obtain a mortar analysis that would produce a new mortar that matched the original in color and texture without being harder than the original. A harder mix could potentially damage the stone. A mortar sample was sent to Virginia Lime Works (VLW) for a basic mortar analysis (acid digestion) to determine proportions of lime, aggregates and other additives. The original mix was found to contain a small percentage of portland cement. This is not entirely unusual for a building from 1905. The years 1900-1909 saw an increase of 2000% in the production of portland cement over the previous ten years. By the end of the 19th century “with the thought that stronger mortar was better, portland cement was increasingly added in larger and larger volumes to the lime sand mixture, in some cases eliminating the lime altogether by the turn of the century.” (John Speweik – The History of Masonry Mortar in America 1720-1995)

The technicians at VLW and the head mason at P.P. agreed that it would be difficult to match the quality and proportions of the portland cement in the original mortar and that a traditional sand-lime mix would be an appropriate alternative. The traditional sand-lime mix would be slightly softer than the original mortar and provide the needed compression strength. A sample was provided by P.P using 2.5 parts sand to 1 part lime that matched the color and texture of the original mortar.

As of June 30 the VEC repointing project is approximately 70% completed. Though the primary intent of this project was to prevent further water infiltration, these before & after photographs from the north elevation and chimney show the aesthetic benefits to this project as well.

Mr. Larry is the Preservation Manager at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

Leave a comment

Filed under Preservation