I’m not usually one to be heading off in the same direction weekly, but it happened that there was a bus trip available to the Lincoln Cottage and I wanted to go. It is nice to take advantage, every once in awhile of having someone else drive…
So just a week after being in DC, I was back to visit Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home, (http://www.defense.gov/specials/heroes/history1.html) just three miles from the White House, but even now, as in Lincoln’s Day, a world away. The weather was perfect, the setting serene, and I had the opportunity to learn a whole lot of things I did not know.
Lincoln spent about a quarter of his presidency in residence at the Soldier’s Home, in what is called the Anderson Cottage, and a lot of that time was spent fine tuning the Emancipation Proclamation. What I felt there was a sense of Lincoln the man, a person wrestling with the enormity of civil war while trying to maintain a family life and some kind of connection to the people of the nation. We get so used to thinking of Lincoln as an assassinated president, or the marble statue in the Memorial, that thinking of Lincoln on human terms is difficult.
The Lincoln Cottage can change all of that. There is a sense of Lincoln there, an eerie feeling about looking out the same windows, a feeling of being lost in time. There are few furnishings in the house, and it has been used, abused and abandoned since the Lincolns spent time there, but I don’t know…maybe it is wishful thinking on my part as a great admirer of Lincoln the president, but I had a sense that there are big stories in this woodwork. Photos are not allowed inside, of course, but there are impressions that do not leave me.
It kind of blows my mind that you can rent the cottage for events. On the one hand, I understand that it mighthelp fund the upkeep, but on the other, I’m not sure about disturbing that atmosphere. But to be real about it, there has been a lot worse happen in that house since Lincoln’s time than a wedding reception or corporate party. (www.lincolncottage.org or PLC_Events@nthp.org)
Since it seems that I managed to get ahead of myself, the tour of the Lincoln Cottage begins in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center which is really a great introduction to the importance of the time Lincoln spent at the Cottage. It is sophisticated and high tech, yet accessible, with maps of Lincoln’s daily commute to the White House and artifacts and quotations that put that historic time very much into focus. It also has a very nice gift store with all manners of Lincoln-abilia. Including the usual trinkets, but also about everything published on Lincoln, as well as teaching aids, books on tape and copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address, and really, really big pennies.
I learned one more thing that tied rather nicely with my last trip to D.C. The cemetery at the Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home, the very one that Lincoln watched fill to overflowing while he stayed at the Cottage, was the first National Cemetery. It was during the Civil Way, after all, that they opened Arlington, on the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s home plantation.