After a multi-year restoration, President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, D.C., finally opened to the public this past President’s Day, offering a long-awaited glimpse into a crucial site of the Civil War period. The 34- room Gothic revival cottage, located on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home (now the Armed Forces Retirement Home), served as Lincoln’s warm-weather sanctuary from 1862 through 1864. Although the cottage has an official Web site (www.lincolncottage.org), the Lincoln Cottage Web log is arguably more interesting.
Blog posts, written primarily by curator Erin Carlson Mast with dispatches from interpreters and others, range from notices about ticketing to news items about famous visitors (such as First Lady Laura Bush). Longer research pieces have delved into the gas lighting used at the cottage during the Civil War and the extent to which the cottage was designed by architect John Skirving. One revealing post indicates that, after Lincoln’s death, some observers argued that the proposed memorial to the martyred president be built not at the end of the Mall along the Potomac, but up at the Soldiers’ Home. What would 20th-century history have looked like if the March on Washington culminated there and not at the Lincoln Memorial? With posts like these, the Lincoln Cottage blog adds unexpected nuance and richness to the oft-told Lincoln story.
Originally published in the May 2008 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.