|Today we visited Abraham Lincoln's Springfield home. Beautifully restored to its 1860 appearance, the Greek Revival house was Abraham and Mary Lincoln's home for 17 years. In 1844 they bought it for $1,200 and some land from the Rev. Charles Dresser, who performed their marriage ceremony in 1842. When the house was built it was much smaller than it is today. Mary's niece wrote, "The little home was painted white and had green shutters. It was sweet and fresh, and Mary loved it. She was exquisitely dainty, and her house was a reflection of herself, everything in good taste and in perfect order."
In 1856, at a cost of $1,300, the Lincoln's enlarged the house to a full two stories containing twelve rooms to meet the needs of their growing family. Three of the four Lincoln sons were born here, and one (Edward) died here in 1850 at nearly four years of age. When Lincoln won the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination, he received a delegation of party officials in his parlor.
Although Mary loved flowers, neither she or her husband were known as gardeners or devoted much effort to landscaping the grounds. A long-time neighbor said they never planted trees and only kept a garden one year. Mary's sister, Frances Todd Wallace, apparently was eager to fill this horticultural vacuum, for she often came over to plant flowers in the front yard. In 1850 the Lincoln's added a front brick retaining wall and fence.
When Lincoln became a presidential candidate the house became a magnet for visitors, parades, rallies and other political festivities. After holding farewell receptions there in 1861, the Lincoln's rented it, sold most of their furniture, and entrusted the family dog to a neighbor.
A popular historic site, this home draws many visitors each year. The Visitor's Center shows a 29 minute film that we found very interesting & informative and then we walked the short block at the given tour time to meet the ranger. Admission is free, but tickets are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. The home is just behind the Visitor Center, nestled in a shady residential neighborhood with wood plank sidewalks, ideal for a leisurely walk. Along with the Lincoln Home, several other structures within the four-block area are also preserved. All the homes have been restored to their appearance during the time Lincoln lived in the neighborhood. Two of these structures, the Dean House and the Arnold House, are open to visitors and house exhibits on the life and times of Lincoln and his neighbors. In total, the buildings included in the park occupy 12 acres.
As we stepped into the house, the first thing we saw was where Abraham Lincoln hung his famous hat. For many years Lincoln used his hat as a mini briefcase, stashing letters and documents in the lining. In an 1850 letter he said, "I am ashamed of not sooner answering your letter, herewith returned; and, my only apologies are, first, that I have been very busy in the U.S. Court; and second, that when I received the letter I put it in my old hat, and buying a new one the next day, the old one was set aside, and so, the letter lost sight of for a time."
Next stop, the parlor on the left, then the sitting room on the right. The parlor was where Abraham Lincoln officially received the news of his nomination for President in May of 1860. Opposite the parlor, the sitting room functioned much like today's family room and was a place where the Lincoln boys could be found playing. The dining room is located between the kitchen and sitting room. When Lincoln was president and the home was being rented by the Tilton's, Union soldiers were allowed to sit at the table and have a glass of milk, according to Mrs. Benjamin Edwards. The kitchen features a stove which the Lincoln's purchased in 1860, the year Lincoln was elected president. We enjoyed seeing the washboard, broom & rug beater leaning against the walls as well. And a beautiful tea service on the dining room table. As you will read on some of the informational signs posted today, some of the furniture and personal items in the home were actually owned and used by the Lincoln family. Those, of course, were the one's of most interest to us.
Abraham's bedroom was on the northwest corner of the second floor. The extra-long antique four-poster bed with 7 foot bedposts is not original to the room but could have accommodated Lincoln's six-foot, four-inch frame. Mary Lincoln's bedroom was adjacent to Abraham's bedroom and across the hall from sons Willie and Tad. The wallpaper is a copy of the original.
Robert, the eldest Lincoln son, had a bedroom on the southwest corner of the second floor. He was born in Springfield in 1843 and by 1859 was attending prep school in Exeter, New Hampshire. When Abraham Lincoln left Illinois for the White House in 1861, Robert was a freshman at Harvard College. As the sole surviving son of the Lincoln's, he inherited the Springfield home which he gave to the State of Illinois in 1887 under the condition that it would forever be well-maintained and open to the public at no charge.
The two youngest Lincoln sons had their bedroom on the south side of the second floor. Willie (William Wallace) was born in this house on December 21, 1850, and died in the White House on February 20, 1862. Tad (Thomas), who was named for his paternal grandfather, was born in this house on April 4, 1853. He died at age 18 in Chicago, Illinois, leaving his brother Robert as the only surviving Lincoln son.
So, that's it for the tour. We had a terrific guide who was very informative and made things really come to life. We liked the fact that all rooms of this lovely home were open for viewing. We've been to other two story homes where only the first level was available for viewing and sort of felt 'cheated'. We took another 30 minutes or so browsing around the neighborhood, walking the wooden planked sidewalks. The trees are mature & lovely as was the entire neighborhood. We highly recommend stepping back in time if you get to the area. Tomorrow we visit the Lincoln's Tomb. See you there....
P.S. I realize there are a lot of pics in today's post but if you really want to 'see inside' the home it's hard to do it with less. I think most of the ladies will find it interesting and perhaps you guys do as well??