Monday, February 18, 2013

Presidential Sites Part 4: Lincoln's Summer House

In honor of today being Presidents Day I thought I’d share my visit to President Lincoln’s Summer House.  This seems particularly timely given all the Oscar chatter about the film Lincoln.  Have you seen it?  What did you think?


I went a few weeks ago with one of my good pals and both enjoyed it…mostly.  It was a bit long and did drag a bit in places but the acting & dialog was just magnificent!

Well, back in December I was in DC on a business trip and (check out my visit to Julia Child’s kitchen in the Smithsonian here) decided as I often do to stay a couple of extra days and site see.

My meetings were scheduled for all day Thursday & Friday morning so....Christmas in DC…of course I was going to do some site-seeing.  My Aunt happened to be there at the same time…she was on the committee to decorate the White House for Christmas…how exciting is that???  So, I was looking for something fun that she probably had not been to a million times already and I stumbled on the Lincoln Summer White House.

The Front Entrance
The Back...Lincoln spent much of his time socializing with Veterans here

It’s newly opened and just on the outskirts of most of the major museums so it hasn’t picked up the same traffic as most of the more known DC sites.  I had visited many of the president vacation white houses....Truman’s in Key West, FDR’s in Warm Springs & Campobello, LBJ’s in TX….and they often tell more about the men and their families than the libraries do so the Lincoln Cottage definitely caught my interest and my Aunt was definitely in.

Isn't this iron work just magnificent?  

The windows on the first floor opened into a door sized opening for access to the porch. 
The bottom wall/door opens inward and the window sash lifts up..
photo from National Historic Trust Booklet - Eric Uecke 2009


The Lincoln cottage is a 34 room gothic revival style house on the grounds of an estate that was bought by the federal government in 1851 for the sole purpose of housing retired veterans.  The Soldier’s Home still houses veterans today.  In Lincoln’s time during the sweltering summer months of DC he shared the property with 300 veterans and commuted the roughly 3 miles to the capitol every day.

This site has been well used over the last 160+ years but was not made a National Historic Landmark until 2000.  It underwent an 8 year renovation and officially opened on Presidents Day in 2008.

Pre & Post Restoration Front Door 2004 vs 2009
photo from National Historic Trust Booklet
23 layers of paint were removed from the Library as part of the renovation...yes 23!  photo from National Historic Trust Booklet 

There are not a ton of furnishings in place and all of those on display are exact reproductions of the Lincoln's furnishings but the tour is a guided one so you get a story filled view of Lincoln’s time here.  The architecture is fully American and well-crafted if not entirely grandiose. Also on display is the original document of the Emancipation Declaration.

photo from National Historic Trust Booklet - Carol M Highsmith Photography
Gorgeous floor from the Entryway
photo from National Historic Trust Booklet - Gaston Lacombe 2009

The Lincoln Cottage is a couple of miles out of the center of DC so it’s doable by cab (which is how we go there) but take my advice and arrange for your return transport ahead of time because finding a cab to return…not so much.  Luckily my DC savvy Aunt knew the public transport systems so we just hopped a bus to a train that would drop us back in the vicinity of our hotel.

PS:  Little trick for those not taxi savvy when travelling...if you are in a city and need a cab but can't seem to locate one head to the closest hotel. Cabs are generally fairly available ready to squire hotel patrons around so they are happy to pick you up.  This is particularly helpful to remember when you are "lost"...not that I have personally ever had to resort to this trick... :)

sharing this week on:  Cozy Little House, Savvy Southern Style, Elizabeth & Co, Coastal Charm, Jennifer Rizzo


  1. I will definitely put this one on my travel list. Thank you!!
    Yes, I've seen Lincoln. I thought it was a powerful movie!

  2. Definitely a unique Presidential summer home compared to the others I have seen!

  3. The Lincoln Cottage is a couple of miles out of the center of DC ..

    airport taxi


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