By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
President Obama commemorated Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday today at the United States Capitol, and there are ceremonies all across America as well. Newspapers and magazines are full of recommendations for Lincoln books (the best of which is Bill Safire's review of the best of the Lincoln books in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review). Few people know it, but Bill spent eight years writing a Lincoln biography.
Sure you can go to the Lincoln Memorial or the newly re-opened Ford's Theater. But if you want to commemorate the Lincoln Biennial in a place that's off the beaten path, go to the newly-restored Lincoln Summer Home in Washington, DC. The Summer Home opened last year in time for Presidents' Day, and I was lucky enough to chaperone a school field trip there recently. Here's a good AP article on it that ran the day it opened if you'd like to learn more.
It's on a breezy hill overlooking the city, and President and Mrs. Lincoln spent the summers of 1862 through 1864 there. Right next door is the old Soldier's Home, and surrounding that is a cemetery where many of the Civil War soldiers are buried. Lincoln used to pace the rows of headstones at night when he couldn't sleep, and they're still there. The cottage itself is fully restored but sparsely furnished, with only a replica of the desk that Lincoln used as he worked on the Emancipation Proclamation. (The original is in the White House, in the Lincoln Bedroom.) There's even a little bookstore full of Lincoln books. I bet they have many of the ones on Safire's list.
It's a wonderful spot, unlike any other in Washington. Next time you're in DC—especially with the kids—take the time to visit this secluded spot that most tourists don't know about. It's the best-kept secret in Washington.
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