September 28, 2018
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site provides a unique look into the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. The National Park Service has four city block preserved and is restoring the houses to the way they were at the time Lincoln lived there. The visitor center has informative displays, a film about Lincoln and a gift shop. Tours of the Lincoln Home are on a first come first served basis with tickets being issued with the time of your tour. The tour guides do an excellent job of imparting historical information about the Lincolns, the Lincoln Home and the neighborhood. You can walk the neighborhood free of charge but there is a fee for the tour of the inside of the house.
In 1837 Lincoln arrived in Springfield, all his belongings in two saddlebags, ready to practice law. The newly designated state capital had a population of 2,500. The city quickly became the center of Illinois’s government and society.
Because Illinois was a relatively new state, Springfield drew Southerners, northerners, and European immigrants all hoping to improve their prospects. Among them was Mary Todd, a well-educated woman from a prominent Kentucky family, who arrived two years after Lincoln.
Lincoln fell in love again and was eventually successful in his courtship of Mary Todd. The original plan was that the Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd would be married at the preacher’s house but Mary’s uncle insisted that the wedding be conducted in more elaborate surroundings. They were married on November 4, 1842. Shortly after their marriage, Lincoln noticed that the preacher who married them had put his house on the market. Lincoln bought that modest home on the corner of Jackson and Eighth Streets in 1844.
On Lincoln’s street, occupations ranged from elected state officials to washerwomen; income levels also varied widely; and houses ranged from modest dwellings to large two-story homes. This neighborhood would have been considered solidly middle class. Just like today, some of the homes were expanded as the occupants’ families grew. Lincoln expanded his twice over 24 years.
The first expansion was quite modest, adding a bedroom on the first floor.
The second expansion was much more extensive due to a growing family and Lincoln’s growing popularity. All the bedrooms were located upstairs, to give the Lincolns’ more privacy. The first floor was redesigned to accommodate the numerous visitors Lincoln received.
It was quite a thrill to stand on the corner where so many photographs of the home had been taken so many years ago. While the hustle and bustle is gone, the quiet dignity of the neighborhood remains.
While he lived in this home, Lincoln had four children, only one of whom survived to adulthood. Robert Todd Lincoln, 1843-1926, had a very successful career as a lawyer, secretary of war, minister to Great Britain, and president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. Edward “Eddie” Lincoln, 1846-1850, died in this home of consumption just short of his fourth birthday. William “Willie” Lincoln, 1850-1862, died in the White House of bilious fever. Thomas “Tad” Lincoln, 1853-1871, died of tuberculosis when he was 17.
According to Lincoln’s law partner, Lincoln “worshiped his children and what they worshipped; he loved what they loved and hated what they hated.” Although he was gone for long periods of time, when he was home Lincoln would spend as much time as he could with his boys. I cannot imagine how utterly devastated the Lincolns must have been when Eddie and Tad died.
Lincoln left Springfield for Washington D. C, on February 11, 1861. He would not return alive to see Springfield again.