President Lincoln’s Cottage was built for banker George W. Riggs in 1842. Architect John Skirving designed the house, situated on a hilltop overlooking downtown Washington, D.C. in the Gothic-Revival style popularized by A.J. Downing. During the Civil War, President Lincoln and his family relocated to the Soldiers’ Home for the “hot season.” The tranquil surroundings at the Soldiers’ Home offered refreshing breezes, a relief from White House protocol, and a place for the President to reflect on all-consuming decisions about military strategy, domestic policy, and foreign relations. Though often viewed as a sanctuary for the president, Lincoln was no less consumed with the war and issues of freedom and slavery here. In many ways, life at the Cottage brought the first family closer to the war and its human cost.
At the Soldiers’ Home, Lincoln made some of the decisions that defined his presidency. He met and consulted with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Secretary of State William Seward, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, and many others. He also formulated his ideas on how to bring about an end to slavery during the war in what became the Emancipation Proclamation.