Our History

For over a quarter of his Presidency, Abraham Lincoln lived in his cottage at the Soldiers’ Home. While living here, he visited with allies and adversaries, veterans, wounded soldiers, spent time with self-emancipated men, women and children, and developed the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s experiences here provided new and diverse perspectives on issues of freedom, justice, and humility. Learn more about the history of President Lincoln’s Cottage.

A Home that has Changed History

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.

President Lincoln’s Cottage Through the Years


President Lincoln’s Cottage was built for banker for George W. Riggs.


The Cottage was purchased by the Federal Government for the purpose of building a home for veteran soldiers.


In 1857, President James Buchanan became the first president to stay at the Soldiers’ Home, although he stayed in a different cottage than the one occupied by President Lincoln.


Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.


Abraham and Mary Lincoln each visited the Soldiers’ Home a few days after Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration. Mary Lincoln wrote to a friend that they anticipate relocating from the Executive Mansion to the Soldier’s Home in the coming weeks.


The Lincolns began spending time at President Lincoln’s Cottage.


The Lincoln family once again relocated to the Cottage for the hot season, staying until the end of October, just a few weeks prior to Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address.


Lincoln and his family were evacuated from the grounds when nearby Fort Stevens came under Confederate attack.


Abraham Lincoln visited the Cottage for the last time on April 13, 1865, the day before he was shot by John Wilkes Booth. He died on April 15th. 


Presidents Hayes and Arthur spent portions of their presidencies in residence at the Cottage.


The Cottage was named Anderson Cottage in honor of one of the founding forces behind the Soldiers’ Home, Major Robert Anderson.


The site was used intermittently as a dormitory for the Soldiers’ Home band, a bar and lounge for residents, and a dormitory for female residents.


Anna Harrison Chase, a formerly enslaved woman who escaped slavery, visited the Cottage to sit in the place where the Emancipation Proclamation was developed.


The Cottage was used as the Public Affairs Office for the Armed Forces Retirement Home.


President Clinton declared the Cottage and surrounding landscape the President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument. 


The National Trust for Historic Preservation undertook an eight-year, $15 million capital project to preserve President Lincoln’s Cottage.


President Lincoln’s Cottage opened to the public.


President Lincoln’s Cottage became an independent 501(c)(3) and assumed governance and operations via agreements with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Armed Forces Retirement Home.