December 2023 Newsletter

Director’s Letter

Dear Friends,

When I first visited the Cottage in early 2009, I was so taken with the site – which had opened less than a year before my visit. The humble nature of the Cottage itself, the stories of triumph and tragedy during the Lincolns’ time here passionately shared by my guide, and the verdant landscape all made a big impact that day.

I found myself thinking about my experience all weekend after that visit, and what really stuck with me was how the tour and the stories and the grounds were about the Lincolns, but they were also about me — about my responsibility as a citizen to take up Lincoln’s unfinished work and how I might nurture my own brave ideas to fruition.

If you’ve visited the Cottage, then you’ve likely had a similar experience. When I think of this visit, I’m reminded of a description of Lincoln from Walt Whitman, who wrote that Lincoln’s face defied the efforts of the best poets and artists of their time. “There’s something else there,” Whitman said. That’s the Cottage – there’s just something about this special place that words or images can’t adequately capture.

As we close out a successful 2023, I’ve enjoyed reflecting on this first visit – and all we’ve accomplished between then and now.  For a very personal story of the impact that this place has had on my life, please read my end-of-year letter.

I am just one of the thousands of people moved by this place that provides a balm to the brokenhearted, empowers school children to take up their own brave ideas, encourages visitors to continue Lincoln’s unfinished work, and more.

With a grateful heart, I want to thank you for your encouragement and for the faith you put in our extraordinarily talented team to build community, care for this special place, and ensure its future.

I hope you will consider becoming a member of Team Lincoln or making a year-end gift to the Cottage today. Your support makes our work possible.

Callie Hawkins
CEO & Executive Director
President Lincoln’s Cottage

Preservation Highlights from 2023

2023 has been a year of preservation triumphs and challenges and the doubling of our preservation team (welcome Seth!).  Here are our top five preservation moments, in no particular order.

1. The discovery of decorative painting at the frieze in the entry hall

Director of Preservation, Jeff Larry exposing the decorative painting at the frieze

Before determining the best path forward in addressing the areas of damaged plaster in the entry hall we wanted to determine if, as suggested in a 2002 paint analysis, there was decorative painting at the frieze.

Indeed there was!

The painting was revealed after our Director of Preservation did an exposure, a very slow process of carefully removing all the layers of paint until you get to the layer you are looking for. In this case it was approximately twenty-three layers!

At this point, the decorative painting is a bit of a mystery but most likely dates to when George Riggs lived here between 1842-1851. We will be expanding that exposure in 2024 so stay tuned!


Upper section of decorative painting revealed!

Lower section of decorative painting revealed!











2. Interior basement removal and repointing

To address deteriorated mortar in the largest Cottage basement room and create a clean and safe place to establish a workshop for future preservation and restoration efforts, we brought in a masonry contractor to remove all the lead paint and repoint all of the mortar joints.

3. New Preservation Department staff member!

We hired Seth Young, our first Historic Buildings & Grounds Technician in May. Seth is integral to the stewardship of the Cottage and Visitor Center.  He also tends to the landscape and flower beds around both buildings. Welcome to the team Seth!

Seth and Abe, May of 2023

4. Exterior brickwork on the 1848 west wing

After completing their work in the basement, the masons moved to the exterior west wing of the Cottage that was constructed in 1848. To mitigate water intrusion, a trench was dug 30” deep along the entire perimeter and all the below-grade brickwork was repointed. The brickwork above grade was then stripped of its modern paint, spot repointed, and recoated with a mineral paint that will allow for the natural movement of water vapor through the brick. It was discovered that originally the brick was coated with limewash which did allow water vapor to pass through. At some point, in the mid-20th century, a modern paint was applied that prohibited the movement of water vapor and hastened the deterioration of the mortar joints.

Trench dug to repoint 30” below grade              

Removal of paint on brickwork above grade.








 5. Preservation of the Cottage sash (Windows!)

It has been almost twenty years since all the Cottage sash was restored during the Capital campaign. The ongoing care of the sash is part of our cyclical maintenance plan, but they are due for a more thorough treatment. With guidance from our Director of Preservation, our new Historic Buildings & Grounds Technician has begun the effort to remove, assess, repair, repaint and reinstall all the Cottage sash.  We will keep you posted on the progress as this work continues through 2024!

Window prior to preservation work

Seth repainting the east wing’s diamond pane casement windows


Now Open: Our Students Opposing Slavery Application

Registration is now open for our Students Opposing Slavery International Summit! Please share this life-changing opportunity with the young activists in your life. They will learn from anti-trafficking experts while connecting with young people from around the world. It is a deeply inspiring and totally unique program.

Store Spotlight: The Brave Ideas Game

We have lots of unique gifts at President Lincoln’s Cottage, and here’s a special one we developed ourselves! Purchase this creative, inspiring game for your favorite classroom, or for your favorite aspiring change-maker.

Purchase here.

President Lincoln’s Cottage in the News

  • The Guardian profiled the Cottage.
  • AARP mentioned the Cottage in an article on our neighbors at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
  • KidFriendlyDC included our store as they recommended the Strathmore Holiday Market as a top thing to do with kids.
  • Fox5DC shared the Cottage as a “hidden gem” of DC in a Thanksgiving Special.
  • Healthy Framework awarded us a top spot on their list of Best DC museums for first dates.


Support our educational programs, preservation efforts and public events by making a contribution to President Lincoln’s Cottage. Donate online today.


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