In June 1862 President Lincoln moved from the White House to this Gothic Revival cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home to escape the oppressive heat of Washington and to grieve for the loss of his son Willie. Lincoln and his wife Mary lived in the cottage until November of that year, and because they found it to be a welcome respite from war-time tensions, they returned again during the summers of 1863 and 1864. Lincoln ultimately spent a quarter of his presidency
at this quiet retreat; he was here just one day before he was assassinated. Considered the most significant historic site of President Lincoln's presidency outside the White House and now a National Trust historic site, it was here that the president developed the Emancipation Proclamation. A reproduction of the walnut-paneled desk on which he wrote this historic document can be seen in the Cottage. (The original desk is in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House.)
Check in at the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center—where there's a gift shop, small museum and introductory film—for the one-hour tours. On the Signature Tour, given hourly Monday through Saturday 10–3 and Sunday 11–3, you'll discover what many of Lincoln's visitors in the 1860s experienced. The Emancipation Tour, available Tuesday and Saturday at 3, takes you inside Lincoln's mind as he anguished over the Civil War and emancipation. Only 20 spots are available per tour and weekends often sell out, so it's best to make reservations via the website or E-Tix.
Although the museum is reachable by Metro and H8 bus, it's much easier to drive or take a cab. Visitors may also picnic on the cottage grounds, which have been landscaped to look as they did when Lincoln lived here. As you go up the hill toward the Cottage, there's a panoramic view of the city, including the Capitol Dome. The 251-acre Soldier's Home sits atop the third tallest point in D.C.
Armed Forces Retirement Home, 140 Rock Creek Church Rd. and Upshur St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20011, United States