The Truth About Lincoln's Springfield Cottage
Website maintained by Norman Hellmers
Send questions or comments to: norm.hellmers@gmail.com

Falsehoods in the Lincoln Cottage Proposal, Video, and Media

There were/are numerous falsehoods regarding “Lincoln’s Springfield Cottage” in a number of places, including: the ALA’s Proposal for Creating a Replica” (and in an accompanying video of an interview of Michael Burlingame); The Springfield State Journal-Register; Illinois Times; and, the ALA’s sign on the proposed building site.

The falsehoods are corruptions of the following truths:
            a replica of the cottage from 1844 to 1856 cannot be constructed. It's impossible.
     
       the six-room cottage was not transformed directly into the twelve-room home.
     
       the Lincolns did not live in the six-room cottage for twelve years; only two.
     
       the cottage was not "cramped" nor had "so little space," etc.

Questions and answers that help clarify the history of the Lincoln Home from 1844 to 1856:
            Is the proposed six-room cottage the size of the house that the Lincolns lived in for 12 years, from 1846 to 1856? No
            Is the Cottage the size of the house that they lived in for only two years? Yes
            Was the 1844 cottage or was the 1846 house ever “cramped” etc.? No
            When was the kitchen wing moved to where it is today? circa 1846
            In which room were the younger boys likely born? The downstairs bedroom
            After 1846, where would Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln have likely slept? The downstairs bedroom
            In which room did Eddy Lincoln die in 1850? The downstairs bedroom

1.   The ALA Board of Directors voted to erect “a replica of the home of Abraham Lincoln . . . as it existed from 1844-1856.” Source: ALA Proposal, page 13.

     This is false as there was no structure that was the same from 1844 to 1856. The cottage was enlarged in 1846, so there were actually two house forms during that time period: 1844-1846 (two years) and 1846-1856 (ten years).

2.   “In 1856, the Cottage was expanded by the addition of a second story, transforming a six-room abode into a commodious twelve-room house. . . .” Source: ALA Proposal, page 2.

     Already in 1846, the cottage had eight rooms. Referring to the cottage as a “six-room abode” in 1856 is false.

3.   “. . . but they [visitors] cannot as easily appreciate what life was like for that family during the preceding twelve years when their quarters were far more cramped.” Source: ALA Proposal, page 3.

     The “far more cramped” quarters refers to the 1844 cottage in which the Lincolns lived for only two years. Claiming that the Lincoln family lived in the original cottage for twelve years is false.

4.   “Those visitors will wonder how so many people could comfortably live together in the Cottage.” Source: ALA Proposal page 3.

     Using the phrase “so many people” is a fabulation presumably intended to gin up support for the project. For the majority of their years of residence in the “Cottage,” the family consisted of two parents and one young son or two young sons. Also, four people (and as of 1853 five, one of whom, Tad, was a toddler) cannot honestly be referred to as “so many people.” This over-exaggeration is equivalent to a falsehood.

5.   “Thus can they [visitors] easily compare the Home to the Cottage, gaining a clearer understanding of the difference between the cramped domestic environment that the Lincoln family experienced from 1844 to 1856 and the environment of the nearby spacious two-story Home which they occupied from 1856 to 1861.” Source: ALA Proposal, page 4.

     The Lincoln family did not live in the 1844 (original) cottage from 1844 to 1856. This is false.

6.   “It [the ALA Cottage] would not require daily staffing but would need to be maintained and managed, most logically by the National Park Service, which has long considered it desirable to expand the park into the block south of its current location.” Source: ALA Proposal, page 5.

     No evidence is presented of this “long considered” claim. The only addition desired by the NPS is included in its General Management Plan (GMP), which includes the possible addition to the park of the half block bounded by Edwards, Ninth, and Cook Streets and the alley between Eighth and Ninth Streets. The acquisition would address operational and management issues. Although given the opportunity in the GMP comment process, no one suggested adding a site for a replica cottage. This unsubstantiated claim is false.

7.   Quotations from Michael Burlingame: “. . . and so for twelve years they lived in a relatively modest one-and-a-half-story cottage with six rooms, and then in 1856 . . . turned it into a twelve-room house. . . .” Source: Interview with Michael Burlingame on ALA website https://youtu.be/23yh8IMqaW4?t=20.

     Michael Burlingame repeats the idea more than once that the Lincolns lived in the six-room cottage for twelve years (1844-1856). He ignores the 1846 addition that made the house eight rooms, including the first-floor bedroom. The suggestions that the Lincolns lived in the six-room cottage for twelve years is false. They lived there only two years before it was enlarged.

8.   The Cottage would “give visitors a glimpse of how the Lincoln family lived in the 12 years before they expanded the structure into its present two-story configuration.” Source: The State Journal-Register, online, July 2, 2020, graphic caption.

     Saying that the Lincolns lived in the “Cottage” for 12 years before it was expanded to two stories is false. The Lincolns lived in the six-room Cottage only two years.

9.   “The house that we now see is a vast expansion of the little cottage that they moved into. … The second story was added and what was a six-room cottage all of a sudden became a 12-room house.” Source: The State Journal-Register, online, July 2, 2020, quoting Michael Burlingame.

     The enlargement of the second story was of the eight-room 1846 house, not the six-room 1844 cottage. This is false.

10.   “‘It is difficult for visitors in Springfield to imagine how little space each member of the family had within the narrow confines of the Cottage,’ Burlingame wrote in a brochure about the project.” Source: The State Journal-Register, online, July 2, 2020, quoting Michael Burlingame.

     Only three people lived in the original cottage for two years. For the vast majority of the years the Lincolns occupied the 1846-1856 enlarged cottage, there were only four family members living there – Abraham and Mary Lincoln and two of their boys. To suggest that the Lincolns had “little space” or “narrow confines” in their 2,400-square-foot original cottage and their 2,656-square-foot 1846 enlarged house (especially with so few family members) is false. The Lincolns never had a space problem in their home.

11.   “‘It would not require daily staffing but would need to be maintained and managed, most logically by the National Park Service, which has long considered it desirable to expand the park into the block south of its current location,’ the cottage brochure states.” Source: The State Journal-Register, online, July 2, 2020, quoting Michael Burlingame.

     No evidence is presented of this “long considered” claim. The only addition desired by the NPS is included in its General Management Plan (GMP), which includes the possible addition to the park of the half block bounded by Edwards, Ninth, and Cook Streets and the alley between Eighth and Ninth Streets. The acquisition would address operational and management issues. Although given the opportunity in the GMP comment process, no one suggested adding a site for a replica cottage. This unsubstantiated claim is false.

12.   “The replica of the Lincolns’ 1,200-square-foot cottage will give a true sense of the family’s home life during their first 12 years in Springfield.” Source: Illinois Times, online, July 2, 2020, graphic caption.

     The 1,200-square-foot dimension only counts the first floor. The half-story second floor was the same size, so the total size of the cottage was 2,400 square feet. The 1,200-square-foot-dimension is false. Also, the Lincolns lived in this cottage for only two years, not twelve, so the “first 12 years in Springfield” is false. Also, the Lincolns' "first 12 years in Springfield" were not all in what became the Lincoln Home.

13.   “The original cottage where Abraham Lincoln and his family lived before it was expanded into what we now call the Lincoln Home. . . .” Source: Illinois Times, online, July 2, 2020.

     This “original cottage” was not expanded into the Lincoln Home as seen today. In 1846 an addition was made that added a bedroom and pantry. It was the upper story of this 1846 version of the house that was expanded in 1856. The statement as printed is false.

14.   “It would be ideal to have a replica of the cottage that existed before it was expanded into a two-story house to give people an idea of what life was like in the Lincoln home for 12 years before it became a major house which they lived in for five years, said Michael Burlingame, president of the association.” Source: Illinois Times, online, July 2, 2020.

     The replica cottage was enlarged in 1846 before it was expanded into a “two-story house” in 1856. Also the Lincolns did not live in the replica version of the house for twelve, but rather for only two years.” The statement is false.

15.   “Burlingame said the National Park Service has long considered it desirable to expand the Lincoln Home National Historic Site boundary south of its current location.” Source: Illinois Times, online, July 2, 2020.

     No evidence is presented of this “long considered” claim. The only addition desired by the NPS is included in its General Management Plan (GMP), which includes the possible addition to the park of the half block bounded by Edwards, Ninth, and Cook Streets and the alley between Eighth and Ninth Streets. The acquisition would address operational and management issues. Although given the opportunity in the GMP comment process, no one suggested adding a site for a replica cottage. This unsubstantiated claim is false.

16.   “Burlingame said. ‘The Lincoln marriage was notoriously difficult, there was a lot of tension in that family, and one of the reasons why is in part because there was so little space.’” Source: Illinois Times, online, July 2, 2020, quoting Michael Burlingame.

     Only three people lived in the original cottage for two years. For the vast majority of the years the Lincolns occupied the 1846-1856 enlarged cottage, there were only four family members living there – Abraham and Mary Lincoln and two of their boys. To suggest that the Lincolns had “so little space” in their 2,400-square-foot original cottage and their 2,656-square-foot 1846 enlarged house (especially with so few family members) is a falsehood. The Lincolns never had a space problem in their home. If the Lincolns had a “difficult” marriage, it was not due to “so little space.” In Michael Burlingame's book on the Lincoln marriage, An American Marriage, he makes no mention whatsoever of a lack of space in their home being a source of marital difficulties.

17.   “In 1856 the second story was added to the home and the number of rooms doubled to 12, giving the Lincoln Home its current appearance.” Source: Illinois Times, online, July 2, 2020.

     The second story was indeed enlarged in 1855 and 1856, but the number of rooms was already eight after the enlargement of 1846. Suggesting that the number of rooms doubled from six to twelve in 1856 is false.

18.   “‘It would be ideal to have a replica of the cottage that existed before it was expanded into a two-story house to give people an idea of what life was like in the Lincoln Home for 12 years before it became a major house which they lived in for five years,’ Burlingame said.” Source: Illinois Times, online, July 2, 2020.

     The Lincolns lived in the ALA’s proposed cottage for only two years, not twelve. Suggesting otherwise is false.

19.   “The Lincoln cottage will bring to life the family's preceding twelve years of living in the modest cottage with five, sometimes six individuals.” Source: ALA sign erected at the Eighth Street property where they would like to see the replica built.

The Lincolns did not live in the “modest” cottage for twelve years; rather, only two. To suggest, as the ALA does, that the Lincolns lived for twelve years in the cottage they propose to construct is simply false.

20.   “The Abraham Lincoln Association is in the process of raising funds to create a replica of the Lincoln Home in Springfield, as it existed from 1844 to 1856, when the Lincoln family first moved in. In 1856, the Lincolns expanded the original six-room cottage into the twelve-room home that is now the centerpiece of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. The replica cottage will show what life was like for the Lincoln family the first 12 years in Springfield.” Source: Press release issued by Senator Dick Durbin, May 25, 2021.

     The false information about the Cottage even made its way into a press release issued by the office of Senator Dick Durbin. The ALA will not be creating a replica of the cottage as it existed from 1844 to 1856, since there was no such thing. In 1856, the eight room cottage (as of 1846) is what was expanded into the twelve-room home. Going from six-rooms to twelve rooms is false as is the idea that an 1844 to 1856 configuration ever existed.

ALA's False Sign
Lincoln Cottage Sign
The ALA erected a sign at the Eighth Street property where they would like to see a replica of the 1844 Lincoln cottage constructed. Even on this sign there is a falsehood. Under the middle section captioned "Bringing the Past to Life," there is this sentence: "The Lincoln cottage will bring to life the family's preceding twelve years of living in the modest cottage with five, sometimes six individuals." As explained elsewhere, the Lincolns lived in this original cottage for only two years -- then it was expanded. They lived there for another ten years in the enlarged cottage. They did not live in the modest, unenlarged cottage for twelve years. This is false. A larger PDF version of the sign can be found here:  Lincoln_Cottage_Sign.pdf

It is clear that the ALA proposes to spend $400,000 to construct a replica of the house that the Lincoln family occupied for only two years!
Return to opening page