The Truth About Lincoln's Springfield Cottage
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Architectural Chronology of the Lincoln Home
      What is true. What is false.

What is true

The Lincoln Home did not always look the way it does today. Its evolution included three distinct forms during the Lincoln family’s 17-year occupancy.

The first form was a six-room, story-and-a-half cottage (constructed in 1839) that the Lincolns purchased and moved into in 1844. This was the home of Abraham and Mary Lincoln and their toddler firstborn, Robert. They lived in this version for only two years (1844-1846).

The Lincolns soon enlarged the cottage. This 1846 expansion (which the ALA does not account for) was done to create a downstairs bedroom to accommodate Mr. Lincoln’s nearly six-foot, four-inch height. This was done in a fascinating way. The entire kitchen wing was detached from the house and moved six feet to the south in order to create space for the addition. This modification added two more rooms to the six-room cottage. This enlarged 1846 eight-room house – not the 1844 cottage – remained the Lincoln home for about ten years, until the full second floor enlargement was completed in 1856.

Eventually, Mary Lincoln decided that their home should be more pretentious. Mr. Lincoln was opposed, but Mrs. Lincoln (using money from her wealthy father) had the front and later the rear of the house raised to two full stories in 1855 and 1856. This was their home when the family left for Washington, DC. They lived in this third version five years (1856-1861). This is the Lincoln Home as it appears today.

Plans of the 1844 cottage and the 1846 additions can be found here

What is false

The Board of Directors of the Abraham Lincoln Association voted to construct “a replica of the home of Abraham Lincoln . . . as it existed from 1844-1856.” (See ALA Proposal page 13.) Of course, such a form of the Lincoln Home never existed. Any suggestion that the Lincoln cottage existed in its original form for the entire twelve years of the Lincoln family’s residency between 1844 and 1856 is totally false. As noted, the cottage that was purchased in 1844 was already modified by the Lincolns in 1846. 

So, there were actually two versions of the cottage in those twelve years. The six-room version of 1844-1846 and the eight-room version of 1846-1856. The ALA wants the public to believe that it was always the same original cottage with no modifications. This is false. The ALA’s written proposal is full of this misrepresentation, as is even the sign that the ALA erected on the Eighth Street site where they would like to construct the cottage.

In 1855 and 1856, when the second story was enlarged, the number of rooms increased from eight to twelve, it did not double from six to twelve.

The Lincolns never had a space problem in their home, not in the 1844-1846 cottage nor in the 1846-1856 enlarged house. The ALA’s misleading proposal suggests that the Lincolns’ six-room cottage and the eight-room house had a lack of space. Michael Burlingame uses words and phrases such as: “cramped,” “how little space each member of the family had,” “narrow confines,” “pressure cooker atmosphere,” and “tight quarters.” But 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.) Any suggestion that these were “cramped” quarters is false.

The Lincoln marriage may have been “difficult” at times, but it was not because there was “so little space.”

Summary: Based on this false information, the ALA proposes to spend $400,000 to construct a replica of the house that the Lincoln family occupied for only two years!

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