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Lincoln Home National Historic Site (Illinois, USA)

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Address: Lincoln Home National Historic Site 413 South Eighth Street Springfield, Illinois 62701-1905 / Lincoln's home from 1844 to 1861 when he left to become president in Washington DC

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      29.09.2012 13:30
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      The only house President Lincoln ever owned

      Lincoln home - National Historic site - Springfield The Lincoln Home Visitor Centre is located at 426 South Seventh Street, Springfield, Illinois. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily except January 1st, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25th. This is the only home Lincoln ever owned himself and it was where he brought up his family until they left to go to the White house when he became sworn in as the 16th president of the USA in March 4, 1861. The house and the street s for four blocks around the house are now owned by the National Parks of the USA. The house itself was actually donated to the State of Illinois in 1887 by Robert Lincoln on condition that it would always be open free to the public and well maintained. I think that is a fabulous thing to do for the family to give such a generous gift to the state for the people of the USA and beyond to visit. While there is no entrance fee, we do encourage all visitors to support the park through donations, which can be made in the Visitor Centre and in the backyard of the Lincoln Home after your tour. There is a car park for visitors and the charge which is payable at the Visitor Centre information desk, is $2.00 per hour. You are not allowed in the house except on a guided tour and you need to book this and get a ticket for a specific time. The ticket if free but at times it does get very busy so you do need to plan in advance. We were lucky and managed to get into the next tour when we arrived and only had about twenty minutes to fill in before the tour. In the summer months it does get very busy so you are advised to arrive as early as possible to receive tickets to tour the home sometimes on busy days, tickets can run out. FOR THOSE WITH MOBILITY OR OTHER NEEDS The Visitor Centre and first floor of the Lincoln Home are easily accessible. You can also access the exhibits "What a Pleasant Home Abe Lincoln Has" and "If These Walls Could Talk." There is disabled parking in the Site's parking lot. You can borrow Wheelchairs for use within the Site. Also they have touchable plaster casts of Mr. Lincoln's face and hands for those who have sight impairments. Finally personal amplified listening devices are available for loan. The orientation film, "At Home with Mr. Lincoln" has subtitles. OUR VISIT We arrived at the visitor centre and quickly sussed out that we needed to get a tour ticket so joined the line and managed to get in a tour for the half hour later. THE VISITOR CENTER There is a great film in the visitor centre which is called 'At Home with Mr Lincoln' which tells you quite a bit about Lincoln the man and his life in Springfield. Also in this centre is the Museum Shop and in there you can buy biographies of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, books on specific events in Abraham Lincoln's life, books analyzing Lincoln's significance in history, and books related to the Civil War. For the less intellectual you can also buy clothes, CDs, DVDs, collectable's, souvenirs, and other novelties for children. I have to say that nothing tempted us as they were either of no interest or very expensive. The restrooms or toilets are in the visitor centre so go before your tour of the house. The Lincoln House is preserved on a street which National Park service now takes care of. The entire area is made to look as it did back in Lincoln's day with gravel streets and wooden sidewalks. The actual Lincoln House has been carefully restored to its 1860 appearance when the Lincoln's lived there after they had extended it finally. It is one of 17 other historic structures in this historic zone which is all being restored to the appearance of the neighbourhood as the Lincolns would have known it. Visitors can go into many of these other houses on the street to see different exhibitions. We went into the street and wandered around while we were waiting to go on our tour and then went into the different houses after our tour was over. THE LINCOLN'S HOUSE The Lincoln home was built in 1839 as a one-and-a-half story cottage. Other houses in the street are still the size that the Lincoln's house originally was so we could see what it was like originally. They moved in to this house in May 1844 and paid $1500 for it at the time. The house was later extended by the Lincoln family to a full two-story house. They did these extensions gradually over the years they lived in the house. There is some security as you enter the house and you are asked not to touch things but you are allowed to take photos inside the house which was unusual I thought. This is not a huge house and so pushchairs are not allowed in the house. The furnishings are either those that were the Lincoln's or ones from the same period. While you are on the tour the guide tells you stories about the family, the happy times and the less happy. The guide tells you about how Abraham Lincoln's career progressed from his legal career to his political career. We were told about the home life of Abraham, Mary, and their sons Robert, Eddie, Willie, and Tad land their things they got up to in this home where they lived for seventeen years. The kitchen is interesting with a really old range which still works and you can hear about Mrs Lincoln's cake recipes. In the bedrooms we can see the toys the boys played and their beds with handmade quilts. The rooms seemed cosy and very comfortable and they even had simple heating too which surprised me. This house almost burned down twice. The first fire was over the Christmas and New Year holiday of 1854/1855 but we were not told how it happened. . After this fire the Lincolns decided to add the rest of the second floor. The second fire was the result of a lightning strike and it burned part of the roof. THE LINCOLN CHILDREN The Lincolns were apparently rather lenient parents and allowed the boys to be rowdy and disturb conversations. In this day and age children were supposed to be seen and not heard but it seems these boys were rather indulged. They had expensive toys like a stereoscope which was in the room and this was a photograph viewing device that made the pictures appear three-dimensional so state of the art back in that day. Sadly only one of their sons was to survive to adulthood and that was their first son Robert. He graduated from Harvard College in 1864. He was commissioned a captain on the staff of General Grant and was present at the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse. He became a lawyer in Chicago and President of the Pullman car Company. The second child, Eddie was born in 1846 and sadly only lived to be three years and ten months old. After a long illness he died in the family home in 1850. The third child, Willie, was born in 1850, and was named for his Uncle William Wallace. Willie was described as being' amiable, cheerful, mature for his age'. Willie died in the White House in 1862 when he was only eleven, while his parents were hosting a party which they left in order to be by his bedside. His death hit both parents hard and their last years in the White House were a struggle with Willie's death and the Civil War in the country. The youngest child, Thomas, was born in 1853.He was given the nickname "Tad," short for "Tadpole," apparently because he looked like one when a baby. Tad was quite mischievous and became well known for his pranks. Tad died in 1871, at the age of 18, about six years after the assassination of his father. They had a pretty raw deal as a family it seems and this house is probably where they had their happiest years. BACK TO THE HOUSE It was very interesting seeing the actual rooms where they sat as a family, the room where Lincoln slept, the kitchen where Mrs Lincoln cooked and the garden where the boys played with their father. It was also really good to hear anecdotes about the family and the boys and the types of things they got up to as it brought the place to life and made the family more real rather than just historical figures. When the Lincolns lived in the house they had no lights other than candles and gas lighting was installed in the home by the second tenant while the Lincoln's were in the White House. A telephone was installed in the house sometime between 1878 and 1879. Electricity was first used in the home in 1899. It is quite humbling to walk around the former home of one of the most famous and certainly influential US Presidents. He was a man who stood for the ideals of freedom and democracy, saw the country through the Civil War and was known for freeing the slaves although in reality many were not free for many years after his death. President Nixon signed the document which established the Lincoln Home as a National Historic Site at the Old State Capitol, using the same desk Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address. I thought it was very sad that after the Lincoln's left this house to go to Washington they never came back. Mrs Lincoln never came back to live in the house after the death her husband. She spent time in Chicago and in Europe then returned to her sister's house in Springfield later in life. LINCOLN FACTS In 1909 Lincoln became the first American president to have his face on a regular-issue American coin; the one cent piece. He is the only president to hold a patent. His patent was for a system of chambers designed to refloat boats that had run aground. The first time he ran for public office he finished eighth of thirteen candidates. Lincoln was challenged to a duel in 1842 but it called off at the last minute. Lincoln's largest legal fee when he was a lawyer was $5000. He successfully defended the Illinois Central Railroad. They were reluctant to pay up and he had to sue to get his fee. Lincoln established the US Department of Agriculture in 1862. Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. The first official holiday for this day was celebrated on November 26, 1863. I really enjoyed this tour as I felt we almost got to know the family. They did have such a sad life but what a memory Lincoln has left behind. He is the most famous and written about president of any of the US presidents but he made huge sacrifices to achieve what he did for the country and was not that appreciated while he was doing it! Thanks for reading. I hope this has been of some interest to you. This review may be posted on other sites in whole or part under my same user name. ©Catsholiday

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