On behalf of the National Park Service, welcome to Lincoln Home National Historic Site. After living the first twenty-eight years of his life in small log cabins, Mr. Lincoln moved to Springfield, IL to become and attorney in 1837. Within a few years, Mr. Lincoln became very successful and was able to purchase his own home on the corner of Eight and Jackson Streets in Springfield. He initially spent $1,500.00 on the home, but he would eventually remodel it several times adding to its cost.
His home appears today as it did in 1860 and stands as a solid symbol of the American Dream that Mr. Lincoln achieved. It is also a reminder of the dreams that he wanted to ensure the rest of America could achieve regardless of the color of our skin, whether we are male or female, or what country we come from.
The Formal Parlors were the fancy and expensive side of the home used mostly to entertain guests. Mr. Lincoln received many important visitors in this room. It was in the formal parlors on May 19, 1860 that Mr. Lincoln was given the formal offer by the Republican National Committee to be their party’s candidate for President in the coming election. Four days later, Mr. Lincoln accepted their nomination by letter, so his journey to Washington D.C. began in this room.
After growing up in a one-room log cabin, Abraham Lincoln may have never dreamed that someday he would own a home where two rooms, the Front and Rear Parlor, were reserved just for guests and entertainment. The Lincoln boys were generally not allowed in the formal parlors because they may have caused too many problems with the expensive furnishings. They could, however, go to the other side of the home, the Sitting Room, which was where family and close friends would come together.
Originally what is now the Dining Room and kitchen was one large kitchen. The dividing wall was added to reflect Mr. Lincoln’s status as a rising politician and successful attorney, because Mrs. Lincoln felt that a proper Victorian home should have separate rooms for separate purposes. She also insisted that the family gather for meals together in the dining room where the boys could practice their manners. Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed entertaining and also hosted formal dinners in this room for family and friends.
The Sitting Room
The Sitting Room was the side of the home where the family could gather. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed reading poetry and literature aloud while the boys would often play games such as chess or checkers. The Lincoln boys might have overheard their parents discussing current issues such as slavery and Mr. Lincoln’s place in politics.
As more and more guests came to visit Mr. Lincoln as the new President-Elect, they did not always fit in the formal parlor and began to gather in the family side also. The downstairs was a very public area in the home, while the upstairs would remain more private. In an effort to seek a little privacy, the family could go to their bedrooms.
Mr. Lincoln's Bedroom
When the Lincoln’s remodeled their home the final time in 1856, they were prosperous enough to afford a bedroom suite, separate bedrooms for Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, which was the common practice for affluent couples in those times. After living in small cabins for most of his life, Mr. Lincoln probably enjoyed the luxury having individual bedrooms rather than sharing one with the whole family.
Mrs. Lincoln's Bedroom
Having private bedrooms also allowed Mr. Lincoln to stay up late and catch up on his work. A separate bedroom allowed Mrs. Lincoln to have the privacy that a lady needed for dressing and washing. The two youngest boys sleeping in a trundle shared Mrs. Lincoln’s Bedroom with her until the oldest son, Robert, left for prep school. Then Willie and Tad moved into his room across the hall.
This is the Boys’ Room. In 1860, the oldest son, Robert, was studying at Harvard. Just before his fourth birthday in 1850, the second son, Edward, had died from Tuberculosis. The two younger boys, Willie and Tad, were nine and seven and sharing this room when their dad was elected President. Willie and Tad were able to experience their father’s American Dream also. After the presidential election, they took a train all the way to Washington D.C. to live in the White House as the President’s children.
Unfortunately, Willie died in the White House less than a year after they moved in from symptoms of Typhoid Fever. Tad was 12 when Mr. Lincoln was assassinated, but when he was 18, he died in Chicago from pneumonia. Robert lived a very successful life and in 1926 he died a week before his 83rd birthday.
Hired Girl's Room
The Hired Girl, who slept in this room, would have been a busy teenage girl. She was responsible for cleaning the house, helping with the cooking, and keeping an eye on the boys. It was not uncommon for a household of this stature to have 2 or 3 female servants to do the daily tasks required in maintaining a home, so the hired girl was very helpful to Mrs. Lincoln.
Mrs. Lincoln grew up in a wealthy household in Kentucky where most everything had been done for her. She had to learn how to cook when she married Mr. Lincoln, but she became very good at it. Mary spent a great deal of time in the Kitchen preparing meals for the family. It may seem like a very small kitchen, but it is only slightly smaller than the entire log cabin that Mr. Lincoln was born in.
Mr. Lincoln probably reflected on the rise in life that he had achieved from a small one room log cabin to this fine upper-middle class home. He was proud of the success he had with his limited opportunities and hard work. As a politician, he knew others had even fewer opportunities than he did simply because of the color of their skin. He was determined to see America become a place where everyone could have an equal opportunity to improve their economic and social conditions if they wanted to work as hard as he had.