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Archive for Saturday, July 8, 2000

Lincoln home outside D.C. given historic treasure status

July 8, 2000

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— President Lincoln's summer retreat, a hilltop cottage on the outskirts of Washington where he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, became one of America's national monuments on Friday.

In a visit to the cottage, President Clinton signed a proclamation designating the 157-year-old landmark as President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument.

"There is fragile, vital history in this house," Clinton said. "Today, we come to reclaim it, to preserve it and to make it live again -- not simply to honor those who came before and not only for ourselves, but for generations yet to come who need to know how those who lived here, lived and made the decisions they made at a profoundly fateful time in our nation."

The president also announced $15 million in grants by Save America's Treasures -- including a $750,000 award for the cottage -- to preserve historic sites nationwide.

Each summer from 1862 to 1864, Lincoln and his wife escaped the heat and humidity of the White House by taking up residence at the cottage, about 3 miles from the White House. The 14-room home, built in an early Gothic-revival style, remains much as it was in Lincoln's day. He commuted there by horseback or carriage and often read and relaxed beneath a copper beech tree that still stands beside the house.

The house is located on the grounds of what used to be called Soldiers' Home, the first home for disabled veterans of the U.S. Army. Part of the home now is being used as office space for the Armed Forces Retirement Home, which manages the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home.

Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation at the cottage in September 1862 and last visited the home the day before his assassination. The cottage also served as a summer retreat for Presidents Buchanan, Hayes and Arthur.

"It was here where President Lincoln completed a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in the seceding states," Clinton said. "When he signed it, Lincoln said 'My whole soul is in it.' You can still feel that spirit strongly in the room in this cottage where he worked."

The grants are being awarded by Save America's Treasures, a partnership of the White House Millennium Council, the National Park Service and the National Trust or Historic Preservation.

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