The Lincoln Home
The house that would become the future Lincoln Home was built in 1839 for the Reverend Charles Dresser. Dresser actually married Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd in 1842. When the house was completed, the house stood one-and-a-half stories tall with five rooms including a sleeping loft.
In May 1844, the Lincolns purchased the Dresser home and lot for $1500. Abraham, Mary, and Robert, born August 1, 1843, moved into the comfortable home. In 1846 the first remodeling of the home occurred. The Lincolns added a bedroom and a pantry to the back of the home, and the kitchen was removed from the back of the house and shifted over several feet to its present location.
Edward ("Eddie") Baker Lincoln, second son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, was born in the house on March 10, 1846. A few years later, a second remodeling of the home occurred between 1849 and 1850. At this time, stoves were installed in the parlor rooms, the brick retaining wall in front of the home was constructed, and the front walk was bricked over, replacing the wooden sidewalk.
In December of 1849 Eddie became quite ill with what was thought to be diphtheria. Most likely the disease was pulmonary tuberculosis. After 52 days of acute illness, Eddie passed away on February 1, 1850. His funeral was held in the Lincoln Home.
Not long after Eddie's passing, William Wallace Lincoln ("Willie") was born on December 21, 1850. He was the third son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Willie was named after Dr. William Wallace who had married Frances, one of Mary's sisters. Thomas Lincoln ("Tad") was the fourth and last child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. He was born in the house on April 4, 1853. Tad was named after Thomas Lincoln, Abraham's father who had died in 1851. Tad's head was unusually large at birth. Abraham, viewing the contrast between the large head and tiny baby figure, thought he resembled a tadpole which was the origin of a nickname that stuck for the rest of Tad's life.
The Lincolns continued to upgrade the house as the family expanded. Between 1855 and 1856 the front of the home was raised from one-and-a-half stories to two full stories. The bedroom was moved to the upstairs portion of the home, allowing for the creation of the rear parlor. Wood folding doors were added to the parlor at this time and the front parlor windows were permanently closed. The rest of the home was raised to two full stories allowing for the present 12 room nearly 3,000 sq. ft. home.
The final alterations of the home took place in the latter part of 1859 and the beginning of 1860. The backyard washing house was torn down and the woodshed was added to the existing Lincoln barn. The Lincolns continued to live in the house until departing for the White House in February 1861. The Lincolns never returned to their house on the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets. Today, the restored house reflects the Lincoln Home of 1860.
Did You Know?
Frederick Douglass said Lincoln was "the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely, who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color." Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois