Lincoln Home Through the Years
For seventeen years, the house at Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield, Illinois was home to Abraham Lincoln and his family. Purchased shortly after the birth of their first son Robert, the home sheltered the family through the birth of their remaining three sons and the death of their son Eddie, and had been the center of Lincoln's life as a husband and father. Abraham Lincoln was elected to be the 16th President of the United States on November 6, 1860. The family had three short months to prepare for their move to Washington, D.C. As they made the many decisions related to such a significant move, they had to decide if the home would be a part of their future, as well as their past. The home was rented rather than sold and their best furniture placed in storage for their eventual return. But on April 15, 1865, an assassin's bullet took the life of President Lincoln. Mary Lincoln faced a lonely future and wrote that she "could not bear to return to the scenes of the happiest times in my life without my family." The Lincoln Home remained rental property until Lincoln's son, Robert, donated the home to the State of Illinois in 1887 to be protected and preserved for future generations. In 1972 the home was conveyed to the United States of America, which through the National Park Service continued the State's work in preservation and restoration of the home, along with acquisition and restoration of the surrounding four-block neighborhood. This photographic essay captures images of Lincoln's house, showing that his home, like his legacy, has survived the years well.
In 1839, a small, humble, one-and-a-half cottage was constructed at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield, Illinois. Its first resident, the Reverend Charles Dresser, married a young couple -- Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd -- in 1843. The following year, Abraham Lincoln purchased this house and moved in with his wife and his first son, Robert Todd.
In 1850, the Lincolns suffered their first tragedy when their second son, Eddie, died just before his fourth birthday. The following year, they celebrated the birth of their third son Willie, and two years later their fourth and final child, Thomas (nicknamed Tad) was born. With a growing family, the Lincolns expanded their house by adding a full second floor by 1856.
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln caused a national outpouring of grief. His home became the focus for mourners and the photographers who recorded these early visitors.
By the late nineteenth century, Lincoln's home became a popular scene for rallies, ceremonies, and celebrations.
At the turn of the century, people visited the Lincoln Home either by horse and carriage or by Springfield's streetcars that operated on Eighth Street directly in front of the house. Visitation was increasing to the Lincoln Home by 1905 and an awning was added. The elm tree, said to have been planted by Lincoln himself, survived into the 20th century. Over time the tree weakened, and finally a fierce storm on August 17, 1906, destroyed it.
By February 12, 1910, when a group of visitors came to the home to commemorate Lincoln's birthday, a new elm tree was planted. A few years later it would succumb to Dutch Elm disease. By this date, the home also witnessed additional changes as Eighth Street was paved and a fire hydrant, overhead electric lines, and a flagpole were installed.
As Lincoln's reputation grew, his home became a powerful political symbol. In June of 1931, President Herbert Hoover traveled to Springfield to participate in the dedication of the newly restored Lincoln Tomb. This photograph shows the 31st President visiting the Lincoln Home with his family. Even today, Presidents and presidential hopefuls make well-publicized pilgrimages to the home.
In the 1960s, gift shops and souvenir stores gradually encircled Lincoln's home encroaching on what remained from a century earlier.
In 1972 the Lincoln Home came under the stewardship of the National Park Service. In May 1987 the Lincoln Home was closed for restoration. The project touched every aspect of the home, from its foundations to the replacement lightning rods that replicate those Abraham Lincoln had installed to calm Mary's fear of lightning. The National Park Service "encased" the home in a plastic shell so work could continue year round.
On June 16, 1988, the home reopened to the public.
Last updated: April 10, 2015