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Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois

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Abraham Lincoln, Home Remodeler
Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield, Ill., two story gold with green shutters.

Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois was not always two stories.

Photo of Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois ©Teemu008 (Michael), flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lincoln's First and Only Owned Home:

When Abraham Lincoln was 35 years old in 1844, he bought a little cottage on the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield, Illinois. He was a state legislator practicing law, married for two years, and a new father. He paid $1500 for some land and what has been described as "a small Greek Revival-style house." Built in 1839 by the Reverend Charles Dresser, Lincoln's first house was fairly new construction when he purchased it five years later. In the tradition of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello, Mr. Lincoln took to home remodeling like a politician takes to speechmaking.

Lincoln's Renovations and Remodeling:

When Abraham, Mary, and Robert moved in, the house was 1 ½ stories high with five to six rooms—NOT the house we see today. Three rooms occupied the first floor and two to three "sleeping lofts" were upstairs in the half story. An upstairs floor is considered a "half" story when the second floor ceilings are sloped, taking the shape of the roof.

From when they bought the house in 1844 until they moved to Washington, D.C. in 1861, the Lincoln family oversaw many renovations to their Springfield home:

  • 1846: bedroom and pantry addition to the back of the house
  • 1849-1850: added parlor room stoves and the front brick retaining wall; replaced the wooden sidewalk with a brick front walk
  • 1853: added a barn
  • 1855: raised the roof of the original cottage to two stories
  • 1856: raised the back addition to two full stories; added the iron railing to the second floor porch; constructed a wall between the kitchen and dining room
  • 1859: the backyard washing house was torn down, so one might assume that indoor plumbing was installed in the main house; a woodshed was added to the barn

According to The History of Plumbing, indoor plumbing was more common after 1840 and the invention of packaged toilet paper in 1857. Nevertheless, a traditional bathroom or water closet does not appear on the floor plan of Lincoln's home.

The Lincoln House After 1861:

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, never returned to live in his Springfield house. From 1861 until 1887 the house was rented, the last tenant profiting from Lincoln's assassination and notoriety by turning the house into a museum. Gas lighting was installed sometime after 1869; the first telephone was installed sometime around 1878; and electricity was first used in 1899. Robert Lincoln gave the house to the State of Illinois in 1887.

Source: Lincoln Home National Historic Site website, www.nps.gov/liho/index.htm [accessed February 5, 2013]

Learn More:
Lincoln House Floor Plan
Old Homes: Then and Now

Plan Your Visit:
Lincoln Home National Historic Site

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