History in the Capital: Spend a Day with Abraham Lincoln

Washington has much to offer those interested in our 16th president

The Great Emancipator, Honest Abe, the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln has, undoubtedly, left a huge impression on our nation and its capital city. As one of the most well-known presidents, you can spend an entire day in Lincoln’s footsteps and take in the memorials that celebrate his monumental contributions.

Lincoln Memorial

Start your day at the Lincoln Memorial, located at the west end of the National Mall.

“In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

Bill Chizek / Bigstock

These words inscribed above a seated Lincoln give honor to the man who helped keep a country united in a time of war and stay true to the words of the Founding Fathers, stating all men are created equal.

The memorial itself is steeped in symbolism. Impress your friends by knowing there are 36 columns around the memorial commemorating the states in the union at the time of Lincoln’s death. These columns are topped with the states names in the order they entered the union. Be sure to walk around the outside of the memorial and ponder the symbolism of the memorial standing in clear view of Arlington Cemetery, the former residence of Robert E. Lee and the burial ground of many Civil War soldiers.

Back inside the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll find the Gettysburg address and his second inaugural address inscribed on either side of his statue. Be on the lookout for the carver’s mistake in the inaugural address. The “F” in FUTURE was carved wrong, but corrected. Years later, the typo is still visible to a keen eye.

Don’t miss the museum under the memorial where you’ll learn about the memorial’s construction.

National Museum of American History

Make your way to the National Museum of American History to view one of Lincoln’s most iconic possessions, his top hat. The top hat on display is the very hat he wore to Ford’s Theatre in 1865.

The museum also exhibits an extensive Civil War collection, including the Appomattox table and chairs, recruitment posters, currency, weapons, uniforms, and letters from key leaders.

Ford’s Theatre and Petersen House

You can’t spend a day with Lincoln without a visit to Ford’s Theatre, the site of his assassination on April 14, 1865. Ford’s Theatre is a working theatre, however, it is also a historic site. Grab your ticket for Ford’s

Theatre, its museum, Petersen House and the Aftermath Exhibits online.

Start at the museum to view the artifacts surrounding the assassination and the myriad conspiracies. From the museum, you’ll take a National Park Ranger-led tour through Ford’s Theatre, including a peek inside the booth where President Lincoln sat that fateful night.

Once you’ve exited the theatre, cross the street to Petersen House, the boarding house where Lincoln was taken after he was shot. There you’ll see where Lincoln’s cabinet members sat in waiting and the bedroom where he spent his last hours.

A newer addition to the experience is the Aftermath Exhibits. Here you’ll follow Lincoln’s funeral train across the nation, the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and the impact Lincoln has had on the nation, all the way through modern times.

President Lincoln’s Cottage

If you have time, plan a visit to President Lincoln’s Cottage where Lincoln lived for three summers during the Civil War. The soldiers’ cottage overlooked Washington, D.C. and, during his stay, he visited with wounded soldiers, emancipated slaves and this is where he developed the Emancipation Proclamation. Exhibits encompass the war in Washington, Lincoln’s family while at the Soldiers’ Home and his presidency.

Willard Intercontinental Hotel

End your day of Lincoln with a drink or dinner at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, the very spot Lincoln stayed prior to moving into the White House in 1861. Be sure to scout out his bill on display in the hotel’s history gallery.

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