A self-taught lawyer with only one year of frontier schooling, Abraham Lincoln rode his horse into Springfield, III., in 1837 with all his belongings in two saddlebags. Mary Todd, who arrived two years later, was well educated and from a prominent Kentucky family. Despite contrasting backgrounds, they were married on November 4, 1842. In 1844 the couple bought a small cottage at the corner of Eighth and Jackson streets. Here, three of their four children were born, and one died. While living in this house Lincoln enjoyed great success as a lawyer and was considered one of the state's best courtroom attorneys. His legal practice regularly took Lincoln away from Springfield up to three months at a time. Their children certainly made the house a lively place, but Mary often felt alone without her husband present.
Lincoln began his political career by serving eight years in the Illinois House of Representatives between 1834 and 1842. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846, where he served one term. He was nominated in June 1858 to run for the U.S. Senate, a race he lost to Stephen Douglas. But this campaign, with its Lincoln-Douglas debates, set the stage for his ultimate achievementelection as 16th president of the United States.
Before leaving for Washington, D.C., the Lincolns rented out the house and sold most of their household furnishings, storing a few in anticipation of their return to Springfield. On February 11, 1861, the Lincolns left Springfield by train. Lincoln summed up his life in Springfield to the crowd gathered at the station with these simple words:
At Home With the Lincolns
Parents' bedroom suite
Lincoln Home Through the Years
By May 1844 Abraham and Mary Lincoln needed more living space for their growing family and decided to buy a house. They selected a Greek Revival-style cottage at the corner of Eighth and Jackson streets owned by Reverend Charles Dresser, who had married the Lincolns in 1842. Lincoln paid $1,500 for the home that the family would occupy for the next 17 years.
Over the years the Lincolns enlarged the house to accommodate their growing family. In 1846 they added a downstairs bedroom. Most dramatic were improvements in 1855-56, when the Lincolns expanded the story-and-a-half cottage to a full two-story house. This substantial home became the center of national attention during Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign. Only a simple nameplate on the front door reading "A. Lincoln" told visitors that they had arrived at the home of the future president. After the election the Lincolns gave away or sold most of their furnishings and arranged to rent the house to Lucian Tilton, president of the Great Western Railroad. The Tiltons regularly indulged curious visitors with tours of President Lincoln's home.
Following Lincoln's assassination in 1865, thousands of grieving citizens descended on Springfield. The house became a focus of mourning for a stunned nation.
On May 4, 1865, Lincoln's somber yet grand funeral procession passed in front of the Lincoln home on its way to Oak Ridge Cemetery. Eventually Lincoln's only surviving son Robert became sole owner of the Lincoln family home and maintained it as rental property. In 1887 he donated the home to the people of Illinois, who preserved it as a memorial to the martyred president for 85 years. The State of Illinois donated the home to the United States of America in 1972.
Today the home continues to draw visitors from around the world who are eager to learn about Abraham Lincolnan international symbol of freedom and democracy.
The Springfield Lincoln Knew
Abraham Lincoln moved to Springfield in 1837, the year it became the state capital. A promising town of 2,500 people, Springfield became the focal point of law, politics, and state government, yet livestock freely roamed its muddy streets. When Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860, the hogs were gone from its streets, and its population was just under 10,000. In a new neighborhood at the edge of this bustling capital city, the Lincoln home was only a few blocks from Lincoln's law office at the town square, near the Old State Capitol, courts, stores, and businesses. His neighbors represented a cross-section of society, from laborers to elected officials. All in all, this was an excellent location for a promising young Springfield attorney and his growing family.
The Lincoln home was nestled in a heavily developed neighborhood. By the time the Lincolns left Springfield, there were houses all along Eighth Street, and the yards were filled with barns, sheds, privies, and gardens. Today the remaining houses and outbuildings offer only a glimpse of what this lively neighborhood was like when the Lincolns lived here.
Information, Tours, and Tickets
Visiting the Site The site is open 8:30 am to 5 pm year-round. It is closed on Thanksgiving day, December 25, and January 1.
Touring and Ticket Information To tour the Lincoln Home begin at the visitor center at 426 South Seventh Street. Parking is available for a fee in a parking lot at Seventh Street south of the visitor center. Free tickets for a specific tour time are provided first-come, first-served. Arrive early to avoid long waits for tours. No pets are permitted in the Lincoln Home.
Group Tours For information about group tours of the Lincoln Home and other Springfield sites, contact the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Visitor Center Here you will find information, exhibits, orientation films, restrooms, and a museum shop. You may also walk through the historic neighborhood and view exhibits in some of the houses.
Accessibility The visitor center, exhibits, and first floor of the Lincoln Home are accessible for visitors in wheelchairs. Service animals are welcome.
Safety You will encounter conditions that were part of everyday life in the 1800s. Irregular boardwalks, surfaces with loose stones, and narrow and steep staircases are part of the historic scene. Please be careful. For firearms laws and policies see the park website.
Related Sites The Great Western Depot where Lincoln gave his farewell address and several state historic sites are within walking distance or a short drive from the Lincoln Home: Lincoln's New Salem, Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Old State Capitol, and Lincoln's Tomb. You might also want to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
For information on these and other attractions contact: Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visit-springfieldillinois.com.
Source: NPS Brochure (2010)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
2009 Archaeological Investigations at the Walters, Beedle, and Lyon Lots, Lincoln Home NHS Midwest Archeological Center Archeology Report Series No. 5 (Dawn Bringelson, Gosia Mahoney and Steven L. De Vore, 2015)
A Cultural and Historical Resources Study For The Proposed Lincoln Center, Springfield, Illinois (Floyd Mansberger, Tracey Sculle and Amy Spies, December 1992)
Abraham Lincoln: From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts (HTML edition) NPS Source Book Series No. 2 (Roy Edgar Appleman, ed., 1942, reprint 1961)
Archeological Inventory and Evaluation at the Carrigan and Burch Properties, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield Illinois Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report Series No. 125 (Janis L. Dial-Jones, 2010)
Archeological Investigations at the Harriet Dean House (11SG272), Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report Series No. 93 (Vergil E. Noble, 2005)
Archeological Overview and Assessment of Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Sangamon County, Springfield, Illinois Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report No. 72 (Alan J. Osborn, 2001)
Cultural Landscape Report: Lincoln Home National Historic Site (Quinn Evans Architects, June 2014)
Excavations at the Sarah Cook House (11SG267), Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report Series No. 92 (Vergil E. Noble, 2005)
Historic Grounds Report and Landscape Plan, Lincoln Home National Historic Site (Robert R. Harvey & Associates, April 1982)
Historic Structure Report, Architectural Data Section, Volumes I and II, Lincoln Home National Historic Site (Ferry and Henderson Architects, Inc., February 20, 1984)
Historic Structure Report: Burch House (HS-26), Lincoln Home National History Site, Springfield, Illinois (RATIO Architects, Inc., May 19, 2006)
Historic Structure Report: Carrigan House (HS-25), Lincoln Home National History Site, Springfield, Illinois (RATIO Architects, Inc., May 19, 2006)
Historic Structure Report: Charles E. Arnold House, Lincoln Home National Historic Site (Fischer-Wisnosky Architects, Inc., August 1994)
Historic Structure Report: James Morse House, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois: Historical Data Section, Architectural Data Section, Exterior Restoration Proposal (Alan W. O'Bright, 1985)
Historic Structure Report: Julia Sprigg House (HS-11), Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois (Fischer-Wisnosky Architects, Inc., May 1995)
Historic Structure Report: Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois (Edwin C. Bearss, July 1973)
Impacts of Visitor Spending on the Local Economy: Lincoln Home National Historic Site, 2005 (Daniel J. Stynes, August 2007)
Junior Ranger Program, Lincoln Home National Historic Site (Date Unknown)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
The Lincoln Home State Memorial (Charles E. Shedd, Jr., June 16, 1959)
The Evolution of Interpretation in the National Park Service and the Lincoln Home Site from Historia, Volume 13 (James Sturgill, 2004)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Illinois Freedom Project (2015)
Last Updated: 02-Dec-2021