New Show At Lincoln’s Sanctuary

Posted February 27, 2009 at 3:25pm

A new exhibit called “My Abraham Lincoln” features Lincoln memorabilia from private collectors and a new 2,500-pound bronze statue at President Lincoln’s Cottage, located at the Armed Forces Retirement Home campus in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Even with the new materials, visitors will have to use their imagination for much of the tour at the sparsely furnished home. Video and audio are used to enhance the experience, with narrators telling stories about the house where Lincoln lived for a quarter of his presidency and wrote the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“It’s more about his ideas than furniture,” said Allison Herrmann, a guide with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Herrmann said most of the furniture was borrowed from the White House. Since Lincoln’s death, the cottage has been used as a dormitory for veterans, a bar called the Lincoln Lounge and an office for the newspaper serving the Soldiers’ Home, according to Herrmann. The NTHP has managed the cottage since 2000 and put $15 million and seven years into restoring it.

The white cottage with green shutters has 34 rooms. Today, visitors can view the rooms the Lincolns used on a daily basis, Herrmann said. In the library, the outlines of shelves, once holding Lincoln’s book collection, are visible on the pinewood walls.

“We scraped off 23 layers of paint” during the renovation, Herrmann said.

In the new exhibit at the nearby Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center, artifacts such as a piece of paper with Lincoln’s autograph and a forgery by Joseph Cosey, who became famous for forging presidential signatures, are on display.

“People get a kick of seeing stuff that Lincoln touched,” curator Erin Carlson Mast said.

Dominating the room in the exhibit “My Abraham Lincoln” is a large painting made by Jes W. Schlaikjer in 1957of Lincoln in the cottage, working on the Emancipation Proclamation. A wine list from Lincoln’s second inaugural ball and a Lincoln funeral program and mourning fan are other items on display.

“We have a wide range of stuff from Lincoln memorabilia, manuscripts, toys and artwork depicting Lincoln,” Carlson Mast said.

Carlson Mast said the strength of the exhibit is its close proximity to the cottage, adding that it is the only place where the public can get a sense of how Lincoln lived, since the White House is more difficult for the public to tour.

The exhibit will run until Dec. 31.

Also part of the Lincoln bicentennial celebration is a new life-size statue, commissioned by Robert H. Smith, showing Lincoln and his horse as they might have appeared during the three-mile commute to the White House. Ivan Schwartz and his colleagues at StudioEIS in New York molded the sculpture. The process took about a year.

“I looked at every single photograph taken of the president. I also measured his clothing and famous top hat,” said Schwartz, founder and director of StudioEIS.

After eight months of research, drawings and working first on models and later on the sculpture, the Lincoln statue went to a foundry.

“The work my studio does is based on a great deal of accuracy,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz also studied Lincoln’s horse, Old Robin, also known as Old Bob. Old Bob was actually Lincoln’s horse in Illinois but is the most well-known, Schwartz said, adding that since Lincoln was a circuit lawyer, “Lincoln’s horse became known as a circuit horse.”