President Abraham Lincoln spent the final four years of his life in the Nation’s Capital. During his time here, he left a lasting imprint—on buildings where he lived and worked, and at the theater where he was shot. Today, you can visit these sites that preserve the memory and ideals of this American hero.
Start your tour at Fords Theatre, the infamous site of Lincoln’s assassination. John Wilkes Booth, an actor, shot Lincoln in the head while the President and First Lady were seated in the Presidential box. There’s a museum below the theater that explains how Booth and the conspirators planned the murder. Across the street is The Peterson House where Lincoln died. If you have time, visit the Aftermath Exhibits adjacent to the Peterson House to learn what the impact of Lincoln’s death had on the country and his legacy of leadership ever since.
Leave the museum and head left (south) on 10th Street, NW. Turn right on E Street, NW, which becomes Pennsylvania Avenue at 13th Street, and then continue walking past Freedom Plaza to the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. Lincoln and his family stayed here prior to his first inauguration, and the hotel’s History Gallery displays Lincoln’s hotel bill.
Leave the hotel toward 15th St, and go north on 15th St. for six blocks. You’ll pass the US Treasury on your left, and the White House Gift Shop on your right, where you can stop to buy some Lincoln memorabilia. After McPherson Sq., 15 St. NW merges with Vermont Avenue. Continue across K St. on Vermont Ave. one and a half blocks to Lincoln Restaurant. This themed restaurant honors the 16th president with tables and floors embedded with more than 1 million Lincoln pennies. Lincoln-fans can order his favorite foods—oysters, gingerbread, and chicken fricassee.
Walk south on Vermont Ave for three blocks, passing through the middle of McPherson Square, named for one of Lincoln’s Generals during the Civil War, to enter Lafayette Park. In the last two centuries Lafayette Park has been used as a zoo, slave market, and soldiers’ encampment, and is now a pedestrian-only National Park in front of The White House.
Lincoln moved into The White House after his inauguration on Monday, March 4, 1861. His wife Mary Todd Lincoln renovated and redecorated the “shabby” house when she moved in. To escape the constant flow of visitors and swampy heat, President Lincoln regularly rode his horse to the Lincoln Cottage (via the same route you just walked on Vermont Ave). You can visit the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier’s Home a few miles from downtown Washington (it requires either a metro or bus ride, because it’s too far to walk from this area but it’s totally worth seeing).
Pass by the North Lawn of The White House and the Executive Office Building, to walk south (left) on 17th Street, NW. You’ll walk three long blocks past the Executive Office Building on your left and the American Red Cross building and DAR Constitution Hall on your right.
When you arrive at the National Mall on Constitution Ave, enter the grounds of Constitution Gardens, near the World War II Memorial, to meander along shady paths. You’ll see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as you walk toward the Reflecting Pool at the base of the massive marble Lincoln Memorial.
President Abraham Lincoln sits immortalized in marble facing inspiring views of the Washington Monument and the Capitol. On the walls, The Gettysburg Address, Lincoln’s famous speech, is preserved in its entirety, and opposite is Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address. If you’re lucky enough to arrive in the evening, when the lights on the National Mall illuminate stunning vistas, rest a while to reflect on Lincoln’s achievements.
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