When I did some work a couple years ago for the Manitoba Theatre Centre's adaptation of Gone With The Wind, I spent a lot of time reading up on the American Civil War. It was a fascinating time that inspired some pretty interesting books, but there's nothing quite like seeing the relics of history live and in person. With that in mind, we set off to say hello to Mr. Abraham Lincoln and get to know a little more about one of the most influential men in American history.
First: we have the house where Lincoln lived, and where Barack Obama currently watches The Good Wife on his days off. (Or, at least, where I like to imagine the President watching The Good Wife. In sweatpants. With a bowl of ice cream. Can you believe Barack and I have so much in common?!)
Anyway, I digress... The White House has been home to every President since 1800. Security was pretty tight with the Japanese Prime Minister in town, but there was still room for a little peaceful protest against nuclear weapons. Three cheers for freedom of speech and passive resistance!
Not far away from the home where he lived is the house where Lincoln died and the theatre where he was fatally wounded. Both places now feature museums in his memory, and the Ford Theatre is still producing plays and performing them in the very same room where Lincoln was shot.
Photography is not allowed in the museums, but we were able to take a few photos in the theatre itself and in some of the main rooms of the house where Lincoln eventually died.
The Presidential Box aka The Scene of the Crime.
After Lincoln was shot, he was brought to a boarding house across the street from the Ford's Theatre. There he spent the night, with his wife and doctor close by, before passing away early the next morning.
Above is the parlour where Mary Lincoln spent most of the night.
The upper floors of the house and the basement of Ford's Theatre are full of artifacts from Lincoln's life and the night of the assassination. Here you can see notes in Abraham Lincoln's handwriting, some housewares that once belonged to him and his wife, his very famous hat, and much more. The artifacts really do bring the history to life and give you the chance to imagine President Lincoln as a real man of flesh and blood. Hanging on one of the museum's walls is the flag that hung in the theatre's Presidential Box at the time of Lincoln's murder, and it is easy to see where the flag is still stained with his blood. But the most moving artifact I saw was a pair of eyeglasses found in the President's pocket that had been mended with a piece of string. There was something so beautifully human about those broken glasses.
If you're in DC I highly recommend a trip to both museums. They compliment each other and together they tell the full story of President Lincoln's life and death.
Now that you've met Mr. Lincoln: The Man. It's time to meet Abraham Lincoln: The Legend.
On the advice of a local friend, we visited the Lincoln Memorial after dark when it glows above its surroundings and stands out in the quiet of the night.
Like any good memorial, this is a place to reflect on the past and renew one's commitment to a better future. It's peaceful, monumental, and kind of takes your breath away. It's almost as though Lincoln's statue will come alive at any moment to finish his work.
"With malice toward none, with charity for all."
Goodnight, Mr. Lincoln. It was a pleasure to meet you!