Thursday, June 16, 2011

Robert Todd Lincoln's Georgetown Home

Robert Todd Lincoln, the Great Emancipator's eldest son and only child to survive to adulthood,  owned the stately residence at 3014 N Street NW from 1912 until his death in 1926.  Robert Lincoln was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1843.  Ensuring that his son received the proper education that he did not, Abraham Lincoln sent Robert to Phillips Exeter and then Harvard, where he graduated in 1864.  Despite his mother's objections, Robert served on General Grant's staff briefly at the end of the war and was present for Lee's surrender.

The Laird-Dunlop House, a private residence at 3014 Street, dates back to the 1790s.  At the start of the Civil War, it was the home of Judge James Dunlop, the Chief Justice of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, who President Lincoln removed from the federal bench  because of his Southern sympathies.    Robert Todd Lincoln purchased the home as his Washington residence after retiring as President of the Pullman Company in Chicago.  He split time between it and his Vermont estate, always taking his father's papers with him, until his death in 1926.  His widow, Mary Harlan Lincoln, lived in the home until she passed away in 1937. (Photo by author)
 Robert Lincoln, a leading Republican in his own right, could easily have secured the Republican presidential nomination in the late nineteenth century if he had sought it.  In the "Guilded Age" years, he amassed a fortune as a successful corporate attorney and business executive.  He also served as Secretary of War under Presidents Garfield and Arthur and as U.S. Minister to the Court of St. James during Benjamin Harrison's Administration.  In addition to the trauma of his father's own assassination, Robert Lincoln also witnessed the shooting of President Garfield in Washington in 1881 and was in Buffalo when President McKinley was shot in 1901.  He is reported to have later refused an invitation to an event from President Theodore Roosevelt as a result of these experiences.

At his Georgetown residence, Robert Lincoln zealously guarded his father's papers, going as far as taking them with him each summer when he retreated to his "Hildene" estate in Vermont, to ensure that no one accessed them.  After even musing about burning all of the papers to protect the family's privacy,  Robert finally deeded them  to the Library of Congress in 1919 with the stipulation that they remain sealed until 21 years after his death.  Amongst the thousands of documents in the now digitalized collection is President Lincoln's January 19, 1865 request to Ulysses S. Grant that the general  find a position on his staff for Robert  who wished "to see something of the war before it is over."

Robert Lincoln (right-hand side) with President Warren Harding (center) and Former President/Chief Justice William Taft (left) at the 1922 dedication of the Lincoln Memorial.  Although quite accomplished in his own right, it could not have been easy having the weight of Abraham Lincoln's legacy upon him. (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Robert Lincoln died July 26, 1926, just short of his 83rd birthday.  Ironically, his widow, who wanted to ensure that she would not be buried beside her late mother-in-law in the Springfield Lincoln crypt, arranged for him to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery,  the former estate of Robert E. Lee.  Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwirth, Robert's grandson and the last direct living descendant of Abraham Lincoln, lived in Washington, D.C. and died in 1985.


  1. It was Ben Bradley's home too, the editor of the Washington Post, who was editor who helped get the only Republican President to resign due to some subordinates mischief in the "Watergate" affair. A very minor act that grew to become a scandal that would not go away. President Nixon resigned instead of facing impeachment by a Democratic Congress. Ironic, since Todd Lincoln's father was the first Republican President of the new party of the "Rebel Abolitionists". Lincoln only got 40% in 1860. Nixon won by a landslide, but was paranoid, and sanctioned the breaking in of the Watergate Hotel where the Democrats (who supported the South in 1860) had their headquarters. Nixon should have admitted that his subordinates had made a mistake but covered it up supposedly. The Washington Post hated him, especially the editor Bradlee. A socialite and friend of the owner who is buried not far up in a famous Georgetown cemetery next to her husband who committed suicide much earlier in their lives. Catherine Graham, she also owned a mansion in Georgetown. Lincoln was nothing like his father - not as Holy looking, much more like his mother - too bad for Todd.

  2. I have a 1923 letter written and signed by R T Lincoln, which at the top has the address "3014 N. Street, Washington, DC" Could be for sale soon. contact in interested