Saturday, November 3, 2012
The Petersen House
Doctors who examined President Lincoln at Ford's Theater quickly realized he was mortally wounded, so they decided he should at least die somewhere more comfortable than the bloodstained floor of a theater box. Hence the move across the street to the townhouse of tailor George Petersen; think of it a bit like improvised hospice for the dying president.
Like at Ford's Theater itself, there isn't a wide variety of things to see, but what you do see is pretty momentous: first, the front parlor, where War Secretary Edwin Stanton started the massive manhunt for John Wilkes Booth, and where Mrs. Lincoln, Vice President Johnson and numerous Cabinet members arrived to pay their respects. Behind that (and behind a large clear pane) is the room - and the bed where Lincoln died.
There was a famous drawing at the time showing pretty much the whole of official Washington hovering around Abe's deathbed - don't believe it. Even with the wall between the bedroom and the parlor removed for better viewing, it's a small space. Unless every member of Lincoln's Cabinet was the size of an Oompa-Loompa, they would have had to take turns in there.
The bed is more or less the end of the tour, but if you take the elevator upstairs you'll walk through a little museum about the aftermath of Lincoln's death, including the hunt for Booth, the White House funeral and the train procession back to Illinois. As I have become officially obsessed with the Lincoln catafalque during the course of this project, I was especially excited to see pieces of the catafalque's original fringe. Does that make me fringe to admit that, do you think?
Finally, there's a walk through Lincoln in popular culture, which includes movies, monuments, and an enormous stack of Lincoln books that stretches from the top floor down to the main level gift shop. Best item here, of course, is a super-size piece of the Marvel comic where Lincoln teams up with Spider-Man and Captain America!
Sorry, but not even Daniel Day-Lewis can match that.