See previews below of the Prologue, Chapter 2, and Chapter 4 or click on the links to read each section in
The poet Walt Whitman attracted a glittering crowd of celebrities to the last of his famous lectures on the man
he loved most--Abraham Lincoln. It was April 14, 1887, the twenty-second anniversary of the president's
murder, and the poet himself had just a few more years to live. The steel magnate Andrew Carnegie was in
the audience at the gorgeous little Madison Square Theater in midtown Manhattan. So were Mark Twain, the
Civil War hero General William Tecumseh Sherman, the by then distinguished diplomat John Hay, the sculptor
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and many other cultural powerhouses of the day. "When Lilacs Last in the
Dooryard Bloom'd," Whitman's powerful lament for Lincoln, "the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and
lands...the mighty Westerner," was well on its way to fame as the most moving elegy in the American
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The cottage Mary dearly loved at the Soldiers' Home had been built in 1842 in the "Rural Gothic" style for a
prominent, wealthy young Washingtonian, George W. Riggs. One look at it shows how carefully Riggs and the
builder, William H. Degges, followed the recommendation of the predominant tastemaker of the 1830s and 1840s,
Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing's views on what was architecturally suitable for country residences for rich
and poor alike had begun to percolate nationally in the 1830s, when he was in his midtwenties. His 1841 Treatise on
the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening was a best-seller despite its high price ($3.50), and would become
one of the most influential books on the subject published in the nineteenth century. His Cottage Residences of 1842
put the final seal of approval on the Gothic Revival style.
Chapter 4 - Embattled Retreat
If the White House was in the worst possible location in the nation's capital, the Soldiers' Home was sure in
one of the very best. The contrast was more than sad--it was frightening. "There is a soap factory south east
of the President's Mansion," complained Lincoln's commissioner of public buildings, Benjamin French, to the
Board of Health, "the stench from which, when the wind direction is South East, is almost unindurable [sic] at
the mansion, at the Treasury Department, and at all other places in that vicinity. Mrs. Lincoln has especially
complained concerning it." French went even further with a warning to the United States Senate: "The
Washington Canal [that flowed into the Potomac not far from the White House to the south] is the grand
receptacle of all the filth of the city...the waste from all the public buildings, the hotels, and very many private
residences is drained into it...unless something is done to clean away this immense mass of fetid and corrupt
matter the good citizens of Washington must, during some hot season, find themselves visited by a pestilence...
the health of the entire population and the lives of thousands depend on it." John Hay added his two cents'
worth: "The ghosts of twenty thousand drowned cats come in nights through the South Windows."
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262 Pages (including Index)
John C. Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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