Penn Quarter in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Abraham Lincoln Walked Here
Civil War to Civil Rights
óDowntown Heritage Trail ó
“Tonight, beautiful women, perfume, and the violinsí sweetness ... [yet during the war] the amputation, the blue face, the groan, the glassy eye of the dying.” Walt Whitman
At 10:30 p.m. on March 4, 1865, a tired and gaunt President Lincoln arrived at this site, his wife Mary in white lace and silk with purple and white flowers in her hair. The ball celebrating his second inaugural was being held in the Grand Hall on the top floor of the Patent Office next to where you stand (today a Smithsonian Museum).
It was a bittersweet affair. Union victory was in sight, but the ravages of war weighed heavily on the president, and were reflected in his weary, weathered face. He left before the midnight supper, never being one for social occasions. In six weeks he would be gone, felled by an assassinís bullet at Fordís Theatre just two blocks from here.
Lincoln would have come this way often. The Patent Office and the General Post Office Building, facing it across F Street, were the two most important federal buildings to be built after the White House and the Capitol. Both buildings were designed in part by Robert Mills, the architect of the Washington Monument and the U.S. Treasury, and were partially complete by the time Lincoln came to Washington as a one-term congressman from Illinois
During the Civil War, this street would have been the scene of intense activity. The Post Office doubled as a food commissary. The Patent Office, scene of Lincolnís second inaugural ball, had been a hospital. The poet Walt Whitman, who nurse the wounded there, witnessed it all and recorded the dramatic contrasts.
above Lincolnís second inaugural ball was held in the Patent Office, now a Smithsonian museum. [“Bill of Fare of the Presidential Inauguration Ball ...” ] (Library of Congress.)
above Walt Whitman, about 1860. (Library of Congress.)
above and right The Patent Office, seen in 1848, towered over the neighborhood. Samuel B. Morse ran the nationís first telegraph office on this block. (Library of Congress.)
below A drawing of the Old Post Office Building about 1843 when only the section facing F Street was complete. A corner of the Patent Office appears at the left. (Library of Congress.)
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number .5.)
Marker series. Civil War to Civil Rights marker series.
Location. 38° 53.839′ N, 77° 1.377′ W. Marker is in Penn Quarter, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of F Street, NW and 8th Street, NW, on F Street, NW. Touch for map. Marker is on the sidewalk in front of the main (south side) entrance to the Smithsonian Institution, Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture - National Portrait Gallery. It is between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, and across F Street from the end of 8th Street, NW. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Patent Office Building (a few steps from this marker); General Post Office (within shouting distance of this marker); The Restoration of 800 F Street (within shouting distance of this marker); The Daguerre Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named The Daguerre Monument (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Mary Church Terrell (about 300 feet away); The Roots of Freedom and Equality (about 300 feet away); Discover DC (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Penn Quarter.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To better understand the
Also see . . . The Reynolds Center. (Submitted on March 16, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
Categories. • Arts, Letters, Music • Government • Military • Notable Buildings • Notable Events • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on January 19, 2017. This page originally submitted on March 15, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,711 times since then and 7 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on March 15, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 2, 3. submitted on March 16, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on February 17, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.