In 1842, the financier George Riggs built a spacious home on a hill in the northern reaches of Washington, DC. Purchased nine years later by the Federal Government as a home for veterans, it became part of a larger complex around Fort Totten dedicated to convalescing soldiers, complete with verdant lawns and a rustic neighborhood feel. During the American Civil War, the Riggs house—improbably dubbed a “cottage”—was a steady redoubt for the president, Abraham Lincoln, who could visit with his army and gather his thoughts at a clarifying four-mile remove from the White House. All told, Lincoln spent roughly a year of his term there, including the weeks leading up the 1863 Gettysburg Address and the day before his assassination in 1865. Despite this history, the Cottage, with its elegant visitors’ center, is off the beaten track for most tourists, remaining a hidden gem for area residents.

During the winter...

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