Historical Society spring banquet to feature White House historian

In recognition of the bicentennial year of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, ACHS will feature nationally recognized White House historian, Dr. William Seale at its 13th annual Spring Banquet to be held at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel on April 21. Dr. Seale will present, “The Lincoln Years in the White House.”

As U.S. President during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history, Lincoln encountered enormous challenges with a nation divided by the Civil War, as well as personal challenges on the homefront. While Lincoln faced huge losses of Union troops on the battlefield, he also lost his beloved son, Willie, to a sudden illness, and had to endure the gossip and suspicions of Washington society who disliked his temperamental wife and her Southern roots. By 1863, Mrs. Lincoln’s loyalties to the Union were so suspect that the general public tended to believe that the White House was infested with Confederate spies, forcing the President to come to her defense.

Life in the White House during Lincoln’s administration was interesting, to say the least. When the family moved in, the White House was about 60 years old – having been rebuilt between 1814-17. It had not appreciably changed since Monroe’s time in office except for interior alterations made for comfort. However, Mrs. Lincoln immediately began implementing her own interior decorating plans, the scope and cost of which sent Lincoln into a fury.

Although there were social obligations to fulfill, the Lincolns, in general, did little personal entertaining. Money may have been a consideration, or perhaps Mrs. Lincoln’s erratic behavior. In any case, the White House was well staffed, but operated in a state of constant confusion, made all the more chaotic by the thousands of curious visitors and soldiers who toured the White House five days a week. Large public receptions took place twice a year on the Fourth of July and New Year’s, attracting as many as 6,000 people. It was after one of these receptions that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

During the intense heat and humidity of the summer, the Lincoln family escaped the noxious fumes from the marsh that lay just south of the White House by moving to a cottage at the Soldiers’ Home atop a picturesque hill in Washington (now known as the Lincoln Cottage and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation). Here, they lived a fairly typical life, removed from the hustle and bustle of the White House. Most days, Lincoln commuted to his office at the White House accompanied by soldiers.

Dr. Seale’s perspectives on the Lincoln White House, what it looked like at the time, and the various interactions between Lincoln family members and others who staffed or frequented the White House, will be the focus of a thoughtful and fascinating glimpse into what life was like for the First Family during a critical era in our nation’s history.

Dr. Seale has authored a number of books including The President’s House: A History of the White House, The White House: The History of an American Idea, and The White House Garden. He also serves as editor for White House History and is a former Curator of American Culture at the Smithsonian Institution. His expertise in building restoration, especially state capitols and other public buildings, has resulted in involvement with many projects across the nation. Copies of The White House: The History of an American Idea can be purchased the evening of the banquet and autographed by Dr. Seale.

Held for the first time at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, the Spring Banquet will also include the presentation of annual history awards and ACHS’s popular Silent Auction. This year’s auction will include an array of special themed gift baskets, weekend trips, tickets to plays and attractions, artwork, crafts, books – and so much more!

Tickets are $50/person and include the dinner and program. Patron seating is $150 and includes two reserved tickets and program recognition. The Silent Auction will take place from 6-7 p.m. prior to dinner and the program. Seating is limited and reservations must be made by April 15. For tickets or additional information, call the ACHS office at 540-248-4151 or e-mail: augustachs@ntelos.net. Tickets can also be purchased on the ACHS website: www.augustacountyhs.org.

 

IF YOU GO:

Who: Augusta County Historical Society

What: Annual Spring Banquet featuring Dr. William Seale, White House Historian

When: Tuesday, April 21, 6-9 p.m.. Silent Auction at 6-7 p.m.; dinner at 7 p.m., followed by program

Where: Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center (large ballroom)

Reservations: $50/person or Patron seating (includes two reserved seats plus program recognition). Call ACHS office at 540-248-4151 for reservations, or e-mail: augustachs@ntelos.net. Tickets can also be purchased on the ACHS website: www.augustacountyhs.org. Deadline for reservations is April 15.

 

– Story by Lucinda Cooke


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