You probably know Abraham Lincoln as the president who struggled to preserve the Union and who published the Emancipation Proclamation, putting an end to American slavery during the Civil War. It may surprise you, then, to learn that his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, grew up in a state that stood in favor of slavery – in fact, her family owned slaves. You can still visit her childhood home today in Lexington, Kentucky, an easy two hours’ drive south of Cincinnati.
Mary Todd’s youth was the stuff of any nineteenth-century girl’s dreams. Her father, Robert Smith Todd, was one of Lexington’s foremost citizens, and the family’s home reflected his wealth and status. Built between 1803 and 1806, the Georgian-style brick residence originally served as an inn before Robert Todd acquired and moved his family into the property in 1832. When Todd died in 1849, circumstances forced the family to submit the house and everything in it for public auction. The Kentucky Mansion Preservation Foundation procured the site more than a century later and, after restoration, opened it to visitors in 1977.
Today the Mary Todd Lincoln house looks as it would have when the Todds lived there. You can walk through fourteen rooms containing elegant furniture and lavish decorations like those that would have filled the Todds’ home. You can also see some original articles belonging to both the Todd and Lincoln families. The property’s original outbuildings – including a stable, smokehouse, outdoor kitchen, and slave quarters – have not survived the passage of time, but the garden plants are reminiscent of those the family would have planted.
The Mary Todd Lincoln House is located in central Lexington, an easy walk from many other downtown attractions and hotels. You can also get to the house via the Blue Route of Lexington’s downtown trolley system.
- March 15th through November 30th: Monday through Saturday 10am to 4pm Guided tours offered approximately every hour until 3pm
- Adults: $10
- Children (ages 6-12): $5
- Children under age 6: free
- Location: 578 West Main Street, Lexington, KY
- Phone: 859-233-9999
- Website: www.mtlhouse.org