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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Frances Willard
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular brick house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 40° and two chimneys; it is partly overgrown with roses or ivy. The front door is arched with a fanlight. It is the Julius White House in Evanston, Illinois.]

James Taft Hatfield

Julius White House, Evanston, Built 1850's.

 p139  When Lincoln Visited Evanston

Several years ago, in an issue of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (Vol. 35), the late Dr. James Taft Hatfield, then a retired Northwestern University professor, told of an unusual situation existing for almost a quarter of a century in Evanston. This had to do with the claims of at least half a dozen residents who, at various times, said that Abraham Lincoln stopped at their houses when he visited Evanston in 1860. All of these claims have been discounted, said Dr. Hatfield, with the exception of one, and it was in this house, and this one only, that Lincoln spent a night just six weeks before he was nominated the President of the United States.

Although somewhat altered, the house in which the memorable visit was made still stands. It has been moved twice and is now located at 2009 Dodge Avenue. For proof of the fact that Lincoln was a guest in this dwelling, Dr. Hatfield cited a historian, J. Seymour Currey, who was at one time president of the Evanston Historical Society. In addition to writing numerous other works, Currey, in 1914, penned a pamphlet entitled "Abraham Lincoln's Visit to Evanston in 1860." It is in this pamphlet that we are given incontrovertible proof that the Civil War President stopped in the dwelling which now stands on Dodge Avenue.

But this is not its original site. From research by Dr. Hatfield, who took up the story of the house after Currey had written his pamphlet in 1914, we learn that it has been standing at its present location only since 1926. It had previously occupied another site after being moved from the spot at the northwest corner of Ridge Avenue and Church Street on which it stood when Lincoln was sheltered under its roof. This neighborhood has always been known to Evanstonians as "The Ridge." Today, on its Dodge Avenue site, the "Lincoln House" (as it is sometimes called) stands in the midst of the Negro section of Evanston, and, as Dr. Hatfield, is "rather appropriately" occupied by Negro tenants.

At the time Lincoln was an overnight guest in this abode, it was occupied by Julius White, a friend of Lincoln's who was then harbor master of Chicago and a member of the Board of Trade. When Lincoln became President, he appointed White collector of the port of Chicago. But White soon resigned this office to raise a regiment, the 37th Illinois Volunteers. After the war, General White returned to Evanston and there he died in 1890. On exhibit in the Evanston Historical Society are two Army commissions to White signed by President Lincoln.

It was at the time Lincoln was an attorney in the "Sand Bar" case  p140 in Chicago that he came to General White's home in Evanston. He was then being talked of as a presidential possibility. He was escorted to Evanston in a Chicago & North Western Railway train by Harvey B. Hurd, neighbor of General White's and a founder and first president of the Evanston Historical Society. The day was April 5, 1860. Lincoln and Hurd sat near the stove in the railway coach and swapped stories.

Upon arriving in Evanston, the future President was taken for a buggy ride about the village by his host, Julius White. The village then numbered about 1,200 residents and only five years earlier Northwestern University had erected its first building. When Lincoln was installed in  p141 the White home on "The Ridge," a crowd gathered in front and "serenaded" him. Lincoln came out on the veranda and delivered a brief address. Later that evening one of the guests, J. D. Ludlam, sang a few songs, with Miss Isabel Stewart at the piano. It was the first time they had seen each other. They were married a year later.

At that time the White home was a plain, two‑story frame dwelling set back on a wide lawn and surrounded by a white picket fence. It was originally built by Alexander McDaniel and afterwards sold to the Rev. Philo Judson. General White moved into it when he first came to Evanston in 1859.

"About 1884," wrote Dr. Hatfield, "General White's residence was moved eight blocks to a site at 1227 Elmwood Avenue, immediately south of the old Township High School, in a different quarter of the city, and was acquired by A. D. Sanders, who remodeled it to conform to more modern requirements. He added a third story, built a projecting gabled front-wing, a verandah and a bay window." But the bedroom which Lincoln occupied is still intact, said Dr. Hatfield. It is on the second floor, in the northwest corner of the house.

After Lincoln was elected President and the Civil War began, the young Evanstonian who sang for him in the White home, J. D. Ludlam, joined the Army and became an officer in the 8th Illinois Cavalry. His unit was sent to a camp near Washington, D. C. Washington, D. C. One day, while visiting the camp President Lincoln recognized the tall, young Evanstonian. The Chief Executive remembered Ludlam's singing, and Miss Stewart's accompaniment on the piano, in the Evanston home of Julius White. The result of the encounter was that President Lincoln invited Ludlam to the White House to sing for him and Mrs. Lincoln.

It is recorded that Ludlam, who afterwards became a major in the Union Army, sang the same "homely songs" on the occasion of the White House visit that he sang for Lincoln in the house on "The Ridge" in Evanston. What these songs were, however, is still unrecorded. "This echo of the Lincoln visit to Evanston," wrote J. Seymour Currey, "and the romance that had its beginning at that time, throws a golden haze of sentiment over the event we have been describing and heightens the interest that the episode otherwise possesses for all who take a pride in our Evanston annals."

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Page updated: 11 Dec 07