C.M. Gleason's New Mystery Series Brings Readers To The Lincoln White House
Mon, 10/23/2017 - 3:12pm — Alyssa Duspiva
C.M. Gleason is no stranger to historical mysteries, and Murder in the Lincoln White House, the start to her whole new series, shows her expertise. Our reviewer says, "History, mystery and a little romance combined with a diverse cast of characters makes it difficult to put down!" The series follows Adam Quinn, a frontier scout assigned by the President to investigate a murder that occurred during the inaugural ball. Washington, DC, was a lot different than it is now, and C.M. Gleason was glad to share what she learned about the city through her research!
I learned so many interesting things while researching Murder in the Lincoln White House that I could write blog posts for a month!
However, one of the things I found fascinating was the state of the city of Washington, DC, at the time. It was hardly more than a pig sty — literally.
Pigs, goats and cows literally wandered the streets of the capital city. They actually wallowed in a muddy area behind the City Hall — right near where Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball took place. But the farm animals weren’t confined to that area. They went wherever they wanted to.
The only street that was nicely paved and was a comfortably wide thoroughfare was Pennsylvania Avenue, which ran on an angle from Lafayette Square in front of the Executive Mansion (ie, the White House) to the Capitol Building. It was called “the Avenue” by anyone who lived in the city, and it was the center of all political, as well as social, interactions. All of the best shops and cafes were either located on the Avenue or on off-shooting streets as close to Pennsylvania Avenue as possible.
The Willard Hotel was one of the most well-known lodging places, and it was strategically located on the Avenue about halfway between the presidential mansion and the Capitol. It was also a lively center of society before the Civil War and remained so during the conflict. It boasted a nice restaurant, a bar for gathering, lounges and salons for parties and dance hops. Inside was a full barbershop as well. Lincoln and his party stayed here from the time he arrived in Washington for his inauguration until the day he took his oath and moved to the Executive Mansion.
President Lincoln was the first person to commonly refer to his new home as the White House. Until he did so, the residence was known as the Executive Mansion or the President’s House. I found it interesting also that there was no security around the White House. Anyone could gain entrance simply by walking up to the front door (on the southern side, facing the Ellipse and Lafayette Square) and allowing Edward McMahon, the old Irish doorkeeper who’d been there for decades, to open the door for them.
In fact, President Lincoln was besieged by people waiting to see him from the time he arrived in Washington all through the war. They were mostly people wanting a job or position in the government — and then later, some of them had information about the war or wanted to serve in the Union army as well as wanting a job. These job-seekers would literally be lined up through the White House and up the stairs to the second floor where the President and his secretaries had offices — and his family had their bedrooms — from early in the morning until the secretaries chased them out at the end of the day. Although his advisors worried over the lack of security and the demands on Lincoln’s time and attention, he was insistent that the people be able to access “their” house.
As the war went on, more security was added in the form of armed soldiers on the upper floor and at the doors, but the house remained open for visitors in what we would consider today a frighteningly lax environment.
The National Mall as we know it today was present. The Washington Monument was, however, only half-built and stood looking like a snapped-off cigar in the middle of the mall. The Smithsonian Castle, as it was known, was the only building that wasn’t made from the white marble so familiar to us in the other governmental buildings, and its red sandstone brick, gothic design was markedly different than the Greco-Roman influence of the Capitol, Treasury and War Buildings.
One of the most fascinating things I learned was related to the Smithsonian Institute, which had been formed thirty years prior to the start of the war — but I’m going to save that little tidbit for you to discover when you read Murder in the Lincoln White House!
— C.M. Gleason
Get swept up in more history — and a mystery! — by pre-ordering your copy from one of these retailers: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Indiebound
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