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Today, February 18, in Rochester History: Abraham Lincoln’s 10 Minute Pop-in

February 18th, 2011

On February 18, 1861, Abraham Lincoln addressed over 8,000 Rochesterians from his train's observation platform. He was traveling thru to Washington D.C. for his inauguration. [Cartoon from 'Mr. Lincoln and New York' © 2002-2011 The Lincoln Institute.]Here’s a fun fact you can impress your friends with on this glorious Friday in Rochester… Today is the 150th anniversary of perhaps the most famous tour stops in Rochester’s history. On February 18, 1861 good ole’ Abe Lincoln popped in to say ‘Hey dudes!’.

A view of the first New York Central Railroad station located between Mill Street and Front Street—near the site of Lincoln's speech. This station replaced a wooden structure, known as the Auburn Railroad shed, in 1852. It remained open until 1883 when a more modern station was constructed.Okay so it didn’t exactly go like that. Lincoln was traveling by train from his home in Illinois to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration. Lincoln's schedule originally called for him to address the public from the first floor corner balcony of this hotel. The Waverly Hotel, later the Savoy, stood on State Street next to the railroad tracks where the Inner Loop is now.The train arrived in Rochester at eight o’clock in the morning on February 18. Lincoln’s schedule called for him to address the public that morning from the first floor corner balcony of the Waverly Hotel (later known as the Savoy Hotel). But due to a last minute scheduling change he delivered the speech from the observation platform of his official train while on its journey to Washington.

It was reported by Journalist Henry Villard that a crowd of people in excess of 8,000 filled the space around the tracks and the Rochester Depot. The speech was brief but was heard by one of the largest crowds on the president’s entire trip to the Capitol.

Here’s what President-elect Lincoln actually said:

I confess myself, after having seen large audiences since leaving home, overwhelmed with this vast number of faces at this hour of the morning. I am not vain enough to believe that you are here from any wish to see me as an individual, but because I am, for the time being, the representative of the American people. I could not, if I would address you at any length. I have not the strength, even if I had the time, for a speech at these many interviews that are afforded me on my way to Washington. I appear merely to see you, and to let you see me, and to bid you farewell. I hope it will be understood that it is from no disposition to disoblige anybody, that I do not address you at greater length. [Roy P. Basler, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume IV, p. 222.]

Today, the railroad tracks are elevated, and the only trace of Lincoln’s visit is the “Lincoln Tablet”, a plaque bolted to the side of the railroad bridge at the Inner Loop and Mill Street in the High Falls District.

Today the only trace of Lincoln's visit is this plaque (known as the Lincoln Tablet) on the railroad bridge at the Inner Loop and Mill Street in the High Falls District. [FLICKR PHOTO: rengel134]


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This entry was posted on Friday, February 18th, 2011 at 12:00 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Train/Railroad Stuff. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Today, February 18, in Rochester History: Abraham Lincoln’s 10 Minute Pop-in”

  1. Ben says:

    This is a great Rochester history nugget. I’ll definitely have to check this out the next time I’m at High Falls.

  2. @Ben,
    Please do. The plaque is right at eye level and I bet thousands of drivers pass it by every day without giving it a second look. Great little piece of history.

    I’ve got another big story for “Today in Rochester History” next week! Stay tuned.

  3. Historical Marker Hunter says:

    This and any other Historical Marker (plus War Memorials) would be well placed as well on “Historical Markers Data Base” (www.hmdb.org – HMdb).

    Anyone can photograph and up-load to HMdb.

  4. chase tyler says:

    Its a shame nobody has had that publicized.
    Has Rochester subway made a book? They should. That would make the city more touristy.


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