Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
Petworth was once to this country’s leaders what the Hamptons is to Wall Streeters. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to escape the city’s heat and bustle by spending his summers at a house on the grounds of what is now known as the Armed Forces Retirement Home; allegedly, the temperature at his seasonal estate was 10 degrees cooler than it was downtown. First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln said the retreat helped in the wake of the death of their son Willie. “When we are in sorrow, quiet is very necessary to us,” she said. Historians say Lincoln’s commute from Petworth to the White House was just a 30-minute horse ride. Guess the bottlenecks heading through town weren’t as bad back then. The area was definitely safer, too: Lincoln died in a hail of gunfire far from the cottage that investigators traced to a larger sort of neighborhood beef than the ones that keep Petworth in the Metro section these days.