If you've ever strolled by the corner of W. 6th and Superior, you may have noticed a small plaque on the side of the Rockefeller Building that says something to the effect of, "Abraham Lincoln spent the night here on February 15, 1861." That was 150 years ago today. Back then, the Rockefeller Building was the Weddell House, a posh hotel, and that is where the President-elect stayed during a swing through the Forest City as he traveled from Springfield, IL, to Washington D.C. on an 11-city whistle-stop tour after winning the election.
The plaque remains an interesting little piece of history, especially when you consider that the strip of Superior between W. 6th and W. 9th is now home to a tanning salon, the House of Cues, and other very non-historical operations.
The New York Times not only has an account of Lincoln's travels to Cleveland, but also a rendering done by an artist who was there, capturing the 10,000 people who showed up to receive Lincoln and listen to him speak the next day.
Lincoln delivered a speech in the evening, from the balcony of his hotel, before a crowd estimated at 10,000. It repeated a theme he had been sounding for several days, that the crisis gripping the nation was “artificial,” and would disappear if people relaxed. It was an unrealistic hope, and mollified neither his supporters on the Republican side, looking for iron, nor those on the side of secession, for whom their separation was rapidly becoming a reality (Jefferson Davis was en route to his inaugural, only three days away).
There were levees in Lincoln’s honor, as usual: he met with all of the committees and dignitaries, including a group of veterans of the War of 1812, some of which was fought on Lake Erie. But this evening, for all of its excitement, represented an uptick from the chaos at Pittsburgh. The police kept order, the crowds behaved and Lincoln was able to move from place to place with reasonable safety. As a contented John Nicolay later wrote, “The whole party has very pleasant recollections of Cleveland.”
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