This story originally appeared in The Daily News on April 11, 2000.
Not many people probably realize it, but it was 135 years ago Friday - April 14, 1865 - that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
And few may be aware that on the way home for burial in Illinois, Lincoln lay in state for a time in Independence Hall, and that his body was taken to a North Philadelphia funeral home before being ceremoniously transported to 5th and Chestnut streets.
But perhaps the least known fact is what became of that historic funeral home and the pair of doors leading to the parlor where Lincoln’s body was kept overnight.
Well, the funeral home is now a rooming house.
And the doors . . .
The doors are hanging in a building that was once a casket factory.
Except for the people who put them there, nary a soul knows the story behind the doors and their historical significance.
The “Lincoln Doors” are hanging at Finnigan’s Wake, the popular bar, restaurant and entertainment complex at 3rd and Spring Garden streets in Northern Liberties.
The doors, their window panes repaired and stripped of their original color of fire-engine red paint, are off to a corner on the third floor of the four-story building.
The floor, containing a variety of Lincoln and Civil War paintings and pictures, is aptly named the “Lincoln Level,” usually used by wedding guests and weekend crowds.
Co-owner Mike Driscoll, 39, a member of former Gov. Bob Casey’s Cabinet, had more than a little bit to do with its naming and decorating.
A Lincoln buff from way back, Driscoll also is responsible for giving the Lincoln Doors a new hinge in life. Driscoll’s interest in Lincoln began when, in the seventh grade, he was selected to recite the Gettysburg Address before the student body at St. Martin of Tours School in Oxford Circle.
“I think the Gettysburg Address was one of the greatest speeches of all time,” said Driscoll. “He said so much in so few words.
“I was inspired to learn more about him,” added Driscoll. “He was a great president. I was fascinated with the role he played in American history.”
Driscoll’s fascination with the 16th president never waned. He continued to read and learn about Lincoln through high school (Cardinal Dougherty), on into college (La Salle University), and beyond.
When he left his post as secretary of general services in January 1995, Driscoll, along with attorney Chuck Volz and politico Bill Stinson, decided to open the Irish-themed establishment.
While construction workers were rehabbing the 160-year-old building and bringing the old casket factory back to life, one of them mentioned how Lincoln’s body was kept overnight in a funeral home in Northern Liberties.
A few days after the place opened on St. Patrick’s Day 1997, destiny passed Finnigan’s walking a dog.
Co-owner Stinson was standing outside when Jim Miller walked by. The two struck up a conversation, and Miller mentioned he used to work for the old casket company.
Miller also said his family once operated the funeral home where Lincoln’s body was kept overnight.
In no time, Driscoll was standing in the hallway of a three-story rooming house at 10th and Green streets, talking doors to Miller’s mother, who owned the building.
“To her, they were just a pair of doors in a boarding house,” said Driscoll. After making an offer the woman didn’t refuse, “she took them off the hinges and gave them to us.”
Driscoll didn’t want to make public how much he paid for the doors but said it was less than what it would cost him to take his wife and two daughters to an Eagles game.
In researching newspaper archives at Temple University, Driscoll learned that Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, ordered the train carrying Lincoln’s body to stop in Philadelphia to allow the slain president to lie in state at Independence Hall.
The train was routed onto a spur not far from the funeral home.
The doors, stripped, sanded and stained, are hung in a specially designed and crafted corner of the Lincoln Level.
“People have no idea what they are,” said Driscoll.
Through the window panes can be seen a painting of Honest Abe on a large piece of canvas attached to the back of the doors.
Behind the original doors, back in the building’s casket days, said Driscoll, was a bathroom.
Could say the corner went from the outhouse to the White House.