SPRINGFIELD , ILLINOIS
This has to be the sleepiest state capital city I have visited. We couldn’t believe how quite the city was except for the hotel we had booked in to where there were two weddings and the guests staying so just as well we booked in advance as the hotel was perfect, really central and you could walk to most sites of interest from there.
Springfield is just full of places to experience where Lincoln lived, worked or is buried as well as the Capitol building and the Lincoln presidential museum and Library which is a must see place while in the city.
The Lincoln Presidential Museum and library is essential. This is in two huge modern buildings across the road from each other. The museum has inter active displays, dramatic recreations ,films and live performances as well as fabulous displays. You are taken from Lincoln as a boy through to a very moving funeral lying in state. I have written a review on this separately.
The Lincoln Home which is set up to recreate the time when the Lincoln family actually owned and lived in the house is free to tour but you must go on the escorted tour and they get busy to get there early. The house is set in a four block neighbourhood which has been taken back to look at it would have done in the Lincoln’s time with gravel roads and wooden pavements. Also see my review on this site.
The Old State Capitol Building is open to visitors and this is where Lincoln gave his famous ‘House Divided’ speech and this is restored to the time when Lincoln would have been a member here. You can see where he would have sat and his hat is there on one of the desks. This is also free to enter and there are guides that will explain the different rooms and exhibits to you if you ask.
The law office where Lincoln was a partner is on the corner of Sixth and Adams streets. This is really just a look from the outside as it is still in use as a business. All around the city are signs giving snippets of information about the great man and as you walk around you learn a lot about him and his achievements. You can also visit the church he used to go to and if you get into your car you can also visit his tomb which is just a little way out of the city and well worth the drive as it is spectacular as tombs go.
Also needing a short drive is the rustic 1830s village of New Salem where Lincoln lived before his days in the legislature.
The Lincoln Memorial Garden is a great place to escape the city and enjoy some green. The gardens have been designed by Jens Jensen and they are on Lake Springfield just out of the city again.
The great Western Railroad depot is where Lincoln gave his farewell address to the city of Springfield when he left to go to Washington. It took him 12 days by train to get to Washington which was some journey.
OTHER INTERESTING HOUSES
The Dana-Thomas House is a very interesting and free visit (they do ask for a donation though) to this pretty fabulous house designed by frank Lloyd Wright. This is one of the best preserved houses created by FLW and is well worth a visit. Once again you can only go into the house with a guide and they are at specific times so plan your visit and get there in plenty of time. I have written a separate review on this house tour as well.
Elijah Iles House is believed to be Springfield’s oldest house and was built in the 1830s. It is supposed to have been designed by the same architect as designed the Old State Capitol Building. It is in the Greek revival style of architecture for those in the know. Lincoln is said to have visited the house when he lived in Springfield as a guest of the owner Robert Irwin and is supposed to have played cards there. The house is on the National Register of historic Places and was registered in 1978. The house was moved to this present location in 2004 which must have been a fairly tricky procedure.
Edwards Place is the oldest house in Springfield that is still in its original location. This mansion was built in 1833. In its heyday it was the centre of the social and political life in the city but today it houses several art collections.
Apart from the Lincoln Presidential Museum there are others that you can visit if you have the time or specific interest. These include, The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum, The Illinois Fire Museum, The Illinois State Military Museum, Abraham Lincoln’s National Museum of Surveying, The Pearson Museum and the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War Museum. So you could spend a few days just visiting museums in the city.
Yes this famous road once passed straight through the city and one of the sites celebrating this is Shea’s Gas Station Museum. This is a rather eccentric collection of the owner Bill Shea. He owned and operated this as a gas station until 1982 and the collection was born from the fact that he threw nothing away in his sixty years there. To us it looked a bit like a junk yard but he has thousands of oil cans, old fuel pumps, a 1952 trailer (caravan thing), a restored 1984 school bus and so much more, signs and other paraphernalia from the Route 66 heyday. He likes nothing better than to chat about the good old days and his collection.
You can also visit the Cosy Dog restaurant along Route 66 but we called by and were not tempted.
We walked all around the city and passed the new Capitol building back to our hotel which had a view of this building. It is an easy city to get around on foot and there is very little traffic to speak of.
This is not a city that you would head to for shopping as many of them seemed to be closed when we were there.
On Saturday night we headed into the city to get a meal and we struggled to find a restaurant that was open. We eventually found a sports bar and had a traditional Springfield dish called a ‘Horse shoe’ which was extremely filling and not really a dish I would rush to enjoy a second time but was interesting to try. It consisted of a pile of chips (fries) and chicken or mixed meat on a bread roll covered in a cheesy sauce. When I had finished eating I could still have fed another two people with mine!
If you are interested in history and Lincoln particularly then Springfield must be on your list of places to visit in the USA. Two days will allow you to see most of the Lincoln sights which is what we concentrated on .