For More Details
For more information, contact the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-545-7300 or visit online at www.visit-springfieldillinois.com.
The Lincoln Memorial Garden (217) 529-1111 hosts Maple Syrup Time on Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 17 through March 11. Visitors experience the maple syrup process–from tapping trees to cooking sap into syrup.

Before You Go
To plan your trip, stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, TripTiks and TourBook guides. Or, go to our online Auto Travel section.

A presidential address
The Lincoln legacy is alive in Springfield, Ill.

By Jinny Ravenscroft Danzer
Published: Jan/Feb 2002

The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices offers tours for Springfield visitors. It is the only surviving structure in which Lincoln maintained working law offices./ Jinny R. Danzer photo
It’s not hard to find evidence of Lincoln in Springfield. He spent 24 years there, hanging out his shingle as a junior law partner. Lincoln practiced law, married and raised his children, served in both the Illinois and the U.S. House of Representatives, and won the presidency in Springfield.

Visitors can tour his home, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, the Old State Capitol where Lincoln gave his famous “house divided” speech, the Lincoln Depot and Lincoln’s tomb. Visitors can also see the original ledger of the Lincoln bank account and the family pew. I found helpful tour guides at all the sites I visited. Take a break from the many historic sites and consider taking a stroll along the trails of the pleasant Lincoln Memorial Garden on Lake Springfield south of the city. In winter, snow-covered maple trees burst with sap.

What a pleasant home Abe Lincoln has

The Lincoln Home National Historic Site includes a visitor center with video presentations, a gift shop and the home on Eighth Street where Lincoln and his family lived for 17 years. It also contains two 19th-century houses with exhibits on the Lincoln home and family life and on historic preservation. A four-block neighborhood with boardwalks, gaslights and tree-lined streets is being restored to look as it did in Lincoln’s day.

Lincoln’s home contains about 50 furnishings original to the family. See the parlor, kitchen, bedrooms and the sitting room where Abraham lay on the floor to play with his four sons, three of whom died before reaching adulthood. The site is free, but parking is $2 an hour. A central and cheaper lot with a more user-friendly system is located under the Old State Capitol of Sixth Street. All the Lincoln sites are within walking distance.

The Old State Capitol

This Greek revival building is constructed of striking rust-colored dolomite. It housed all three branches of state government between 1839-76, when the new state Capitol opened several blocks southwest. From 1966-69, workers dismantled the four massive columns and removed the exterior stones, numbered them, then reassembled them after careful renovation of the interior of the building. Here, Lincoln gave many speeches and tried more than 300 cases before the Illinois Supreme Court. His body lay in state in the Hall of Representatives after his assassination.

Visitors can tour on their own, but a guide will tell interesting anecdotes about the Capitol, such as the fact that workers fenced in the grounds during the 1840s to keep livestock out. The tour winds through meticulously restored rooms with period furniture, a replica of an oil-burning chandelier and handsome 19th-century wall clocks that display Roman numeral IIII, instead of IV. It includes the beautiful central stairway and the law library where lawyers read, played cards, discussed cases and laughed over humorous tales told by Lincoln. Costumed interpreters give special guided tours from 10 a.m.–noon and 1-4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, except April through June.

A stately tomb

The spire on Lincoln’s tomb soars 117 feet at the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site in Oak Ridge Cemetery. A bronze statue of Lincoln and four Civil War battle groups stand at the base of the spire. In front of the entrance, the nose on a large, bronze head of Lincoln shines from the touch of countless visitors. Abraham, Mary Todd, Tad, Eddie and Willie Lincoln are buried inside (Robert is buried at Arlington National Cemetery). Copies of Lincoln statues from around the country have been placed against the tomb’s walls.

Also in the cemetery, the new Museum of Funeral Customs at the Monument Avenue entrance contains items like the architect’s 10-foot-high model of the tomb and models of the Lincoln funeral train car.

Other sites

Lincoln came to Springfield as a budding lawyer. The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices are restored and furnished to look as they did when Lincoln worked there, about nine of his 23 years of practice. The guide pointed out the trap door Lincoln propped open to learn the law. He lay on the floor so he could listen to cases in the federal courtroom below, at a time when one became a lawyer mostly by learning on the job.

Although Lincoln never formally joined, the family attended church regularly at the First Presbyterian Church from the time of the death of their second son, three-year-old Eddie. You can see the Lincoln family pew from the original church in the front of the present church, as well as six Tiffany windows in the nave.

Down the street is the Lincoln Depot, open during the summer, where Lincoln departed for Washington. It contains three waiting rooms: one for ladies, one for luggage and one for tobacco-spitting men.

Look over the Lincoln family account ledger of mortgage payments and grocery bills at Bank One in downtown Springfield.

The streets around the old Capitol abound in coffee shops and restaurants in architecturally interesting 19th- and early 20th-century buildings. Springfield also has many motels and bed-and-breakfast inns. Wanting a break from city streets, I found pleasant lodging at Country Dreams B&B in nearby Rochester, 15 minutes from downtown. It has attractive rooms, a spacious deck and beautiful sunset views over a small lake and distant cornfields.

If possible, spend another half day at the restored log cabin village of New Salem, 20 miles west of Springfield on state Route 97. Lincoln lived and worked here before moving to the city. It includes private homes, shops, several general stores operated by Lincoln and a tavern where male travelers often shared a bed with other travelers. Interpreters in period clothing tell about daily life in the village and demonstrate crafts like blacksmithing and barrel making.

A look to the future

An exciting new complex, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, will open between 2002 and 2004 near the Old State Capitol in Springfield. The complex will be a center for research and study of the life and times of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. It will include some 1,500 manuscripts written or signed by Lincoln, a large collection on slavery and Lincoln memorabilia like Tad Lincoln’s toy cannon. It will also house a full-scale reconstruction of the interior of Lincoln’s boyhood home in Indiana and a reconstruction of a telegraph office at the War Department, a room where Lincoln went for daily reports from the front lines during the Civil War.

This February, as the country honors Lincoln on his birthday, consider a trip to Springfield, Ill., a city that was influenced–and continues to be shaped–by Honest Abe.

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