SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — To visit Springfield is to walk in the footsteps of our nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. From his years as a young lawyer through his election as president, Lincoln’s life was shaped by the places and events in the Illinois capital. Relive the joys and sorrows, the victories and defeats of a man who changed our nation and the course of history by retracing his steps in the Springfield community.
Begin your journey at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the largest presidential museum in our country. Experiential and innovative with state-of-the-art technologies, the exhibits engage the imagination through special effects and vivid imagery. Through a series of galleries, Lincoln’s life is depicted from his humble log cabin beginnings to his later years in New Salem and Springfield through his time in the White House. Changing displays of original documents and artifacts include his signature stovepipe hat, the original Gettysburg address and the pen used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. See the ghostly holographic images in the library and feel the agony of Civil War battles. The museum is spellbinding and inspiring in its message.
Near the presidential museum is the Old State Capitol, the seat of government in Illinois from 1840-1876. In this building, Lincoln served in the legislature, argued cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and delivered his famous “House Divided” speech. Following his assassination, Lincoln’s casket was brought to the chambers for mourners to pay respects.
Across the street from the Capitol are the Lincoln-Herndon law offices, located in a three-story building that also housed a post office and federal courtroom. It was here Lincoln prepared and wrote his first presidential inaugural address.
Lincoln’s home, a two-story Greek revival he shared with his family for 17 years, is located in a historical neighborhood near downtown. The home displays period furnishings and original artifacts, and is the only one that Lincoln ever owned.
Just two blocks from Lincoln’s home is the “Lincoln Depot,” once known as the Great Western Railroad Depot, which was the scene of a farewell address by Lincoln as he boarded a train to Washington, D.C. following his election in 1861. This was the last day he would spend in Springfield.
Other sites of historical significance are the recently renovated Illinois State Capitol, first completed in 1877, and the Illinois State Museum that captures the cultural heritage and natural resources of the state. Considered important as an architectural masterpiece is Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style Dana-Thomas home.
Lincoln’s Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery is a moving experience. I visited the tomb on Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. The sky was blue with a chill in the air. As people gathered, I walked through the corridors to the burial room. Alone, I reflected on the contributions to mankind one person can make and the struggles Lincoln faced personally and professionally. Few in history have left such an indelible mark.
Noteworthy current exhibits in Springfield are “Lincoln: History to Hollywood” showcasing items from the DreamWorks film “Lincoln” at Union Station and “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage” that contains more than 70 color photographs at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
For a memorable stay, the historic Inn at 835 offers charm and elegance close to downtown. Excellent dining options include Maldaner’s, Springfield’s oldest restaurant, and Obed and Isaacs, located in a 19th-century home. A Springfield original is the famous horseshoe sandwich that can be enjoyed in most restaurants.
A day’s drive from Oklahoma City, Springfield is a town rich in history and a treasure for those who revere the memory and deeds of Abraham Lincoln.