Springfield, Illinois: Population = 117,006 (metropolitan area= 211,700), elevation = 558 feet, Average January low temp = 18.7º, Average July high temp = 86.2º, annual precipitation = 37.43”, annual snowfall = 20.9”
As state capitol buffs, Springfield, Illinois is practically a required stop. There are two capitols here, the newer, working one, and the old historic one. Due to the VERY limited periods of time when state lawmakers are actually in session, we have been able to see a great many state capitols that were almost deserted. We happened by the new Illinois capitol during a March For Women outside, and a big lobbying effort by Realtors on the inside. Though it is a beautiful building, we had to squeeze our way through crowds and sneak into the Senate gallery.
The old State Capitol is a much smaller building and even, in its own way, kind of homey. The rooms are more human sized, the desks plainer, the decor simpler. There are pot-bellied stoves that supplied the heat during the long winters. If you look closely at the House of Representatives photo, there is a stove pipe hat on the left end of front desk, next to the candle. That is where Abraham Lincoln sat when he was a State Rep.
And speaking of Lincoln, this is the capitol of the Land of Lincoln. Our first Lincoln stop was the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. The displays show Lincoln growing up, moving into Springfield to practice law, getting married, getting elected to the State House and then the White House. Many of the artifacts on display were his own personal possessions. The films about the Civil War do a great job of explaining the ebb and flow of the politics and battles.
Our next Lincoln stop was just across the street, in the old Union Station. Inside there is a display from the movie “Lincoln”. The have costumes and sets from the movie, as well as scenes from the movie playing on monitors.
Just a couple of blocks away is Mr. Lincoln’s Neighborhood. The house he and Mary and the kids lived in is still there, as well as many other beautifully maintained houses of the era. After his assassination, his household goods were packed up and shipped back here. Mary did not return. Caretakers have watched over the house since. The furnishings, carpets, and wallpaper are mostly what was there when the Lincolns lived in the house, with the exception of a few repaired and refurbished pieces.
Finally, we visited the Lincoln Monument. Abraham, Mary, and the 3 youngest of the four children lie entombed here. Nobel statues of Lincoln line the hallways of the Monument. A massive tombstone marks the President’s final resting place.
There are a lot of other great things to see in Springfield too. We listened to a concert at the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon, one of the largest and finest carillons in the world. We witnessed the spring flowers bursting forth at the Botanical Garden. We sampled fine beers in the breweries.
Springfield is a great city to visit. Besides all the Lincoln stuff, there is a lot going on for a town of this size. Big enough to have everything, small enough to not be crowded.
Next up: Ottawa, IL