A visit to Springfield, Illinois puts travelers in the heart of the Land of Lincoln. During your visit, you will find that all throughout the city there are reminders of our 16th President of the United States. One of the premier stops is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. There is no entrance fee for this attraction, but you will need to stop by the visitors center to get a free ticket to tour the home. Each tour is guided by one of the knowledgeable park guides, so we knew it was going to be very informative. We couldn’t wait to explore the Lincoln home, and our tour was beginning in just a few minutes.
We want to thank Visit Springfield and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Crossroads of History
Springfield, Illinois is not only the city that the Lincoln family called home, it is also one of the original cities on Route 66. This iconic “first” highway across America is popular with nostalgia buffs and road trippers from around the globe. Whether you are visiting from a nearby city or halfway around the world, the Lincoln Home is a “must see” during your time in Springfield. We had just enjoyed breakfast at the nearby Wm. Van’s Coffee House, and found an interesting connection with Abraham Lincoln. (You can learn more about the connection here.) With our minds clearly focused on learning more about the Lincoln family, we headed across the street to the visitors center. Inside we found information about the neighborhood that the Lincoln home resides within. There are also displays that tell more about the home itself.
One of the things that make up a pleasant visit is the staff. From the moment we entered the visitors center, we felt welcomed. The first person we ran into ended up being our tour guide, Gabrielle, who helped us explore the Lincoln home. As we waited for our tour to start, we struck up a conversation with Jeff, one of the character actors that parade the neighborhood. Each person we spoke with ended up being excellent cheerleaders for their city. Talking with some of the locals helps us uncover potential additions to our itinerary that we may have overlooked during our research phase. Oh look, the tour is beginning, so we better catch up.
Stepping Into History
The Lincoln family home was constructed in 1839 and purchased by the Lincoln’s in 1844. Located on the corner of 8th and Jackson Streets, this would be the only home that Abraham Lincoln would ever own. The location is just a couple of blocks off of the original Route 66 path. Of course, the highway wouldn’t come along until almost 100 years later. Originally the home was smaller, but after additions, it ended up containing 12 rooms. Here is where Abe and Mary Lincoln spent 17 years of their lives, prior to the presidency. Stepping through the entrance, we were greeted by the familiar stovepipe hat hanging nearby. The formal parlor looks much as it would have during their lives, and we can imagine their boys being shooed away from this room, which was reserved for guests.
Long Nights at Work
During his time in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln moved up the political ladder. From his humble beginnings, he built his practice and entered the arena of politics by serving in the Illinois House of Representatives. During his four terms, he continued to formulate his stance on issues like slavery. He was actually known for a “free soil’ stance, which opposes both slavery and abolitionism. While abolitionists were against slavery, their actions and approach were often just as detrimental as those of the slave owners. As we took time to explore the Lincoln home, we had a chance to view the study where he would spend long evenings poring over books and documents.
Explore the Lincoln Home
In the 1800’s it was not uncommon for couples to have separate bedrooms. I can actually remember my grandparents having this setup in their country home. As our guide led us through the house, we came upon Abe’s and Mary’s bedrooms. It is hard to describe the feeling of being able to explore the Lincoln home. I have long been intrigued by our 16th President, so this opportunity was not wasted on me. To walk through rooms that he had occupied was an unbelievable experience.
As Gabrielle completed her tour, she led us to the backyard of the Lincoln home. Here, she shared her parting words and final thoughts on this historic building. We thanked her for her informative tour and found out that each guide is allowed to create their won dialogue. We like that idea, since subsequent visits would all have a little different spin on the place. For now, it was time to explore the surrounding neighborhood.
The Lincoln’s Neighbors
Traveling up and down 8th Street, we had an opportunity to view some of the Lincoln’s neighbors. Many of the homes were constructed in the 1840s through the early 1860s. They have a few homes open for further exploring, as well as a few objects assembled along the roadway. The street is still lined with wooden curbs, much like they would have been in the 1800s. A pea gravel bed would have reduced the muddiness of the roadway during Midwest rains.
The entire neighborhood is part of a four block historic site. We learned that summertime is a great opportunity to interact with many character actors who wander the area. Their “living history” demonstrations are designed to engage visitors and offer additional glimpses into life during the Lincoln era in Springfield, Illinois. This works out perfect for family vacations, since these demonstrations run from early July through mid-August.
A Springfield Treasure
As we continued our deep dive into historic Springfield, Illinois, we found that every corner held new discoveries. This Midwest city has so much to offer visitors, and has attractions for all ages. We love exploring capitol cities, and were thrilled to find out that this one has not one, but two rotundas. Be sure to check out our upcoming article on our tours of these two historic buildings, as we showcase the old versus the new. How many of you are Lincoln fans?
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