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Historic sites in Illinois and Indiana

Courtesy Evansville CVB

From a one-room schoolhouse that educated Midwest farm children to the capitol where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech, Indiana and Illinois have numerous historic sites for groups to visit on a tour. Few things help us enjoy the present like learning about the past. In Indiana and Illinois, there are plenty of ways for groups to do that, exploring national historic sites, historic homes and public buildings and even a vintage naval ship. Along the way, travelers can enjoy some immersive living-history experiences and learn about cultures ranging from ancient Native Americans to the African-American neighborhoods of the 20th century. On your next tour through those states, consider visiting a few of the following interesting historic sites. Springfield, Illinois You can’t spend much time in Springfield, Illinois, without feeling the influence of the city’s most famous historic resident: Lincoln. Lincoln lived and worked in Springfield for years before being elected president, and various sites around town interpret his time there. “You can visit the authentic historic sites where Lincoln lived and worked,” said Kim Rosendahl, director of tourism for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The Lincoln home is a national historic site operated by the Park Service. It’s the only home that the Lincolns ever owned, and it sits in a four-block Park Service neighborhood.” Groups can take a tour of the Lincoln home, which has been restored to how it looked when the Lincoln family lived there. In the area surrounding the home, numerous other historic buildings contain exhibits that give more information on Lincoln’s life, as well as a look at Springfield in the early 1800s. Nearby, the Old State Capitol commemorates the place where Lincoln began his career in public service. “He worked as a legislator and a lawyer there, and that’s where he made his famous ‘House Divided’ speech,” Rosendahl said. “The Capitol has been completely restored to Lincoln’s era, and all of the rooms have Lincoln history in them.” Though it’s not a historic building, the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield is a high-tech complex that introduces visitors to many fascinating aspects of the president’s personal and political life. Just outside of town, an attraction called New Salem preserves the small settlement where Lincoln first lived upon arriving in Illinois. Groups can also visit the Lincoln family grave at Oak Ridge Cemetery, where a towering monument marks the president’s final resting place. Evansville, Indiana Visitors will find a wealth of historical attractions in Evansville, Indiana, including a few they might not expect. “The premier attraction for war historians that we have is a ship called the LST 325,” said Laura Libs, director of marketing and communications for the Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It stands for Landing Ship Tank, and it was central to the sea-to-land invasion tactics that were employed in the European arena during World War II.” The LST 325 on display in Evansville is a 328-foot-long, 50-foot-wide vessel. Groups can take tours of the ship, guided by former service members who worked on that or other LST vehicles. For a look back at ancient history, groups can tour the Angel Mounds State Historic Site, a Native American settlement from about 950 to 1450. Visitors can tour the mounds and learn about the archaeological digs under way there. The Evansville African American Museum is located in an African-American neighborhood constructed in the 1930s and depicts the way of life common to the black experience before the civil rights movement. Another popular historic attraction for Evansville visitors is the Reitz Home Museum, an elegant home built in the middle of the 19th century. “This home was the showpiece for the Victorian era in Evansville,” Libs said. “It was restored 15 to 20 years ago, and it’s in pristine shape. The docents are extremely knowledgeable, not just about the house itself, but also the techniques and materials used to restore it.”