“Ghosts of the Library,” courtesy Springfield CVB
More To Explore
After the Lincoln home site, groups can choose from several other Lincoln-related attractions and activities around Springfield. Many visit the Old State Capitol, a beautiful 1839 building that served as the seat of Illinois government until 1876. Lincoln worked there frequently, both as an attorney and as a legislator, and lay in state there after his assassination.
“You can see the office where he accepted visitors when he had been nominated for the presidency,” Rosendahl said. “Ulysses S. Grant used an office there to muster troops for the Civil War. And it’s the place where Lincoln made his ‘House Divided’ speech, one of his most famous speeches.”
A short drive outside of Springfield, New Salem State Historic Site re-creates the small frontier village where Lincoln spent his early adulthood. The living-history village features a variety of historic buildings and interpretive programs.
The Lincoln pilgrimage in the Springfield area ends at Oakridge Cemetery, where groups can visit the tomb where the Lincolns are buried.
“It’s absolutely stunning,” Rosendahl said. “You can go inside the tomb. In the summertime on Tuesday evenings, we have a Civil War regiment that does a flag-lowering ceremony at sunset in front of the tomb and then presents the flag to a visitor.”
Summer brings a number of other possibilities around Springfield as well. “History Comes Alive” is a program that features performances and costumed interpreters to the streets of they city’s historic area. Groups can also book a 90-minute Lincoln Ghost Walk, which takes place during the evening.
Beyond Springfield, numerous other destinations throughout Illinois have ties to Lincoln as well. In Alton, the Lincoln and Civil War Heritage Trail stops at 10 sites around the downtown area that have historical significance.
“We have a lot of Lincoln sites — Lincoln and [Stephen] Douglas had their seventh and final debate here in Alton,” said Brett Stawar, president of the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We also have a lot of Civil War sites, so we blended our story into the Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail that we created in 2008.”
One prominent site on the trail is the Lyman Trumbull House, a national landmark that belonged to friends of the Lincolns. Lyman Trumbull was co-author of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which Lincoln championed to abolish slavery. Trumbull’s wife was one of Mary Todd’s bridesmaids when she and Abe married.
The tour stops at the Elijah Lovejoy monument, where visitors learn about the abolitionist newspaper editor whose murder helped to instigate the Civil War. Another interesting site is Smallpox Island, where a young Lincoln was supposed to duel an Alton politician who besmirched his name in the local press. The politician withdrew from the duel shortly before it was set to begin.
Groups that visit Alton for the tour can listen to audio commentary created by local historians or arrange for costumed interpreters to meet them along the way.
“We partner with the Alton Little Theater to do living-history tours,” Stawar said. “We have a team of great actors who are well versed in the storylines. You meet a costumed character at each of the sites and hear the story that each person has to tell.”
After hearing those stories and the many others that Illinois shares about its famous son, your travelers will return home with a rich and rewarding understanding of one of America’s most heroic and fascinating figures.