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MY VISIT TO SPRINGFIELD, IL

Much to see with Capitol and Abraham Lincoln legacy showcased

sunny 85 °F

(Wed, Thursday) The Illinois State Fairgrounds Campground was my destination and upon arriving I found about 30 of the 300 sites occupied. During State Fair week all are taken. Well, its the story of my life, 'A day late and a dollar short' and the fair is over. I missed the Fair but I took in the sites of Springfield. I must admit, the State of Illinois and the City of Springfield have capitalized on the appeal of Abraham Lincoln's legacy. There are many opportunities to visit; the Lincoln Presidental Library, Lincoln Presidential Museum, Lincoln Depot, Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, Lincoln Home, Union Station-Lincoln, Lincoln Ledger, the Lincoln Family Pew, Lincoln's Tomb, along with other sites, such as, The State Capitol, The State Museum, the Old State Capitol, etc. There are a half dozen more of lesser importance which I won't mention. You get my drift. In addition, a visit to the Dana-Thomas House, a Frank Lloyd Wright design was worth-while.
First, the IL State Capitol building. It is the 6th location (I think that must be a record!) to serve as the Capitol since Statehood in 1818. The present building construction was begun in 1868 following the Civil War and completed 20 yrs. later for a cost of $4.5M. Its tall central dome is covered in zinc giving a silvery appearance resistance to weather. The building is the tallest non-skyscraper capitol, exceeding the Capitol Dome in Washington, DC. in height, much to the pride of our docent. Speaking of our docent, an employee of the State of IL, and a low-level one at that, she gave us a rote-memorized tour of the capitol. When asked (by me) about the marble Grand Staircase and its function. I.e, grand entrances for Innogurations, Special events, etc., her reply was, "I don't know, its just used to get to the second floor." It is beautiful with 20 types of marble used in the interior. The legislative chambers; Senate, Legislature, and Supreme Court are all adorned with mahogany wood and burled walnut accents. Simply beautiful. The ornate ceilings are done in decorative plaster reliefs painted to create a bronze appearance with gold leaf accents. Symbolic paintings hang throughout. Themes of Early Settlers, Civil War, Agriculture, and Industry are used.
Illinois was first discovered by French explorers Marquette and Joliet in 1673, hence some of the French names of communities today. The IL territory has different 'zones' or areas of contrast. That is to say, the western side is mainly prarie land, whereas the eastern lands have hardwood forests. Coal & petrolium are mined within the state, and the southerly region is low swampland from which peat is harvested.
Springfield was a prairie capitol at the time of Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln came to Springfield as a young lawyer, 28 yrs of age. The prairie town had a pop. of 2,000 people in 1837. It had grown to 10,000 by 1861, the year he left for Washington, DC to assume the Presidency of the United States. Even today it has that 'prairie-feel' with wide streets and is relatively easy to get around. Today's city is surrounded by vast croplands.
In those years between 1837 and 1861 he practiced law, was elected to the State Legislature, and was appointed Circuit Rider Judge. As a circuit rider he was required to ride (a horse) to outlying districts to hear and act on cases presented before him. It required him to away from his wife and family for 3 months at a time, a hardship to his family. After being elected President he faced a divided nation. War broke out at Fort Sumpter, SC in April 1861, 4 months after assuming office. He, then faced the challenge of guiding our country toward final resolution of the slavery issue and providing leadership to Union victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War. That is a whole other topic. History has shown that Abraham Lincoln was the right man at the right time in saving our Nation from internal collapse.
The Lincoln Presidential Museum showcases his life from log cabin (full-size replica) to a likeness of the White House exterior and his Cabinet Room is replicated inside. A feature film is shown depicting his life, as well. Vignettes depict different stages of his life and career.
The Lincoln Home National Historical Site is a 2 block neighborhood surrounding Lincoln's home which has been restored to the 1850's period. Among the homes restored are Lincoln's with tours given. The Lincoln home is representative of his success in his law practice. Very nice but not palatial. Over the past 25 yrs. houses in this area have been purchased by the government & restored to represent the time of his residence there. It is a step back in time and a very peaceful place to visit.
The Lincoln Depot is a small brick depot building next to the railroad tracks, the location where he bid farewell in his famous speech to about 1,000 citizens (remember the total pop. at that time was 10K) of Springfield as he left for Washington, DC to assume the Presidency. The building has been restored to the 1860's era and a film is shown with an actor giving portions of the speech. Nicely done.
The Old State Capitol building is now the centerpiece of the Old State Capitol Plaza, a blocked off area in the center of town with shops and restaurants, and just around the corner is the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office. The Capitol building is the 5th in the State of Illinois and has been restored to Lincoln's time. A tour through the building stressed Lincoln's presence in various rooms, i.e., Senate Chamber, Supreme Court, Law Library, etc. A very nice building for the time.
Union Station-Lincoln is a beautifully restored train station near the Lincoln park complex (Museum, Library, Station) and displayed in the building are vignettes of rooms from Stephen Speilberg's film LINCOLN. Speilberg recreated various rooms from Abraham & Mary Lincoln's Washington residence and Lincoln's Cabinet Room with supporting costumes.
A visit to Lincoln's Tomb is a must if coming to Springfield. Our 16th President, his wife Mary, and 3 of their 4 sons are interred within the mausoleum building (tomb) located in Oak Ridge Cemetery. It is a very fitting tribute to a great man in a beautiful setting. It is visited by 300,000 people annually.
Never having visited a home designed by famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, I decided to go to the Dana-Thomas house in Springfield. FLW was a brilliant, eccentric artist who happened to be an architect.
Susan Lawrence Thomas, a Springfield socialite contacted FLW in Chicago after seeing his work and contracted with him in 1902 to design and build a home for her in Springfield. His innovative designs, called 'Prairie Style' blended the houses he built into the prairie surroundings. She, obviously a woman of means, built this 15,000 sq.ft. home on the site of her former Victorian residence which she had razed. A very bold move for the time! Interestingly, her property and carriage house are about 25' from the railroad tracks. A strange location, I thought. The story goes that when she would travel the train would make a special stop at her home for her to board. Talk about influence! Anyway, in touring the residence I gained a full appreciation for Wright's talent. He believed in an 'Openness' in his designs. One room flows into another and there are 9 levels in the building. Not 9 floors, 9 levels- all flowing together. A total design concept, he planned the furniture, the light fixtures, the stain glass-all to coordinate with one another. The outcome is brilliant. Now, 120 years later it is timeless. Other homes of his design that I may come across in my travels I am sure to visit.
My 2 days in Springfield were well-spent. Now, on to the State of Missouri.

Posted by dixter 06:49 Archived in USA Tagged & lincoln frank lloyd wright

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