Illinois is the Land of Lincoln and Springfield is his hometown. I spent an afternoon exploring the various sites that honor our 16th president. On the edge of a town plaza and set across from the Lincoln Library and the Library Museum, I began my afternoon at the Visitor Center, which is located in a 1880s ornate old train station. The woman assisting me explained the hours of the various sites and which needed time tickets. With my limited time, I decided to make a quick visit to the Boys in Blue exhibit at the Lincoln library. Using photographs, letters, and other items of the time, this exhibit is about Illinois soldiers who served in the Civil War. I skipped the Lincoln Museum for fear of not being out of time to tour Lincoln’s home or see his grave, which were my top priorities.
The National Park Service operates the Lincoln House, the tickets are free but timed. While I waited the 40 minutes until my tour, I wandered the Lincoln’s street, which has been preserved in all it’s 19th Century splendor. I learned more about Abraham Lincoln, the dad, then anything else on my tour of his home. He worshipped his children and indulged them. On his hands and knees he loved to play with them, and to buy them the latest gadget or instruments. I saw a wooden photo-scope box that would have been the envy of every child on the block on a table in the room the family used for relaxation and play. Mrs. Lincoln, coming from a wealthy Lexington, Kentucky family went from the upper class to the middle class, from no household responsibilities to all of them. She adjusted and as their income grew she hired helped but always did her own cooking as she enjoyed it and was good at it. Mary Lincoln recognized her husband’s intelligence, abilities and she fostered their shared political ambition. Lincoln’s bedroom, which was connecting with Mrs. Lincoln’s; had a small desk, a chair, and a bed large enough for his 6’4″ frame. Though not grand, it was his own which given the log cabin I had seen two days before, showed me that not only had he achieved middle class success, Lincoln was pleased to have his own space, his own room.
I made my way to the north end of town, about a five minute drive from downtown, past the Lincoln-Herndon law offices and the Old State Capitol, to the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery. Upon a small hill is a obelisk with his statue and his tomb is within. There is bust of Lincoln in front of the entrance that people rub (whether for good luck or to ward off bad luck-I don’t know). The guide requested silence and walked my group past several Lincoln statutes to the internment; a place of reverence. Before I left the cemetery I learned that more books have been written about Lincoln then any other person. I thought about that and the Lincoln books we own: Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Abe Lincoln’s Hat a Step-into-Reading book, Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman and the new James McPherson book I had downloaded on Audible.com. Both a Caldecott Award and a Newbury Award have been won for books about Lincoln. I highly recommend that next time you are driving from Chicago to St. Louis or are near Springfield, stop. Visit some of the Lincoln sites, you won’t be disappointed.