Abraham Lincoln believed in the ideal that everyone in America should have the opportunity to improve his/her economic and social condition. Lincoln’s life was the embodiment of that idea. We know him as the sixteenth president but he was also a spouse, parent, and neighbor who experienced the same hopes, dreams, and challenges of life that are still experienced by many people.
Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site:
New Salem is a great first place to start and took us a full day to explore everything they have to offer. Well we didn’t fully finish everything but were able to explore the whole village and explore one of the many hiking trails. The kids found it really fun to explore the cabins and store. The volunteers had an array of information to share and were able to tailor their interactions to the different age groups. There is a horse that is used for demonstrations, he is super friendly. We watched him notice a group of kids walking by his paddock, he wandered over and stuck his head out for lots of pets!
It is Located at 15588 History Ln, Petersburg IL 62675 Lincolns New Salem State Historic Site is a reconstruction of the former village of New Salem. While in his mid-twenties Abraham Lincoln lived here from 1831 thru 1837 as a boatman, soldier, general store owner, postmaster, surveyor, and a rail splitter. New Salem was founded in 1828 when a Gristmill was built on the Sangamon River. The town only lasted until 1840 when it was abandoned due to a rapidly growing town nearby called Petersburg. Lincoln lives in this town for about 6 years and never owned a home. He often slept in the town’s tavern or in his general store. He moved out of New Salem over to Springfield in 1837 when he won the countrywide district election. More information at http://www.lincolnsnewsalem.com/
Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site:
Visiting Lincoln’s home is a step into the past. The homes along Lincoln’s street were preserved and/or taken down to their original structures. After years of additions, a few homes were completely different from their original design. One home has information about the process as well as photos and diagrams. Out on the street you can find informational posts about each residence, replica sidewalks, and the most photographed angle of Lincoln’s house is clearly marked with replicas of old fashioned cameras. The kids had a lot of fun going through the home and neighborhood seeing the past and imagining what life was like.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site was authorized by President Richard Nixon on August 18, 1971 and formally established on October 9, 1972, to preserve and protect the only home ever owned by President Abraham Lincoln. In total, the buildings included in the park make up four-and-a-half square blocks on 12 acres. In order to tour Lincolns home a ticket will be required. The ticket is for entry into Lincoln’s Home and is a ranger guided tour. You can obtain a free tour ticket at the Visitor Center Information Desk. More information at https://www.nps.gov/liho/index.htm
Once you have taken your tour of Lincoln’s home you can walk his neighborhood and view the neighboring homes. I would plan on about 1 ½ to 2 hours to fully tour his house and surrounding neighborhood. Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site does offer parking and is $2 per hour. We were able to pay for full day of parking and leave our vehicle there. Once we finished visiting Lincoln’s Home we set off to tour Springfield.
Old State Capitol Plaza:
The Old State Capitol Plaza is beautiful. The exterior has a nicely landscaped exterior, we were there a bit early for everything to bloom but it should look fantastic in the summer! We were all “wowed” when we entered the building. They did a great job on the reconstruction as well as information posted.
Our second stop on our walking tour was Old State Capitol Plaza. The Old State Capitol is a reconstruction of Illinois’ fifth statehouse, the first to be located in Springfield. The building served as the seat of state government and a center of Illinois political life from 1839 to 1876. During the dramatic years leading to the Civil War, the building had an important role in the political struggle between Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861) and Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). Lincoln visited the building frequently as both a lawyer and a politician, serving in the building during his last term in the Illinois House of Representatives and delivering the famous 1858 “House Divided” speech in Representatives Hall, and using the governor’s rooms as a headquarters during the 1860 presidential campaign. The building was the scene of the assassinated President’s final laying-in-state on May 3-4, 1865.
The first floor has a central hall flanked by rooms interpreting government offices, two libraries, the supreme courtroom, an audiovisual theatre and staff offices. The second floor spaces include a magnificent rotunda, legislative chambers, and smaller offices and meeting rooms. The building is located in the middle of a large landscaped yard surrounded by a replica of the original 1850s ornamental iron fence. In 1961 the building was designated a National Historic Landmark and in 1966 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More information at https://www2.illinois.gov/dnrhistoric/Experience/Sites/Central/pages/old-capitol.aspx
You can visit the Old State Capitol free of charge and are able to explore the building on your own.
Lincoln Movie Exhibit Union station:
Our third visit for the day was a short one but had some cool artifacts from the movie Lincoln. You may choose to skip this one but we thought it was neat and at no cost was worth the 20 mins.
Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential Library and Museum:
Our Fourth and final stop for the day was Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential Museum. The address here is 212 N. Sixth St., Springfield, IL 62701. More information at https://www.illinois.gov/alplm/library/Pages/default.aspx
When you walk into the Museum you will be greeted by Abraham Lincoln and his family. After taking time to visit with them and get a nice photo (don’t touch!) you will have the option to go left to visit before he was president or go right and visit after he was elected. I would recommend going left and learn about how he was raised and elected to be president.
Going left will take you to the boyhood story of Lincoln where he grew up, starting in a replica of his childhood home, to the point where he moved to Springfield Il. If you went to New Salem first, some of this will be familiar. Once you walk out of that area you can make your way over to his presidential side, it looks like the White House! This side takes you through his election, presidential stay, assassination and his funeral. There is a lot of information and will most likely take you the rest of your day to go through it all. Our 7 year old had a lot of questions. Some were simple, about the women’s clothing display and some were involved, about the slavery and assassination displays. This museum presents you with a lot of information yet you are still able to expand on that after you leave. Once you have completed both sides make sure you stay and watch Holavision Ghosts of the Library. Also, if your kids were ever to get tired of visiting the Museum they have a play area allowing kids to role play and release some energy. This ended the second day of our tour.
Lincoln’s Tomb State Historic Site:
Our third and final day learning about our 16th president brings us to his tomb. We did get to go in his tomb and see his final resting place we were not able to spend a lot of time here since there was a large group and ceremony planned that took up most the monument. Within his tomb were scaled down replicas of statues of Lincoln from around the country. I would say 1 to 2 hours here would be plenty of time.
The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their four sons: Edward, William, and Thomas (known as “Tad”). Their eldest son, Robert Lincoln, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Also on the site is the public receiving vault, where final funeral services were held for President Lincoln on May 4, 1865. Constructed about 1860, the vault is at the base of a hill north of the Tomb. The Lincoln Tomb was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960; it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The Tomb is operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The Tomb, designed by sculptor Larkin Mead, is constructed of brick sheathed with Quincy granite. The base is 72 feet square with large semi-circular projections on the north and south sides. Double sets of stairs lead to a terrace, above which rises the 117-foot-tall obelisk. At the corners of the shaft, large pedestals serve as bases for four bronze sculpture groups, each representing one of the four Civil War military services—infantry, artillery, cavalry, and navy. A taller base on the obelisk’s south side holds a heroic bronze statue of Lincoln. More information at http://www.lincolntomb.org/tomb.htm
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