Hailing from the Land of Lincoln, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about him. Numerous school field trips, home state pride and an interest in Civil War history meant I had no shortage of Lincoln info growing up. And yet, I’m still fascinated by our 16th president and his tumultuous yet remarkable life. When I realized I would be spending some time in Illinois without other obligations I decided I had to have a “Lincoln Day” and go tour some of my favorite Lincoln sites.
I got extra lucky with my Lincoln Day plans. A good friend who shares my interest in Civil War history came from NYC for her first visit to Illinois and we were able to incorporate the Lincoln trip into her visit. It was meant to be!
Our first stop in Springfield, Illinois was the free tour of Lincoln’s home which was also the only house he ever owned. The tour is short but very informative and our National Park Service guide, Ranger Rosie, was great. She pointed out ways to view Lincoln as a father and husband, not just a legend and hero, by having us imagine him working at his desk late at night, sequestering the family pets into the informal rooms or playing on the floor with his children. It was a great way to humanize Lincoln and made us feel closer to him as a man. Another way Rosie connected her visitors to the past was to encourage us to hold onto the bannister when heading upstairs – the same bannister Lincoln himself used. I have a hard time imagining our historic idols as everyday people, and these small suggestions by our tour guide helped. The NPS staff was so friendly we had to stop and grab a photo with them and Buddy Bison after the tour.
Our next stop was my favorite museum of all time – the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. This museum is just perfection. It’s the perfect size. You can move through quickly if you’re short on time, but could also easily fill the time on a longer visit. The exhibits are laid out in an easy to follow arrangement with a natural flow. However, the best part of the exhibits is their effectiveness in telling an emotional story. And both of the shows left me misty-eyed! Some of my favorite displays in the museum are the Civil War soldier stories, the media display in which Tim Russert gives a modern day political news broadcast about Lincoln and his opponents, a recreation of Lincoln lying in state and the bedroom where Lincoln’s son Willie lies very ill, with an eerie clock ticking away the seconds and ballroom music plays in the distance as the Lincoln family entertains at the White House. We were lucky to visit during the last week an exact replica of Lincoln’s hearse was on display, which I was very excited to view. If you’re anywhere near Springfield, Illinois…GO to this museum. You won’t regret it. I love it so much I became a member on this trip!
Our last Lincoln stop of the day was his tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery. We got a great tour of the family tomb area, rubbed bronze Abe’s nose for good luck, and visited his original tomb.
The day was a great way to revisit an important piece of US history, and you can’t help but feel for poor old Abe. His life was so tragic. It seems like every win was followed by serious tragedy. Despite that, he was an important leader, and I’m so proud to be from the Land of Lincoln!
Have you visited any cool Lincoln sites? Or do you have another presidential interest? Tell me about it in the comments!