OUR JUNE 2007 TRIP TO SPRINGFIELD ILLINOIS
Copyright 2007 by Bob Soetebier
We left the St. Louis area early on a Sunday morning bound for Springfield, Illinois ( http://www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/ ) Travelling east across the banks-full Mississippi River on I-270 and then north I-55, we arrived in Illinois’ capital city less than two hours later.
We exited I-55 onto Stevenson Ave. and after only a couple of blocks westward we pulled into the Signature Inn, which is conveniently located right next to a Bob Evans restaurant. Even though we walked into the lobby at 9:30 a.m., they let us check in early. We quickly deposited our excess baggage in the room and headed right back out for our first point of interest.
[A word to the wise: Navigating the streets of Springfield -- some of which are one-way -- requires a bit of planning. A good map of the town is most helpful ( http://tinyurl.com/3asxav ). Parking is not a real problem. Downtown parking meters are free on the weekend; however, on weekdays they have a 2-hour time limit. There are convenient downtown commercial parking facilities. One of is underground at the Old State Capitol. Another is an above-ground parking structure across from the Lincoln Presidential Museum. Both have a maximum all-day charge of $6.50; however, an even better all-day deal, for $3.50 max., is only a couple of blocks south on the southeast corner of Capitol Avenue and 6th Street at the Hoogland Center for the Performing Arts.]
Located on the northwest corner of East Lawrence Avenue and 4th Street is the historically and architecturally significant the Dana-Thomas House ( http://www.dana-thomas.org ). It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The mansion’s bright and colorful exterior contrasted greatly with its dark interior due to the original low-light, 4-watt electric lights throughout!
Second on our Sunday agenda was the free National Historic Site old Great Western Railroad Depot, located at 10th and Monroe, adjacent to the “State-Journal Register” newspaper. This refurbished depot is where Lincoln debarked on his Washington, D.C., trip to assume the Presidency. ( http://tinyurl.com/2hgryj )
An easy three blocks west and one block north brought us to the outdoor walking mall on the west side of 6th Street across from T-intersection with Adams Street. The mall has numerous historic information boards (with photos) provided for the tourist who has budgeted the extra time to enjoy the space. This is also the location of both Old State Capitol ( http://tinyurl.com/26f3yn ) and the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices ( http://tinyurl.com/293kmq ). These two sites are where Lincoln spent much of his time in Springfield. Both facilities provide free guided tours and are must stops on the “Looking For Lincoln” foray.
On Monday morning our first priority was the free guided tour of the State Capitol building ( http://www.ilstatehouse.com ) AND ( http://tinyurl.com/ynkkg2 ). As with the Old State Capitol, there are no restrictions on taking photos within or without the building, and there are pleasantly plenty opportunities for both.
Our walk from the Capitol building took us just north of the Old State Capitol to Union Square Park. The park is the site of the restored National Register of Historic Places 1898 Union Station ( http://mcaf.ee/g64vd ) which is now the official Springfield visitor information center. It is right across the street from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum ( http://www.alplm.org/home.html ), which was our destination for the rest of the day. (If at all possible, do try to visit it on a weekday as the weekend crowds – particularly during tourist season – are large.) Be sure to not miss seeing the museum’s memorable presentations in both “The Union Theater” and “Ghosts of the Library”.
The Governor’s Mansion ( http://tinyurl.com/ywxqrs ) is located at 5th and Jackson. Its central spiral staircase is a must-see. Plan accordingly as the free guided tours are only given on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Our last stop before leaving Springfield was along historic old Route 66, aka, 5th Street, which leads southward right onto I-55. This was at the original home of the pig-in-blanket/on-a-stick “corn-dog” Cozy Dog Drive In ( https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Cozy_Dog_Drive_In ). I’m not particularly fond of the concoction, but the French fries were a delight, along with their plethora of historic “kicky” curios on display (http://www.cozydogdrivein.com/photos/ ) . It was well worth the stop before heading back on down the road.
Other not-to-miss points of interest in and around Springfield include: The Lincoln Home ( http://tinyurl.com/2kth2c ); the Illinois State Museum ( http://www.museum.state.il.us ); and, Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, which is about 20 miles northwest of Springfield ( http://www.lincolnsnewsalem.com ) AND ( http://tinyurl.com/33l8c3 ).