Illinois, Where We've Been

The Land of Lincoln, Dana-Thomas House, Carillon Bells, & Route 66 Fesival

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The Land of Lincoln

Illinois is considered the Land of Lincoln. He was born in rural Kentucky, raised in neighboring Indiana, but Springfield, Illinois is where he spent most of his adult life and it is here that he is buried.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library is also located in Springfield and what a surprisingly well done depiction of the humble man’s short life.

The museum is unlike so many others we’ve been through. While it still had placards to read on the walls, this museum was designed to be more of an experience and as such, was much more enjoyable. In fact, I would say probably one on a very short list of best museums in the America.

(I’m going to jump around the sites we saw in Springfield to keep them in chronological order as he lived them.)

The museum starts by depicting Lincoln as a boy sitting on a log, day dreaming, while holding one of his favorite books in his hand, Aesop’s Fables. He later tells that his childhood was nothing special, but that of a poor boy growing up in the rural countryside.

His mother died while he was only 9 and the event devastated him. She passed rather suddenly from “milk sickness” after ingested milk from a cow who had been eating a poisonous plant known as snakeroot.

Abraham’s father, Thomas, later remarried to a woman by the name of Sarah Bush. She described Abraham as a model child who was always honest, witty and “diligent for knowledge.” 

Lincoln received little formal education and instead taught himself to read and later study law. 

During this time, he met a woman named Ann Rutledge. The two became good friends and possibly more, but that part is pure speculation. However, Ann soon became ill while living in New Salem and ended up succumbing to typhoid fever. This sent Lincoln into a deep depression both because of Ann and years before, the death of his mother.

It was at this time that he met Mary. The two courted, became engaged, broke off the engagement, got back together, and eventually wed.

Lincoln purchased a small house in Springfield where the family spent the next 25 years. Lincoln went to work as a lawyer and grew an interest in politics. Over the years, the house expanded out and up with a second story added.

The Lincoln home was decorated in the fashion of the time. The walls were adorned with French wallpaper, flowery carpets, modern furniture, and cast iron stoves for warmth during the cold Illinois winters. 

Lincoln bought this desk for his personal writings. Can you image the 6’4″ Lincoln huddled over this rather small looking desk?

What is now the Visitor’s Center in downtown Springfield, was once the law offices of Lincoln-Herndon. This location was directly across the way from the State Capitol building. 

The first floor of the law offices is open to the public, but his offices were on one of the floors above. While not open during renovation, they did move his desk and furniture downstairs so that visitors could see it.

This is the Old State Capitol (also not open to the public while under renovation). The statue in front was of someone connected to the Lincoln’s though I didn’t catch which one. It may be one of Lincoln’s son’s.

Back in the Presidential Museum, the Lincoln family stands in front of the White House. The family left Springfield in 1861 when Lincoln won the vote for the Presidency. He gave a farewell speech to the people of Springfield at the train depot that now bears his name and headed out to Washington D.C. for the next four years.

Mary is a much talked about figure in the museum. She had no problem taking to the role of First Lady both in form and presence. She bought extravagant dresses for just such an occasion.

The Lincoln boys were not brought up with many rules, much to Mary’s distain. Abraham didn’t seem to mind the rambunctiousness of his boys though. 

The Lincoln’s were not free from the sorrow of death, even during this time at the White House. One of their children had already passed away from sickness and now a second was in its grasp. When he was 11 years old, Willie died of typhoid fever.

During his time in office, a man named Spencer had invented a repeating rifle, shortening the time of reload for those on the battlefield. He gave Lincoln a demonstration of the rifle and was impressed with its performance. He made 7 consecutive shots at a distance of forty yards, all hitting within a close range on the target board. 

At the end of his four year term as President, and having just been re-elected to office, a disgruntled John Wilkes Booth decided to shoot Lincoln on April 14, 1865. He died the next day. 

Lincoln’s body was taken by train along a route through major cities of the north before eventually making it back to Springfield, Illinois for burial. 

Due to the suddenness of his death, a temporary burial crypt was used to hold the body of Lincoln for a time before a final resting spot was made further up the hill.

The body of Lincoln, his wife, and three of his four sons, now rests inside this tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Here lies Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States. 


Dana-Thomas House

I remember learning about the houses of Frank Lloyd Wright in Architecture class in college. From what I remember, he was a rather difficult man to work with, but his designs were ahead of their time. Each of his buildings was designed in a unique architectural style, but with an element that ties them together. This element is found prominently in the art glass of the Dana-Thomas House.

If you’re ever in Springfield, the tour of this house is free and well worth the stop in.

Pictures were apparently not allowed, but I was able to take this shot before being told. This statue adorns the entry way just inside the front door.

A clearer picture of the house is shown in the model located in the basement.  

Wright was fascinated with Japanese architecture at the time and components of that can be seen along the roofline and in the interior of the house with a Tori Gate design around the window in the library.

Carillon Bells

The Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon consists of a tower of 67 bronze bells in a park setting.

What’s unique about these bells is that they can actually be played on a instrument that is similar to an organ.

We arrived one evening for one of the concerts. A local came to meet us and told us all about the bells, their history, the concerts, and the people who play them. It was really fascinating. 

In a couple places in the park, you can watch the bells being played live on the displays. The man followed a set of notes and hammered away on the pegs. 

From what the local was telling us, it’s very difficult to understand what the notes sound like outside the tower since the sound inside is quite different. What we heard didn’t sound like much of a piece of music, but rather clanging randomly on the bells. There may be a better way to make the sound ring more harmoniously from the tower, but at least it was an interesting bit of clanging.

Hear it for yourself:

Route 66 Festival

At the Illinois State Fair, there is a display dedicated to Route 66. We also just happened to be in town during the annual Route 66 festival.

The historic route started in Chicago, ran through Springfield, and exited the state around St. Louis. This route was a popular past-time where travelers on holiday would drive along it, stopping at various attractions along the way. The destination wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun as the journey getting there. Route 66 experienced its heyday in the 1940’s with thousands of travelers driving on the historic road. 

Its decline began in the 1950’s with the signing of the Federal Interstate Act which paved the way for interstates to be build across the U.S. in the same fashion of the Autobahn that was seen in Germany during WW2. The idea of more efficient travel out grew the idea of adventurous travel. The idea of getting “your kicks on Route 66” soon lost its appeal. 

Springfield is determined to keep these roadside attractions alive. You can still visit many of them today as you drive the historic route. 

So many hot rods were at the festival this year. Check them out!

A classic police car from Carson City, Nevada was there too.

This Packard was a really neat car as well. Look at how much chrome is on that front end!


Illinois State Fairgrounds Campground

We came in on a Sunday when the campground office was supposed to be closed, but there was someone working in the office. He took us in his golf cart to show us a few sites with sewer hookups that we could choose from. The furthest west lane in lot A had sewer hookups, the D lane, and another lane in B. Many of those near the north were not level sites though, so we opted for A04 which is on gravel.

We had full hookups on that row and shared the area with only one other trailer the whole time we were there. I can see how during fair time this place would be near impossible to be able to park our big rig, but with double spacing during the off time, it was pleasant.

We had a great rate and it was a good location to visit Springfield. I went to check on the check out time and was told it was 9pm. He said it was so late for those who liked to visit the fairgrounds and barns until late.

There was a bathhouse up by the office (we did not use it).

Starlink came in at around 31 down and 5 up. Verizon on the phone was 4 bars (135/13). On the cell antenna Verizon was at 5 bars (90/27) and AT&T was also at 5 bars (25/25). The signal was strong, but the speeds were slow in the evening.