SPRINGFIELD, IL – The long haul yesterday paid off today rewarding us with a leisurely day to spend in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, IL. The National Park Service has preserved and restored four blocks surrounding the Lincoln home to look as they did when the newly elected president left for Washington in 1861. A surprising number of original artifacts remain in the house like a hat rack, a wood burning stove and a trunk made by the president’s father. Erin and I speculate that our father, recently retired from the building industry, would forsake Lincoln for a display on joists in a neighboring house.
We take a lunch break at our first brewpub of the trip, Obed and Isaac’s. I start with the Strawberry Blonde and Erin goes for a nut brown ale. The second round is a hefeweizen that we both enjoy but prefer the Dizzy Blonde from the first order.
The Old State Capitol is a few blocks north and is staffed with attentive docents. A stovepipe hat sits on the desk where Lincoln served several terms in the Illinois Legislature. Ben is a little confused by state government and I take pleasure in explaining Abe’s promotion from Springfield to Washington. We pass by Lincoln’s law office on the way to the Presidential Library and Museum. Admission is a little steep but we find that it’s used well. Two multi-media films explain the library’s function and Lincoln’s biography. Artifacts are displayed with concise context and the dioramas have a high production value. We shop for souvenirs for the rest of the family. A fridge magnet with a stylized Lincoln portrait for my wife, Julie. Concerned that a Lincoln beard would be worn to school as a matter of course by my younger son, Andy, I opt for the giant penny.
Knowing Lincoln’s tomb is located in the city cemetery, we assume we can pay our respects until dusk. We’re disappointed to find the inner chamber of the obelisk was locked at 5pm. I don’t consider it another failure but I wish I could show my son the solemn marbled interior.
Erin and Ben have to pay off their debt to me with a Snickers in Peoria. Earlier, we had to guess the state where we saw the first Colorado license plate. I thought Erin had the best guess with Iowa. Ben and I both picked the longshots of Nebraska and Illinois. A car parked at the Lincoln Visitor’s Center bore the familiar green and white plates.
I point out the setting sun over the west bank of the Mississippi River at Davenport. “I somehow expected a lot more steamboats” Erin jokes. Ben lost his campaign for a stopover in Chicago but we console him with deep-dish pizza for dinner in the outskirts of the Quad Cities.