On February 12th, 1809, President Abraham Lincoln was born. President Lincoln had a profound effect on his home state of Illinois, and the entire nation, through his work to end slavery in the United States. Happy birthday, Mr. President!
Although Abraham Lincoln was not born in Illinois, he is generally regarded as one of the state’s most influential and famous historical figures. Illinois is known as the ‘Land of Lincoln,’ and Lincoln’s footprint can be found all over the state, especially in and around the capital city of Springfield.
Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States in 1861. He moved to Illinois at age 21 in 1830. Lincoln’s adult life and rise to the presidency took place in Illinois. His story is told through historical sites, museums, exhibits, and his former places of residence in the state. Lincoln’s life and legacy are on full display in Illinois.
It’s hard to argue with a top five Lincoln sites list in the Springfield area that includes the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site, the Lincoln Home in downtown Springfield, the Old State Capitol in Springfield, and Lincoln’s tomb and burial site in north Springfield.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum opened in 2005 in downtown Springfield. A typical visit to the museum lasts over two hours, so come prepared to stay awhile. Tours are self-guided, but staff are on hand to assist with any questions. A typical Museum tour could include two walk-through exhibits of Lincoln’s Pre-Presidential years and White House years (estimated one hour), a nine-minute Ghosts of the Library presentation and a 17-minute Lincoln’s Eyes presentation. There are also special exhibits to explore and a library on site.
Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site is located 20 miles from Springfield and includes a reconstruction of the village where Lincoln lived for six years of his early adult life. Lincoln worked as a store clerk, postmaster, deputy surveyor, split rails, and enlisted in the Black Hawk War. He also was first elected to the Illinois General Assembly while living there. New Salem includes 12 log houses, 10 workshops, the Rutledge Tavern, stores, mills, a school, and a theatre. Visitors can enjoy self-guided tours year-round on the 700-acre site.
The Lincoln Home in downtown Springfield has been restored to its appearance in 1860. Lincoln and his family lived there for 17 years until moving on to the White House in Washington, D.C. The home and exhibits sit in a four-block neighborhood and visitors are welcome.
The Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield has been reconstructed and once served as the government epicenter from 1839-1876. It is the place where Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech in 1858. With the threat of a Civil War on the horizon, Lincoln’s speech included these words that live in infamy: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The Old State Capitol is currently closed to the public as site improvement projects and restoration work continues.
Lincoln’s Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield features a massive granite monument and large bronze bust of Mr. Lincoln. Lincoln, wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four sons are buried here. Thousands of visitors flock to the monument, rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck, and take photos every
year. The Tomb was designated as a National Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The cemetery is open to the public on a daily basis.
The adventurous Lincoln follower can road trip throughout the state to find more sites, including these:
- The Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College in Lincoln, which gives an overview of Lincoln’s life and over 100 artifacts.
- The Carlinville Square features two Lincoln murals, one as a rail-splitter and the other as a lawyer. There is also a boulder placed where Lincoln spoke while running against Stephen Douglas for an Illinois Senate seat.
- In the small town of Bunker Hill, a large bronze statue of Lincoln sits right between the two main streets in town.
- Lincoln is honored with a statue and other artifacts at the Mt. Vernon Appellate Courthouse, the place where he successfully argued a famous tax case in 1859.
- The Old Lincoln Courtroom and Museum in Beardstown sits along the Lincoln Heritage Trail. This courtroom is where Lincoln defended Duff Armstrong in the famous Almanac Trial. Abe Lincoln in Beardstown, Abraham Lincoln, Beardstown, Illinois History
- John Shastid’s Home in Pittsfield is where Lincoln would dine with the Shastid family after they moved there from New Salem in 1838.
- The Sesquicentennial Square in Quincy is the home of a huge bronze relief sculpture of the Lincoln Douglas Debate in 1858. Details of their speeches are included on tablets.
- The Kibbe Museum in Carthage features an entire room dedicated to Lincoln history. Outside of town, some relatives of Lincoln are buried at St. Simon Cemetery. Also in the area is the Hancock County Courthouse, where Lincoln spoke in 1858.
- In northern Illinois, the Batavia Historical Society Museum includes a display of the bed and dresser that Mary Lincoln used while staying at Bellevue Place. The museum includes a Lincoln Room.
- The Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens in Rockford includes the couch that Lincoln sat on in the John Manny Mansion when he was working as an attorney on a case.
- At the State Fairgrounds in Springfield, a 30-foot statue of a young Abraham Lincoln holding an ax stands in front of the Illinois Expo Building.
- Lincoln and other politicians and prominent citizens were entertained at parties and picnics at Edwards Place, located in Springfield. Guided tours are available.
- The Lincoln Family Pew in Springfield is located at First Presbyterian Church.
- The Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site in Lerna preserves the 19th-Century home of Thomas Lincoln and Sarah Bush Lincoln, father and stepmother of President Lincoln. This 86-acre stie is owned and operated by the State of Illinois. Visitors are welcome.