If you need to choose just one place to visit on our Illinois Author Adventures trail, don’t miss the Abraham Lincoln home in Springfield. Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, and the Lincoln family eventually moved to Springfield, Illinois, when he was a youth. Springfield is the state capital and is comprised of approximately 115,000 residents. In recent years, its population, as well as the overall population of Illinois, has been declining.
Lincoln was born in 1809 (the same birth year as Edgar Allan Poe) and was the son of a poor farmer. While he was did not have the means to go to college, he trained himself to be an attorney. He later became the 16th president of the United States (1861-1865), known for his leadership during the Civil War. At the age of 56, he was assassinated by gunshot in 1865 by actor John Wilkes Booth. His birthday, February 12, was designated as a national holiday. Read about the history of the holiday here: Constitution Center.
Abraham Lincoln’s home was built in 1839 and the Lincolns lived there for seventeen years before moving to the White House. The home first opened to the public in 1887 and the home and surrounding neighborhood have become a National Park Service historic site. Tickets to the park are free and home tours are led by an experienced tour guide. Watch a video about this literary landmark here: Lincoln Home.
Lincoln Home Highlights
I visited the Lincoln Home and strolled through the Lincoln Neighborhood on a brilliant fall day in 2019. The Lincoln home is filled to the brim with authentic furniture, both original and period. There are also quite a few children’s toys belonging to the Lincoln children. I enjoyed seeing Mary Todd Lincoln’s cooking stove, one of her favorite possessions, and something which she loved so much, she considered bringing to The White House.
Abraham Lincoln was an avid reader and writer. He especially enjoyed reading the works of William Shakespeare. Many of the original books from his library are on display at the Lincoln Home. As we ascended the stairs while holding onto the original bannister, our tour guide pointed out that this was the closest one can get to shaking Abraham Lincoln’s hand. I found Lincoln’s books and the many games and entertainments which the Lincoln family enjoyed together to be especially interesting.
Other Local Attractions
I highly recommend that you walk along the entire Lincoln Neighborhood street. Each house has a history and there are ongoing efforts to make the street authentic to the time period. I loved seeing the Dean House heirloom kitchen garden across the street from the Lincoln Home. Many of the homes can be visited and each one helps you better understand the social and political complexities of the time.
Try to explore the city of Springfield, if you have time. During my visit, the area around the museum was vibrant and had many restaurants and areas of historical interest.
On a personal note, I also visited the nearby town of Carlinville, Illinois. This is a town where a young Abraham Lincoln practiced law. I found the graves of my 4X great grandparents in Carlinville who lived there at the same time as Lincoln worked there. This linking of personal and political history made both more meaningful.
The Lincoln Home is the sixth stop on our Illinois Author Adventures Trail.
Rebecca Beech, Patricia Smart