Springfield, IL


Hank – We took most of the (rainy) day yesterday to visit the capitol of Illinois. First up was the Illinois State Museum.  Outside is a replica of a totem pole from Alaska on which Abraham Lincoln stands atop. It was cool but it was also weird. The area of the state of Illinois has been through some history. It used to be south of the equator. Over many millions of years it’s been covered by sea, swamps, forests, and ice. Along with the usual historical displays, the modern history of Illinois is celebrated by a display of the contributions of immigrants over the last two centuries. I thought that was very appropriate for the current times. The state museum wraps up with an art display.

Next we visited the capitol building. Since it was a dreary, rainy day the building reflected that. But inside it was just gorgeous. It was also busy. Both the house and senate were in session. Lobbyists were crowded on the third floor. And many groups of school children were there to visit. We started at the fourth floor and worked our way down. We sat in on the House and Senate proceedings. I guess the House wasn’t in a formal session during our time there because photography was permitted. But when we went into the Senate we were told no photos while the Senate was in session. In the gallery of  both chambers there were women dressed in the red robes and white bonnets from The Handmaid’s Tale, which has become a very visible symbol of protest regarding the subjugation  of women. Rock on, ladies!

Interesting tidbits:

In 2011 the capital building was renovated. One change was the addition of the maiden lamps. These had been intended for the building since the 1870s when architect Alfred Piquenard designed them as part of the original plan. Piquenard was also the architect for the Iowa State Capitol. Illinois legislators of the 1870s thought that the scantily clad women were too risqué so they had plain lamps installed at the base of its grand staircase. The maiden lamps intended for Illinois were instead installed at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, where they remain to this day. The maiden lamps now installed at Illinois as part of this renovation are replicas of those at Iowa’s capitol.

Despite beginning the construction of the current capitol building, the general assembly was going to meet in Chicago in 1871, which included the possibility of moving the capitol there. But then the Chicago Great Fire happened and they stayed in Springfield instead.

In the Hall of Governors where portraits of all the governors are display in chronological order I noticed a gap. It turns out that since he was impeached and removed from office for corruption, Rod Blagojevich’s portrait won’t be in the capitol building either. He was later convicted and is serving time in federal prison. Three other Illinois governors have been convicted in federal court for crimes but only after they served their terms so their portraits are present.

Next we went to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. It’s a four-block area that includes the home Lincoln owned in Springfield when he was an attorney and politician there. Homes on the adjacent blocks are also preserved as close as possible to their original state. During the tour of the home the park ranger told us that Lincoln would hold wrestling matches in the sitting room and that Lincoln was a champion wrestler honored in the Illinois Wrestling Hall of Fame. That sent off my bullshit alarm so I looked it up. Lincoln was apparently a very good wrestler but there are only a couple of stories passed down. There are no records of a wrestling record. In 1992, he was honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, which supports traditional wrestling and is not related to WWE. (Note that the “E” stands for entertainment.) Other presidents have been honored as well. I can’t imagine a 6’4″ man wrestling another man in such a small room inside the house, but the National Park Service can.

Kathy – For the next month we are at peak tornado season around here. Since we arrived we have had some major storm systems come though. I was a my sister’s mobile home the other day when a downpour of rain and hail moved in. It included very dark skies, lightning and thunder, and tornado sirens blaring! I started questioning if my hearing aids were working properly. So I asked my niece Tabitha, “Is that the tornado siren going off?” 😲🌪😳🌪😳 Yes, it was. I fear tornadoes more than any other weather disaster. You have such little warning, they are so destructive, you have no control of their path, and you are really at their mercy. I was thankful after 45 minutes the tornado warning ended and nothing touched down in our area. There have been multiple other storm related warnings all week so I’m constantly monitoring the sky for tornado formations. It was windy and rainy today. Springfield, Illinois is an hour and half drive away. Between all the rain I was watching the skyline often. Happy for no tornadoes. 🤗

Our time in Springfield, Illinois was pretty good. I really enjoyed reading all the interesting facts about Illinois history including all the geological formation changes. The museum did a fantastic job explaining all of this. It also included some fascinating displays and a huge amount of amazing artifacts and exhibits. I really enjoyed this museum.

During the past year on the bike trip we have visited many State Capitol buildings (including the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.) so we have a little comparative history to gauge the Illinois Capitol by. The Illinois State Capital building was not nearly as impressive on the outside as it was on the inside. The outside was a little mundane. It had limited signage or information available, minimal statutes or ornamental architectural significance, and no park like setting or grassy areas surrounding the Capitol. It was just the capitol building with either parking lots, busy streets, or other unimpressive federal building surrounding it. Illinois needs to visit other statecCapitol buildings exterior landscapes and step theirs up a bit.

However just to be fair, the inside of the Illinois State Capitol building was spectacular! The architecture was truly amazing. The paintings and statues were beautiful and the Capitol dome was extraordinary magnificent! I could have stared at that dome all day long and still saw something new with each movement of my eyes. I absolutely loved the inside of the building, so I guess it definitely makes up for the outside. 😊

I also enjoyed our time at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. It was interesting to learn the history of President Lincoln before he became president. His childhood, his work, and his path to becoming president. It was also wonderful to read about him just being an ordinary man, husband, and father. His time spent in Springfield, Illinois helped to mold him into the fine gentleman he is known for. He courted and married Mary, his wife. They had four children, however three died before reaching adulthood due to different diseases and illnesses. This had to have a lasting impact on President Lincoln and his wife Mary. His law career flourished during his time in Springfield. Lincoln’s wife Mary was from a wealthy family whereas Lincoln was not. Mary believed in marrying a man with strong character and convictions over money, and therefore fell in love with Lincoln. Both Lincoln and his wife Mary were avid readers and interested in politics which eventually paved the future for them. Their Springfield home was modest and comfortable. Springfield, Illinois has done a wonderful job of preserving the history of our 16th President. Well done! Overall it was a good day to learn about our Illinois history.

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One Comment

  1. The picture of the staircase through me for a loop momentarily. The Capital building is amazing!


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