By Gabriella Antonacci
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is not the only place to find Lincoln in Springfield. He pops up in murals, statues, historic markers, even decorative bike racks. But the best way to fully experience Lincoln in his hometown is by visiting the city’s many museums and historic sites. Just ask Flat Lincoln!
Flat Lincoln’s journey started at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which lets guests experience the life and times of the nation’s 16th president as they never have before. The exhibits immerse guests in key moments of his life, from his Indiana childhood to raising his own children to leading a nation through war. The exhibits, along with special theatrical productions, prompt reflection on the life of Abraham Lincoln and his impact on the Nation.
The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day. The Library is open 9 a.m.-5 .p.m. on weekdays.
Just one block away from presidential library, the Old State Capitol stands as a reminder of the career that Lincoln built in Springfield. In this building, he argued cases before the Illinois Supreme Court, served as a state legislator, and delivered his famous “House Divided” speech.
This is also the spot where Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president in 2007. Beginning and ending at the Old State Capitol, the “1908 Race Riot Walking Tour” discusses the intolerance that divided Springfield and sparked the formation of the NAACP. “Walk, Hike and Bike History” connects guests to Springfield history with a variety of downtown tours.
Next door is the Springfield Visitors Center, located inside Lincoln’s former law office.
Originally built in 1833, this home was remodeled in the mid-1850s by relatives of Mary Lincoln. Located less than a mile north of the ALPLM, this historically restored Italianate house exhibits the social and domestic life of Lincoln’s time. It even houses the “courting couch” where Abraham and Mary sat as they got to know one another before marrying. Owned and operated by the Springfield Art Association, this institution has been essential to the development of Springfield’s creative culture since 1913.
Half a mile away from the Old State Capitol stands Lincoln’s Springfield home. Abraham lived here, on the corner of 8th and Jackson, with Mary and their children for 17 years before being elected President in 1860. The house and four surrounding blocks have been preserved and restored to appear as Lincoln knew them.
Often referred to as “Mr. Lincoln’s Neighborhood,” this site offers tours of three houses, including Lincoln’s Greek Revival home. Tickets are free.
Flat Lincoln’s next stop was Oak Ridge Cemetery. Here, guests can visit the tomb where Lincoln, Mary, and three of their four children are buried. The exterior features an imposing obelisk and military-themed sculptures. The interior includes small sculptures of scenes from Lincoln’s life and, of course, the towering obelisk above Lincoln’s grave.
Mary Lincoln was instrumental in deciding the location of her husband’s final resting place. Without consulting Mary, Springfield officials had begun preparing for the president to be buried near the Capitol. Tenaciously, Mary advocated for Lincoln’s wishes to be buried in a rural cemetery and threated to have him laid to rest in another city if Springfield leaders did not comply.
Rubbing the nose on a Lincoln bust outside the tomb has become a good-luck tradition. Don’t forget to properly hand sanitize afterward!
Conceptualized by Harriet Knudson and designed by world-renowned landscape architect Jen Jensen, this living tribute to Abraham Lincoln has been growing since 1936. With vegetation native to the three states Lincoln lived in before his presidency, this 100-acre site contains miles of trails, eight stone circle rings, footbridges, and dozens of benches featuring quotes from the 16th president. A Nature Center houses educational displays and a “super microscope” that gives children a close-up look at nature.
The trails are open from sun-up to sun-down. The Nature Center is closed on Mondays, but open until 4 p.m. all other days.
Antonacci is a graduate student studying public history at the University of Illinois Springfield and an intern at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.