Springfield, Illinois. Is there a better place to start with? My initial entry on this site focuses on the place to go to get to know the greatest American who ever lived: Abraham Lincoln. His words and wisdom led our country through its most difficult time and this town helped shape the man he would become. Springfield is, of course, the capital of Illinois but it’s far from being the state’s largest city. As you look at a map of the continental United States, Springfield is not too far from the middle (about 500 miles) and, in many ways, Mr. Lincoln represented the values of Middle America. You can start to gain an understanding of this great man with a visit to his home which is part of the National Park Service.
My first visit to his residence was about twenty years ago and they have made significant improvements and enhancements to the visitor’s experience. I hope they never stop working on it. It is a national treasure just because of what President Lincoln stood for but it has become an even greater resource throughout the years. The neighborhood around the house is being restored and what will emerge is a greater understanding of the way people lived during Lincoln’s time. That’s the wonder of travel – to be transported to another place and even another time as we continue what should be a lifetime journey and adventure.
Wonderful things await the visitors to Springfield with the Lincoln home being the crown jewel. The Old State Capitol has been restored and offers a wonderful glimpse into the past. It’s where President-elect Lincoln made his headquarters as he prepared to meet the biggest challenge in our country’s history. By all means, visit the tomb where Mr. Lincoln is buried with his wife and two of his children. Just down the hill from his present resting place, you can see the original tomb which was broken into in an attempt to steal his body. It is why his casket rests under twenty feet of concrete. You can see the location of his last Law Office that he asked his partner, William Herndon, to maintain while he tended to nation’s business in Washington. He hoped to return someday but had his doubts as any visitor to the Lincoln Train Depot will learn when they read his short, poignant address to the people he called his friends.
If time permits, a twenty-mile drive to the reconstructed village of New Salem will offer a glimpse to they young Abraham Lincoln prior to his Springfield days. You can watch a short film and learn about the early struggles of the man who worked at various jobs just to make ends meet. It’s always been a source of encouragement to me to see the formation years of the great people throughout history and trace their path from their youth and early missteps through their maturity and great achievements. Visiting the homes these people lived in provides a glimpse into their private lives. It almost always provides an insight that becomes much more impactful than just reading a book. Placing ourselves into different locations, cultures and time periods help us to understand what a wonderful world we live in. A visit to Springfield does that on many levels. Not only will it make Mr. Lincoln come alive but it will make you realize how much the things he struggled with are still with us today. He led the country through its most divided time but his words that have lived with us to this day were dedicated to peace and understanding.
Learn more about Abraham Lincoln.