Ebony Escapes to Springfield, Ill.

Lysa Allman-Badwin | 10/24/2013, 4:15 p.m.
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. Photo by Lysa Allman-Badwin

Out front, you’ll find several sculptures of influential Illinois personalities plus an impressive, towering, bronze sculpture of Lincoln himself at the foot of the regal steps leading into this impressive structure. Additionally, carved on the granite slab behind him is the “Farewell Address” he gave to the city in 1861 before he left after being elected president of the United States.

Be sure to also pay homage outside at the southeast corner of the Capitol at two impressive memorials—the Illinois Police Officers Memorial and the Illinois Firefighter Memorial—both in honor of the men and women who lost their lives in the line of their respective duties.

Only four blocks away iss the Old State Capitol, located on a foot traffic-only plaza with the Korean War National Museum and Lincoln Herndon Law Office. The Old State Capitol is a beautiful historic structure where Lincoln served as an Illinois legislator and delivered his famous “House Divided” speech. It is also where his body lay in state after his assassination.

Inside, visitors can explore a wide array of interesting permanent and temporary exhibits situated in the former legislative chambers and office spaces. Just ascending the Grand Staircase alone makes it worth the visit.

The Korean War National Museum’s mission is to “Educate, Honor, Preserve and Celebrate the ‘Forgotten War,’” by sharing the artifacts, memorabilia and intricate stories of the over 1 million Koreans and 33,686 Americans whose lives were sacrificed during this momentous conflict.

At the Lincoln Herndon Law Office, a docent-led tour takes visitors through this 1840s Greek Revival-style brick building, where Lincoln and his law partner practiced from about 1843 to about 1852. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this three-story brick building encompasses offices, an audiovisual theater, exhibit gallery, old post office and federal court bench.

Just a stone’s throw away is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, a several-square-block, cobblestoned, foot traffic-only area that includes the Visitor Center, Lincoln Home and a handful of other residences situated in this historic Lincoln-era neighborhood, where visitors are free to wander inside to view the various exhibits, each pertaining to distinctive aspects of not only Lincoln’s life, but the life and times of the people who lived and worked here at that time. Some of the structures have placards outside where you can dial to listen to designated sections of the cellphone audio tour

I highly recommend embarking upon a tour of the Lincoln Home first, because prior to (and outside, weather permitting), a Park Ranger leads a five-minute orientation that provides a great overview of all that you can see and learn while here.

For more about Lincoln, there is the “Looking for Lincoln Story Trail,” featuring 215 exhibits in 52 communities throughout Illinois, each offering a unique insight about Lincoln and the people, stories and events surrounding his life and political career.

The downtown Springfield area is home to over 40 of these outdoor interpretive exhibits, all designed to “capture a moment in time for Lincoln and how he was affected by the people, places and events he encountered in his hometown.”

More to come!

We have barely scratched the surface of all that Springfield has to offer. Next time around, we will delve into the centerpiece of the city here, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, and explore the many Afrocentric aspects that helped foster this burgeoning, important American city from its early beginnings and still continue to do so even today.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.

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