Springfield did not exist in 1818 when Illinois became a state with its capital at Kaskaskia. The first settler was Elisha Kelly, who arrived from North Carolina in 1819, the year that the Illinois state capital moved to  Vandalia.. Kelly named his settlement  Calhoun  after Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. Calhoun lost popularity due to his strong support for slavery and for states to have powers to  nullifiy federal laws, so in 1832 the town was renamed Springfield after a successful town of that name in Massachusetts. In 1837 Abraham Lincoln moved  from New Salem to Springfield to work as a lawyer. Working with others, he successfully lobbied for the capital of Illinois to be moved to Springfield. In 1839 Springfield became the capital and it remains the capital today. Lincoln continued to live in Springfield until 1861 when he moved to the White House after he was elected President. The city grew fast after railroads arrived in 1852 and triggered an increase in economic activity. During the Civil War, Springfield was the centre for training Illinois regiments of the Union Army. Shortly after the end of the Civil War the first coal mine shaft was sunk in Springfield and by the turn of the century coal mining had become a major industry. Nowadays the state government is the largest employer in Springfield but there is also a major tourism industry centred, of course, around Abraham Lincoln.




Old State Capitol

Work on construction of a State Capitol building began in 1837. The Greek Revival-style building was designed by local architect, J. F. Rague and was finally completed in 1853. Lincoln regularly attended legislative sessions in the Capitol and from time to time he argued cases before the Illinois Supreme Court which was also based in the building. It was in  Representatives Hall in 1858 during his campaign for the U.S. Senate that Lincoln delivered his famous ‘House Divided’ speech that included the line ‘I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free’. His body lay in state in the Capitol on May 3-4, 1865, before burial at Oak Ridge Cemetery.  Work on a new State Capitol began in 1868 and the following year the old Capitol was sold to Sangamon County. The building was used as the County Court House until 1961 and over the years was extensively modified. The State repurchased the building in 1961 and in 1966 the building was completely dismantled and rebuilt to restore its exterior appearance and public areas to the way they would have looked in Lincoln’s time while meeting modern standards such as fire regulations.. The Old State Capitol is now a museum. Click Tab 2 to see the Representatives Hall in the Old State Capitol.


Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices

Abraham Lincoln worked as a lawyer in several offices in Springfield, but only one of them remains. The three storey building in the picture to the right of the clock is a surviving portion of  the Tinsley Block, which was built by local developer Seth M. Tinsley in 1840–1841 to provide office space for professionals working in the new state capital city. The U.S. District Court rented space on the second floor of the Tinsley Block. Lincoln practiced law on the third floor from 1843 to about 1852. Between 1847 and 1849 Lincoln was  a United States Congressman so during those years his partner William H. Herndon maintained the practice on his own. In 1872 most of the Tinsley Block was demolished, but the part that had contained Lincoln’s offices was preserved.  The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. This remnant of the Tinsley Block is now a historic site with a visitor center on the first floor and reconstructed district court rooms on the second. On the third floor the offices used by Lincoln and his partners have been restored to look as they would have done in Lincoln’s days. Click Tab 2 to see the office used by Herdon and Lincoln.

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Lincoln's Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery

The story of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865 is covered on our page on the Penn Quarter, Washington DC. Mary Lincoln wanted his remains to be returned to his hometown of Springfield, but the impact that he had made as President and the manner of his death meant that before this could happen the nation needed the opportunity to pay its respects. He first lay in state in the East Room of the White House, then from April 19 to April 21 in the Capitol Rotunda. His body then left Washington DC by train for a journey of 2,662 km (1,654 miles) to Springfield with eleven stops along the way. At each stop Lincoln’s body was removed from the train for a lying in state allowing millions of Americans to see the late President. The funeral train arrived in Springfield on  May 3, 1865. Plans had been made in Springfield to build Lincoln’s tomb on a centrally located  hilltop called the Mather Block, but these plans were overruled by Mary Lincoln who wanted him to be buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery on the outskirts. Lincoln was buried there in a temporary vault on  May 24.  The tomb was completed in 1874 and his coffin was placed in a marble sarcophagus in the burial room of the tomb. In 1876 a criminal gang attempted to steal Lincoln’s body to ransom it for the release of a gang member. They were thwarted by the weight of the lead lined coffin and Secret Service informants. In 1882 Mary Lincoln was interred alongside her husband. Hurried construction of the original tomb resulted in rapid deterioration so In the early 1900s the tomb was rebuilt with a more secure crypt.  The reconstruction proved to be of poor quality so in 1930-31 the tomb was rebuilt again.  The interior of  Lincoln’s Tomb is open to the public daily.  Click Tab 2 to see Lincoln’s Headstone inside the tomb.

Lincoln Home, Lincoln Home National Historic Site

On November 4, 1842 Abraham Lincoln married 23 year old Mary Todd at her sister Elizabeth's home in Springfield. Mary’s family were wealthy slave-owners from Lexington, Kentucky. Marriage meant that for the first (and as it turned out, only) time in his life, Lincoln needed to buy a house. In 1844 he and Mary bought a 12 room house located at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets. The Lincoln family lived in the house until 1861 when they moved to Washington DC for Abraham to take up the post of President. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 and Mary died in  1882 leaving the house to their surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln. In 1887 Robert donated the house to the State of Illinois on condition that it would forever be well maintained and open to the public at no charge. The house and the streets that surround it now form Lincoln Home National Historic Site. In accordance with Robert Todd Lincoln’s wishes, there is no charge for entering the site or for the guided tours of the the house.    Click Tab 2 to see the Front Parlour of the Lincoln Home.


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- The story of Abraham Lincoln which is well told in the many historic buildings that are associated with his life.
- It’s a small city, easy to walk around.
-  If you don’t want to know about Abraham Lincoln you may struggle to find enough of interest.
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Old State Capitol, Springfield, IL, USA
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Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Springfield, IL, USA
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Lincoln Home, Lincoln Home NHS, Springfield, IL, USA
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Lincoln's Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL, USA
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Elijah Iles House

There is much more to Springfield than the story of Abraham Lincoln. There are some fine old houses, and as an example of the other attractions in Springfield we have chosen the oldest house in the city. the Elijah Iles House. The land on which this house stood was purchased by Elijah Iles in 1834 and he built the house near the corners of South 6th and Cook Streets in the late 1830s. In 1841 after Iles died, the house was bought by Robert Irwin, a  personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Other owners followed and in 1909 Edward Hall inherited the house. He sold the land to the First Christian Church and the house to Latham and Lyna Souther, who had to move it. They moved the house to a site at 1825 South Fifth Street, thereby saving it from demolition. Owners came and went and there were many changes to the house until in 1993, the city of Springfield purchased the house. The Elijah Iles House Foundation was created and they moved the house to 628 South Seventh Street, just a block away from where it originally stood. The foundation restored the house, furnished it with period furniture and opened it to the public.

Elijah Iles House, Springfield, IL, USA



Dana-Thomas House, Springfield, IL, USA

Dana-Thomas House

Here is one house that we can guarantee that Abraham Lincoln never visited.  The Dana-Thomas House is one of the best preserved examples of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Prairie style’ houses. Susan Lawrence Dana was widowed in 1900 leaving her with a substantial fortune made from silver mines in the Rocky Mountains. She lived the life of an independent socialite in Springfield.  In 1902 when she decided to remodel her Italianate mansion, she was introduced to Frank Lloyd Wright. He designed for her a 35 room house complete with glass work and furniture. Dana lived in the house from 1904 until 1928, using it regularly for hosting social events. In 1928 she moved to a cottage in the grounds and in 1944 after her health had declined, the house was sold. The second owner was Charles C. Thomas who lived in the house with his wife until 1981. They made few changes to the house, so when the State of Illinois bought the house in 1981 it had one of the most intact Frank Lloyd Wright interiors in the USA.  The house has been restored to its early appearance and is open for guided tours Wednesday to Sunday.

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