Springfield IL 2013

Lincoln Home from 1st Trip
Lincoln Home from 1st Trip

Without really setting out to we seem to get over to Springfield, Illinois every four or five years. The first time I went was with a 4-H bus trip. It was at a miserable time of year and we were supposed to sleep on floor of the gym at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in sleeping bags. It rained buckets and some of the sleeping bags got wet in the bus cargo area and we had to share the dry ones that were left. Meaning I had to give up my Mickey and Minnie Mouse one – I was NOT a happy 8 year old.

First Trip to Springfield to My Latest

It was a memorable trip. I had my Disc camera (for you young people that was a flat camera whose film was a round disc) and took photos of every place we went from New Salem (a recreated village where Lincoln lived as a young man) to the Lincoln Home. Some of the places we went (like the wax museum) are no longer there. Some have been created since then (the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum).  I took a photo of the Tower that stuck  out over town on that first trip. It was a 30 floor skyscraper. That’s where I’m staying this trip in 2013. I never thought I’d be able to say that.

Hilton Tower from 1st Trip
Hilton Tower from 1st Trip

We’ve made several trips back to Springfield for Midwest Open-air Museum Coordinating Conferences, either held in town or nearby and that’s what brought us back in March 2013.

Souvenirs

This time we didn’t have a lot of drive around time. But the day we arrived we hit both of our favorite Lincoln giftshops (both that are on at least their second generation of family ownership & you kind of step back in time when you go in, the one near the cemetery gate is the place with the cheapest postcards I’ve found in town).

Lincoln’s Tomb

Then we headed out to the Cemetery – we hadn’t visited the Lincoln grave since our second visit, when my mom introduced us to the concept of rubbing Lincoln’s nose on the bust outside for

Wax Museum No Longer There
Wax Museum No Longer There

good luck. You can always tell when one of these statues has a similar tradition because the oil from people’s hand when they rub whatever part of the statue that is lucky keeps it brightly shining when the rest of the statue patinas. I enjoyed visiting the Lincoln tomb which was surprisingly busy.

It was the first time back since watching Stealing Lincoln’s Body. The only problem was the apparently half trained guide who was giving her spiel to a school trip ahead of us.  She had a couple of things I was knew were factual errors and couple more I was pretty sure weren’t right. She wasn’t very open to questions about the errors either after the group left.

I took a

Lincoln House 2013
Lincoln House 2013

photo of each of the many statues on the inside this time taking you through stages of Lincoln’s life this time and we went around to the public holding vault around the other side of the hill that I had never seen before that was where Lincoln waited half the time while waiting for the tomb’s construction to finish.

Hilton Hotel

We checked into the Hilton Hotel which was the Tower I mentioned before. I never thought I’d ever stay there when I first saw it. We were on the 9th floor, but  conference rooms were on both the Mezzanine and on the 29th floor, necessitating frequent use of the glass elevators (even after we got sort of stuck in a frozen one – it never did move but the doors did open again after hitting both the alarm and door open buttons). We had valet parked our car from arrival until departure due to the horrible parking situation in downtown Springfield (I swear it’s as bad as Des Moines right at the heart of downtown, although that changes quite a bit if you’re willing to park further out and walk in (and I’m talking a difference of maybe 3 or 4 blocks).

A last thing about the hotel specifically, every conference MOMCC gets a hospitality suite which is open to all attendees at certain hours. It’s generally not a place I spend a lot of time,  but this time I visited to poke around because they actually gave us a hotel room with a full kitchen, multiple seating areas, a dining room, and two floors. I’ve seen smaller houses. It even had an open staircase. I doubt we’d ever get anything like that again, but can I say WOW! It did impress.  Normally the hospitality suite is a normal room with 2 queen beds and most people sitting on the floor.

Giftshop by Cemetery 2013
Giftshop by Cemetery 2013

Lincoln Home

The reception was at the Lincoln Home which has the well informed policy of allowing photography within the house, even using the flash based on studies of the non-detrimental after all flashes by Eastman Kodak.

I always enjoy comparing the two parlors with the illustrations of the room that appeared in Leslie’s Illustrated News (which is available, along with loads of great books, in the Lincoln Home Giftshop). This time we had the actual director of the site doing the tour since it was after hours as part of the opening reception. My favorite addition from my last time was a full sized recreated campaign log cabin, like they built on wagons and used at campaign activities. Also, I learned that house on the corner that is used for their living history costume changes etc. is actually a recreation of the house that was a few blocks over. It’s a recreation of Mary Lincoln’s sister’s house, where Mary lived in Springfield before she married Abraham and when she returned to Springfield after his assassination. The visitor center has also got a recreated 3D map of Springfield at the time and by pushing buttons you can follow the lighted track of things like where Lincoln went on the day he found out he was elected President. It was really fun. In case you are wondering Daniel Day Lewis did visit in preparation for making the Lincoln movie. They closed down

Campaign Float Recreated 2013
Campaign Float Recreated 2013

the park to give him and the group of VIPs he was with a special tour. He wasn’t dressed as Lincoln yet though. (A method actor he totally immersed himself in the character during filming.)

Ghosts of Lincoln

After the reception I joined up with the Lincoln’s Ghost Walk. It was lead by Garret Moffett who has written books including Haunted Springfield Illinois and Lincoln’s Ghost: Legends and Lore. He also is part of the living history program that operates in Springfield during the summer and says that a billionaire has recreated Lincoln’s funeral train car. They are planning on running it from Chicago to Springfield and filming the whole thing in 2015. They have had such an overwhelming response that they are now working on trying to raise funding to run it all the way from Washington, D.C. The actual furniture used in the funeral car is on display at the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa. See it here:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/union-pacific-museum

Read more about the recreation of the funeral train slated for 2015:
http://www.lincolninstitute.com/Lincoln%20Funeral%20Car/Lincoln%20Funeral%20Car.html

http://www.the2015lincolnfuneraltrain.com

The Ghost tour was lots of fun and would actually be a good way of kicking off a Springfield visit helping you realize where things were in relationship to each other including the Lincoln Law Office, the Old State Capitol, the Lincoln family pew, the Lincoln Home and the Lincoln Depot. The Lincoln Depot is privately owned. A local lawyer has his offices on the second floor, but restored the main floor to its original appearance. It

Lincoln House Interior 2013
Lincoln House Interior 2013

had always confused me if you could visit it or not, but (if you can find a parking place) it is open to the public during business hours.

Conference Sessions

Most of the next day and a half were full of sessions on things like 18th century clothing, how to make 19th century shoes, the Donner Party, Route 66, Black Hawk: A Biography, etc. I didn’t present this time, although I have several times at past conferences. The big event Friday night is the ball. Although costume is not required, lots of people bring one of their “normal” period clothes and there is costume contest. Sometimes there is a theme, but normally you get things like an 1830s gentleman talking to a 1940s WAC or a late 19th century laboring man talking to someone who might have gone down on the Titanic. It’s always a great time just to look around and see what everybody is wearing.  This time they had an extra contest for being best costume connected with Lincoln. They had people doing everything from being the Lincoln Highway to being mourners as the funeral train passed through Cincinnati (complete with photo of “them” with the train) to the  fireman on the funeral train (down to black smudges on his face). My favorite though was portraying Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, and she somehow begged, borrowed, or stole a glass of milk from the caterers to top it off.

MOMCC Party 2013
MOMCC Party 2013

I also stirred up a little fuss on the food history side of things that I will fill you in on as soon as I get my e-mail sent to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and get their response.

Word of a potential snowstorm got us leaving as soon as I gave the foodways resource group report to the MOMCC board, we headed out. My mother was traveling with me and she freaks out far from home in bad weather, but as it was we got all the way home before the first flake flew.

Survey Museum

I hoped we might get to stop at the National Surveyors Museum (which went through everything from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as surveyor to modern GPS systems), which is sadly shutting down and this was the last chance. The economy dived just when they were getting started and Surveyor income with it, they didn’t get the support they thought they would from the professional surveyor community. The museum is now closed and they’re planning on auctioning off the collection. The former director’s presentation on Lincoln as Surveyor was really fascinating. I learned a lot. He also got a statue placed at New Salem honoring Lincoln as surveyor (New Salem holds Lincoln’s original surveying tools).

It was a great trip. I enjoyed it and hope to get back soon. Next time I want to hit some more of the Route 66 stuff including an original Cozy Dog.

Burt Wolf Travels and Traditions
http://www.burtwolf.com/program-blog/tt-210

Springfield is known for:

Lincoln
http://www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/Lincoln/

Route 66
http://www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/Route-66/

Frank Lloyd Wright:
http://www.dana-thomas.org/

Unusual and Fun Ways to look around Springfield:

Historic Bus Step On/Step Off
http://www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/Documents/historical.pdf (2012)

The brochure map linked to above is still from 2012, but the program is still in existence and I can’t find a more current summary anywhere. Contact http://www.smtd.org/ for more information.

Walking Tour

http://www.visitspringfieldillinois.com/Things-To-Do/Tours (Tour Options)
http://www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/Documents/07_WalkingTourMap_FINAL.pdf (Map)

UPDATE August 14, 2015: I only started the update. I made the photos larger and added my signature block.

UPDATE August 29, 2015: I did some editing for clarity, broke the text into a few more paragraphs, added headings and confirmed and if need corrected all links.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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trundlebedtales

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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