The transformation of the city of Pontiac, Illinois

Located about an hour and a half southwest of Chicago is the small city of Pontiac Illinois. To be honest, the only mentions of this place that I ever heard growing up referred to the state prison located at the south end of town. In recent years however the city has made a concerted to transform itself into a tourism destination, and in my opinion is well on its way.

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Firstly, in the center of town is a very attractive turn of the century styled Town Hall.

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Until I approached it I hadn’t known that this was one of the towns included in the National Park Service’s Looking for Lincoln Trek.

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I also found it was quite attractive on the inside as well, although not quite as nice as on the outside (they need to work on that). It’s a bit too spartan (other than the floors) and why is Lincoln looking at the ground?IMG_0286.JPGAlso, one does not expect with a population of just shy of 12K people to have four museums (I went to two of them, the Auto museum and the Gilding arts one, and they were both worth the visit). In addition, the city has been embracing the tourism tactic of hiring artists to pain murals around the downtown area to beautify itIMG_0284.JPGAnd another very cute thing that they’ve done is to scatter these cars for kids on street corners around townIMG_0287

I really have to give my props to the Mayor and city consul of Pontiac Illinois for transforming their little town from a town whose major employer was a state prison into something worthy of extended visits from those doing the route 66 trek, as well day trips for people living in the Chicagoland area.

Knob Creek, KY: Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home, from age 2

If you were on a Lincoln pilgrimage to the impressive memorial at Lincoln’s birthplace, and have some spare time, one of the places you might want to consider as part of your trip is  Knob Creek, KY, the homestead his family moved to when he was two years old; Granted, what’s currently there now is nowhere near as impressive as what stands at his birthplace, but it would have been the place he thought of as his childhood home, and unlike the birthplace, this is where he would have had an emotional connection to… and as such, it’s worth a few minutes.

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BOY do I fall behind in my “work” when it comes to this blog. WAY back in 2016 I visited this part of the country, and I had THOUGHT I had blogged about it, but when in 2018 I went to Springfield, IL, the site of Lincoln’s adult home, and his tomb… and found myself wanting to link to that blog post about the one I had done for his birthplace … and found myself wondering where in the hell that blog for it had gone to, only to realize I’d never written it … I decided to rectify that lapse (a few days ago), and today I’m doing the same for this satellite location where he grew up. That said, it’s been a LONG time since I was there, and although I’m looking back in my Facebook postings for notes, those were pretty scarce… so this post will mostly be about the pictures.

The site of Lincoln’s childhood home about 42.5 miles/about an easy 15 minute drive from his birthplace – where his family moved to when he was two years old. So if you choose to visit it (and why not) an important thing to keep in mind is that a horse walks about four miles per hour, and as such… in Lincoln’s time the distance between the two locations took was about 10 hours by horse, or about 14 hours by foot — so it’s likely Lincoln might have had no memory at all of the place of his birth, and as such, to him, Knob Creek would have been much more important to him emotionally.

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That said, it is a quick nine minute drive from Hodgenville, KY, a very small town of around five eateries (two being fast food) and little “commercial” museum (basically a business set up by a local). That’s also worth stopping in.

As you’re driving down road 31E watch out for this sign on your left, as it’s fairly easy to drive past if you’re not paying attention (like I said, it’s unimpressive).

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What you’ll see is a nondescript roadhouse type building that was built much later on the same property (sorry, I never bothered to take a picture of it, as it is NOT related to Lincoln) and some parking… At the time when I went to visit the building was essentially empty, but had some of these signs scattered around it explaining what it was

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Once you’ve parked and walked behind that front building, you’ll see this

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And then scattered around that are more official “tourist signs” offering information about the location.

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After that you might want to consider a trip back into Hodgenville for a bite to eat, and to walk around the little museum they have there.

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There are TWO massive statues in the middle of town….One is very similar to, but different from the at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.,  As I discuss in the blog post about his tomb, which I visited two years later, in Springfield, IL in 2018; one of the things I learned there from the docent giving the tour was that first statue of Lincoln that you see when you enter the tomb is NOT an exact copy of the one in the D.C., but rather a precursor to it… according to the docent, the artist, Daniel Chester French had actually presented various bronze versions of the statue, before one was chosen to be chiseled in marble, and the one in the tomb was one of them. I initially was guessing that this one here near the place of his birth was one of those other designs (because it’s almost a copy of it) …. but one should never assume, because according to Wikipedia, I was wrong…  I actually feel kind of sad for the artist of this statue, because AS a former artist myself, there’s nothing more disheartening than having a paying customer who only wants you to mimic someone else’s work.

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Not my image, borrowed from this open source website dedicated to US presidents

Than, across the park (?) from the much older Lincoln, stands a newer smaller statue of Lincoln as the young boy he might have been when he lived here, sitting on a log, reading a book, and looking across a street to the statue of himself as an adult… almost as though he were dreaming of who he might be when he grew up. It’s really a very nice juxtaposition… and I’m guessing that artist (of the newer statue) has a lot of pride in his new creation. In fact, AS a former artist, I think the new statue sort of redeems the copycat older one.

 

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Keep in mind, when this picture was taken, Obama was still President

As is visible in the picture of the statue of the older Lincoln, behind it there is a museum dedicated to Lincoln. In fact it’s a sort of shop, really; as, it is a commercial/private enterprise rather than professionally curated museum, which is pretty obvious once you get inside. That said, I think it’s still worth looking at, especially if you have kids with you who are just learning about Lincoln.

First when you walk in there are a wide variety of art type objects related to Lincoln that are scattered pell-mell through the front rooms (like I said, NOT curated in any way shape of form)

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One of my favorite pieces in the collection, it’s very conceptual and made with local stone

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Two images… the first is a print where the artist has created a montage of Lincoln’s face using a variety of actual photographs taken of him, the second is an image of him made up of Lincoln pennies

Once you pass this area you enter a back section where a LOT more effort was put into creating the area. Each section is full of life-size constructed vignettes or dioramas full of antiques (authenticity or period-correctness be damned I am guessing, but again I’m not sure) with semi-realistic wax dolls, sort of like a mini Madame Tussaud‘s dedicated to Lincoln, at different points in his life

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So, like I said, especially if you’re traveling with a child, and you know your history and can explain, I think the museum is definitley worth a walk through.

 

 

 

 

 

Is there a the connection between Lincoln logs and the log cabin Abraham Lincoln was born in? HMMMMMMMM…. a theory

I have just come up with a convoluted but not so unlikely theory regarding the invention of Lincoln logs and why they are called Lincoln logs…

So yesterday while Visiting Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL I learned they were invented by Frank Loyd Wrights son…

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Well I have been the memorial for Lincoln’s birthplace, inside of which stands a log cabin

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today I learn I was wondering who were these Lincoln Farm Association folks…  and learned that…

According to Wikipedia:

Richard Lloyd Jones “From 1903 until 1911, he was a writer and associate editor for Collier’s Weekly, working under the publisher Robert J. Collier.[1] In 1905, Robert Collier and Jones collaborated to buy the old Abraham Lincoln farm at auction in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Then they organized a fundraising campaign to establish a historic site, which was opened during the Lincoln Centennial in 1909. The first board of trustees for the site included Jones, Jenkin Lloyd Jones [his dad]Mark TwainWilliam Jennings Bryan and President William H. Taft.[1]

AND….

Jenkin Lloyd Jones was not only a famous Unitarian minister, but was ALSO the uncle of Frank Lloyd Wright.

So what you ask?

I have been to Lincoln’s birth place, and according to both the staff member at the memorial  and Wikipedia the log cabin that is there is NOT the original, but according to this site it was — or at least the guys who made up the Lincoln Association, who were the ones that bought the building thought it was. Doing more research I found this site which sort of explains the confusion.

Apparently, in 1894 a speculator by the name of A.W. Dennett bought the farm where Lincoln had been born thinking people would want to see it, and had deconstructed a two-story log cabin found on a different part of the property, and moved its logs over to the spot where the original farm was thought to have stood (the original building had long ago been disassembled and he just assumed that this Lincoln cabin had been built using those logs). He then opened the spot for business, only no one came — because, no one was interested enough to shelp to rural Kentucky… So, as the saying goes, if you can’t bring Mohammed to the Mountain…. and at one point he added the logs from the cabin that was supposed to have been the childhood home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. But, with all the building and taking-apart and moving around, the Davis logs and the Lincoln logs got mixed up… so that by the time the Lincoln Farm Association got around to buying the land and the logs back from Dennett, it was anybody’s guess (by historical standards) which if any of the logs were from the original house, when they ‘rebuilt the house’ in Hodgenville.

SO, Frank Loyd Wright’s son is the cousin of the guy who started the foundation to buy up the property that had been Lincoln’s birthplace and original home which was on touring display (come see Lincoln’s cabin) both of which were owned by the same guy… oh and this guy also own the Jefferson Davis logs from his original home and would show them together… and in the South, Lincoln logs were not marketed as Lincoln logs, they were marketed as Jefferson Davis Logs… coincidence? I doubt it…

 

Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace; Hodgenville, KY

The Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln is located on the top of a hill just outside of Hodgenville Kentucky, in National Historical Park that safeguards both his birthplace and the first home he lived in. Other than that, there’s really not much there.

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Over a year ago, on Sunday Nov. 13, 2016, during one of my many road trips I had pit stopped at the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, and for some reason COMPLETELY forgotten to blog about it. (I had been to Zachary Taylor’s Tomb the day before and THAT I had blogged about, but for some reason never did this.) I thought I had, but apparently Not so much. I didn’t realize till just yesterday, when I was blogging about his tomb and wanting to link to the post about his birthplace and wondering where the hell the blog for it had gone to … so I have decided to rectify that lapse now. That said, it’s been a LONG time since I was there, and although I’m looking back in my Facebook postings for notes, those were pretty scarce… so this post will mostly be about the pictures.

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So, one thing I did find in my Facebook notes from the day of my visit was that there had been NO WiFi or data accessible outside of the building (I have T-Mobile), although there was some free WiFi inside of it.

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Getting up to the top of the building was NOT easy for me. My legs were still very weak at this point, and all of the various ways up to the monument involved a lot of steps (handicapped accessible the place is not)….

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The poor Dachshund belonging to these two people was not liking the steps either

Today I learned from Wikipedia that there are in fact 56 steps going up the hill, and that the number is intentional, as it was Lincoln’s age at the time of his death

Once you got to the top you could read this dedication laid into the stone …
(only I remember at the time I was seriously wondering why almost all the R’s in it looked like P’s)

Here
over the log cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born
Destined to preserve the Union and to free the slave
A grateful people have dedicated this memorial
To unity peace and brotherhood among these states
With Malice toward none, with charity for all

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And when you got inside (according to my FB notes from that day) there was movie about Lincoln and his life, whose over-riding message was that “acceptance and inclusion are what makes America great”… something that had sounded particularly jarring to me at the time. (Keep in mind that Donald Trump beaten Hillary in the election for President JUST four days before, and I was in the state of Kentucky, a former slave state that had declared neutrality at the start of the Civil war, and where pro-Trump stickers and posters were common place — he won the state by 62.54%, and on that day every racist red neck in the state was still in a state of euphoria over the win).

There was a nice bronze of Lincoln’s family, when he was a tiny baby (having just been born of course)

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And then inside this huge structure stood what the staff member (I remember this person was particularly grumpy) told me and the other visitors was a reminder of the original house. We were like all amazed that it was the actual house and he was like, “No, it’s just a replica.”

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You can see the cabin stands empty (no furniture), and in the bottom left the staff member who told us it wasn’t the actual home

So, while from the outside it’s a very nice looking building (there was a slab on the side of the building that gives you some of the history of the place… something about the whole thing had my hackles up… could a state that had just gone overwhelmingly Trump have actually put up a monument to Lincoln?

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According to this plaque on the outside of the building I still couldn’t be sure. It says that the memorial was built with funds raised by the Lincoln Farm association, the Cornerstone was laid by President Roosevelt in 1909, and it was dedicated by President Taft in 1911

However, now that I’m researching all of this I have learned that, the Association was founded in 1906 specifically to save this location, was headquartered in New York (NOT Kentucky) and included such notables as Samuel Clemens (aka, Mark Twain), Ida M. Tarbell, Robert Collier and Richard Lloyd Jones

According to Wikipedia: “From 1903 until 1911, he was a writer and associate editor for Collier’s Weekly, working under the publisher Robert J. Collier.[1] In 1905, Robert Collier and Jones collaborated to buy the old Abraham Lincoln farm at auction in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Then they organized a fundraising campaign to establish a historic site, which was opened during the Lincoln Centennial in 1909. The first board of trustees for the site included Jones, Jenkin Lloyd Jones [his dad]Mark TwainWilliam Jennings Bryan and President William H. Taft.[1]

So in other words, No, this memorial was NOT built by the state of Kentucky or even anyone who lived here.

According to both the staff member and Wikipedia the log cabin is NOT the original, but according to this site it was — or at least the guys who bought the building thought it was. Doing more research I found this site which sort of explains the confusion.

Apparently, in 1894 a speculator by the name of A.W. Dennett bought the farm where Lincoln had been born thinking people would want to see it, and had deconstructed a two-story log cabin found on a different part of the property, and moved its logs over to the spot where the original farm was thought to have stood (the original building had long ago been disassembled and he just assumed that this Lincoln cabin had been built using those logs). He then opened the spot for business, only no one came — because, no one was interested enough to shelp to rural Kentucky… So, as the saying goes, if you can’t bring Mohammed to the Mountain…. and at one point he added the logs from the cabin that was supposed to have been the childhood home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. But, with all the building and taking-apart and moving around, the Davis logs and the Lincoln logs got mixed up… so that by the time the Lincoln Farm Association got around to buying the land and the logs back from Dennett, it was anybody’s guess (by historical standards) which if any of the logs were from the original house, when they ‘rebuilt the house’ in Hodgenville.

So, all that said, back to the site…  At the bottom of the hill where the memorial to Lincoln’s childhood home sits, on what is known to have been the location of said home is a spring, which is still there….

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And worth walking down to…

Also, out by the parking lot, there is something actually pretty cool. It is a metal copy of the memorial specifically designed to allow blind people to see the memorial. Keep in mind blind people see by using the sense of touch…  Cool right? I seriously wonder why I haven’t seen more of these around the country. This would be my first.

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President Lincoln’s Tomb; Springfield, IL

All the presidential tomb’s I’ve seen so far have been highly impressive, and Abraham Lincoln‘s is no exception. If you’re going to Springfield, IL to do the Lincoln pilgrimage I strongly suggest it. Warning, it is really NOT walking distance from the downtown area where the rest of the tourist attractions are, it’s a good 2.5 miles away …. so you’ll need either a car, or to take the public bus (whose route does connect the Lincoln’s tomb to his house).

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This small nondescript door is the entrance to the tomb, I was expecting something larger and grander, or to have to go up the stairs on its side to get to the upper level, but no…. apparently not

 

 

As soon as you enter you see a smaller bronze version of the famous Lincoln Memorial statue from D.C.. You then go through the doorway on the right, taking a circular path back to the crypt, and then keep going until you come back out via the doorway on the left (like the two people in the picture below)

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I got lucky, and right after I had walked through the whole monument on my own and was getting ready to leave, a school group came in, so the docent (he looked to be in his early 20’s), who had entirely ignored me, got up and started sharing information. So I stuck around and did it a second time, this time with a guide.

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Things I learned: Firstly, there are 36 sets of the sort of caramel colored vertical design elements surrounding the room, representing the number of states in the union when Lincoln died; Secondly, the ceiling of the room is made of some sort of metal (platinum or something of the sort) that at the time of the building was more valuable than gold, and thirdly… the air conditioning vents are covered with wheat like designs, to represent the fields of the area (what is now the midwest)

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Most interestingly I thought, the statue of Lincoln is not a copy of the one in D.C., but rather a precursor to it… according to the docent, the artist, Daniel Chester French had actually presented various bronze versions of the statue, before one was chosen to be chiseled in marble, and this was one of them.

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As soon as I came in I had mentioned to him (before the school kids arrived) how I love that Lincoln has fasces below each of his hands. When the school children arrived he pointed them out, and I asked if I could add something (I looked at the teacher and said, “I’m a former teacher, she nodded her permission”), and I then told the students about how if you take a toothpick and break it, it’s easy to do. If you take a bunch of toothpicks and hold them together like the sticks in a fasces and try to break it, it’s MUCH harder to do. And then, if you then compare how hard it is to break that fasces made of 4 or 5 toothpicks with how hard it is to break a stick of the same width, you also find that it is HARDER to break the fasces than the stick. It’s physics, but it also represents an idea, that we are stronger as a union; that the total is greater than the sum of its parts. (I sware to G-d I saw tears come to the eyes of one of the teachers. She then came and thanked me. I’m guessing there’s a back story that I don’t know, but it was nice.)

Also, according to the docent, if you go to the lincoln memorial in D.C. something you really can’t see is the back of the marble statue, and as such one important symbolic element of the piece is lost… Lincoln is sitting on an American flag.

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According to him, this was not intended to be disrespectful, but rather a manifestation of his fierce resolve to not allow the flag, with a star for every state, to be torn apart. I.e., by sitting on it, Lincoln is protecting it.

After viewing the statue, you then follow this sign into the pathway to the right

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Along the path are black panels like the one above, and a whole series of Bronzes of Lincoln depicting him at various ages and stages of his life in sets of two, standing across from each other at various bends along the circular path

 

 

So the images above and below are of statues located right across from each other, and show him as a young adult starting his career, probably as he might have looked upon first arriving in Springfield.

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While the bronze below which was further along the path is him as president, and we know this because he was clean-shaven up until he shortly before he became President until convinced by a letter written by a 12-year-old girl convinced him to grow it:

Dear Sir
My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to [sic] but I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter direct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chautauqua County New York.
I must not write any more answer this letter right off Good bye
Grace Bedell

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After these statues you finally arrive at the crypt, which has more of those black panels on either side, only these have some of his best known speeches:

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The guide basically told us what was written on the sign that was right next to him (read below) adding a few the facts, namely that the ceiling above the crypt was lined with 18k gold, and the reason the President was 10 feet down instead of six, and was also encased in concrete (which the sign didn’t say) was that between his burial and the completion of the tomb, there had been an attempted theft for ransom of Lincoln’s body

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And then, after pointing out all the flags mentioned in the sign and describing their meaning. He asked us, “Do you know where Licoln was born?” … total silence till a teacher said, “Kentucky” and he pointed to that flag; Then he asked the room, “does anyone know which state he lived in after Kentucky but before Illinois?” again silence, and the teachers didn’t appear to know, so I said, “Indiana” and he said “right”; and then  he held out the Flag of the President of the United States that according to him, was placed there in order to represent not only Lincoln, but also all the Presidents since him who had come to visit the Tomb….

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He said he ‘thought’ that President Reagan might have been the one to have added it to the collection when he came to visit, but said he wasn’t actually sure which president had done it, so not to hold him to that

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And then he noted that on “the wall behind you”, just as the sign had said, there are the crypts of Mary Todd Lincoln and most of her sons, excluding Robert, who was buried in Arlington Cemetary (he was a veteran of the Civil War) … at which point I quietly added to the adults standing by me what I had learned about Robert from my visit to Mary Todd’s family home in May of 2016, about what an asshole he was and how he had tried to get control of her money.

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When I was finally leaving the tomb, I passed the manager of the younger guy who had been giving the tour and asked him if there was anything else in the graveyard I should see before leaving… he said that there was in fact a second tomb, where Lincoln had been buried the first time. That this was the second burial location (Lincoln died in 1865 and his body was moved around a few times — read the history of the Tomb until it reached it’s final resting place about 10 years later.) So this manager said I could take a walking path, that he pointed out, around to the back of the tomb and then go down a staircase of, I think he said 55 steps (!!!) to the bottom. (see the photo below, take from the bottom of said steps)

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Now, with my horrible balance, bad knees, weak legs, and a general level of out of shapedness (yes I know, that’s not a word), … So I just gave him a sort of a ‘look’ which I guess clearly communicated to him that this was probably not going to happen… so he said, “OR, you could get into your car, and as you exit the parking lot take a right hand turn, then another — you’ll see signs, and the road will wind down to the back of the monument where you can see it from your car…. So that’s what I did.

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So I have now been to Lincoln’s birth place and his home in Springfield, and Tomb…

 

 

 

Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL

The Abraham Lincoln Home (the only home he ever owned) is a national historic site in Springfield, IL, and a must see for anyone from the state (see below), or anyone interested in his life. It is actually a preserved district that allows you to see his neighborhood as he would have, and contains: a visitors center, his home, and collection of preserved neighbors’ homes that surrounded his (although only the interiors of a few of those homes are accessible, and those constitute more museum space, than presenting them as they were) ….  Entrance is free to the public … i.e., your tax dollars at work.

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To preface this, I was born and raised in Illinois, I am in my early 50’s and this is the FIRST time I have been to my state’s capital, Springfield, IL. SERIOUSLY! Everyone else in my school went on the Springfield class trip, but not me. I didn’t get to go on the Washington, D.C., school trip either. My parents always complained that the cost was too high and that they’d take me, but they never did. It’s kind of embarrassing.

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The first thing to know is IF you drive your car, be warned, the parking lot on the property will charge you $2 an hour (in leu of an entrance fee), and you have to tell them how many hours you want to stay there and then put the receipt on your car’s window or be ticketed. That said, IF you come on a weekend street parking is free (not weekdays), and I came on a Saturday, and had no trouble at all find a spot no more than a block away from the site. Also, are a handful of covered parking lots not more than a block or two away, and the one I found (1 block away) was only $1/hour, with a maximum charge of $5 for the whole day, but you must have exact cash (which I didn’t) and it didn’t take credit cards.

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After you park, you head into the visitor’s center (this is where you pay for your parking if you used their lot), and ask for your free ticket for a tour of the house. I asked them why there was no fee (Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville for instance was NOT free… nor was the childhood home of Mrs. Lincoln in Lexington, KY). And they said, IN UNISON, a spiel about how “Robert Todd Lincoln donated the family home… under the condition that it would forever be well maintained and open to the public at no charge” (while putting together this blog I found it pretty much word for word on the Wikipedia site). The Tours start every few minutes and the tickets are just to keep the groups at manageable numbers.

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That said, I told the staff member how just a few days ago I was at the Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, and how they managed the same feat simply by setting up some chairs, and only allowing in at one time as many people as could comfortably sit in those chairs… a practice that is much greener, i.e., would save a lot paper.

Inside the visitor’s center there is a massive map of the historic district, with displays around the edges where you can press button to light up various houses or routes, with explanations of what it is that’s lit up.

IMG_1668.JPGThere’s also a movie on the history of Lincoln, and about his relationship to the historic site and the Civil war ………..

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……….which offers an overly simplistic view of the man; it’s what I like to refer to as the middle school version of Lincoln, the one that says he was against slavery (full stop).

[Begin rant] The reality is a lot more complex. Lincoln really didn’t like slavery, he thought it was a bad institution, and he wanted to contain it (keep it from spreading to new states)… but he never said he wanted to end it (He thought that would happen naturally) … At least that was his stance until the realities of the fact that Union was essentially losing the war and house might in fact become divided drove him to it.

Lincoln’s House Divided Speech made before he became President was actually very specific, but few folks bother to really pay attention to it:

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”

So he was sure the Union would have to go one way or the other, all slave or all free, and he was very worried that it go all slave. That he could not abide.

In addition if you actually read the Emancipation Proclamation, which “freed the slaves” it actually doesn’t. It says any Confederate state that doesn’t end its rebellion by January 1, 1863 would lose the right to own slaves … which by default means that if the state DID end it’s rebellion, they could continue to own them… and by extension, the three slave states that had not rebelled, including Kentucky where he was born, could continue to own their slaves (at least until the 13th amendment was passed). AND, by doing so Lincoln ensured that the French and the British, would not come to the Confederacies aid (from whom both countries bought a lot of cotton) …. The British had publicly declared their support of the South’s right to secede. Keep in mind America pretty much owes its independence to French intervention in the our rebellion from the British.
… P.S., putting aside the whole slavery issue….  to this day lawyers STILL debate whether the South was within it’s right to secede from the Union, and very few believe Lincoln’s arguments for why they did not have the right were airtight (and most of them think Lincoln, who was a really good lawyer, knew it).
[End rant]

In addition to the movie and the interactive map the visitor’s center has a really good gift shop with a large selection of goodies

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Learning that Frank Loyd Wright’s son invented Lincoln logs led to a massive brain fart on my part that I blogged about (read here, it’s actually interesting I think)

And of course there a very large book selection about Lincoln and the Civil War (both written and recorded formats) … I bought a few of these useful things called BottleEze (they had them with Lincoln’s home printed on the sides) where you clip one end around the neck of your water bottle, and stick the other over your pants waistband, or in a tight pocket,

From time to time (you need to check their schedules) the historic site does special things, living history demonstrations. I was lucky enough to stumble onto one. The woman at the front desk told me that in the lecture room (adjacent to the movie theater) I would find Abraham Lincoln…. so I opened the door to find…

IMG_1669Martin Luther king talking to Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman— apparently this is a regular event for the kids (who get to draw fake beards on to their faces before it starts).

I only stayed for a little bit because it was about time for tour to start (and you are supposed to be there five minutes before the start time.

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This was the first room we entered, the Lincoln’s divided living room area (there are big wooden doors that can be closed in the middle, if he needed to speak with visitors)

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IMG_1672.JPGOne of the things I learned, while listening to the tour guide gave us her introduction, wa that today is the anniversary of Lincoln being asked to run, in this room. The shelves against the living room wall are called apparently called whatnots — and I own some — they’re tucked away in storage till I settle down; my parents had a few of them, almost identical to these, and till today I never knew they had a specific name. (Last time I got this excited about a piece of furniture was when I visited Elvis’ kitchen Graceland and he had almost exactly the same interior design for his kitchen, down to the same brands of ovens and stoves).

That said, I asked the tour guide if in fact Mrs. Lincoln kept a bust of her husbands head in pride of place at the top of the whatnot… she smiled and said that it seems she did. When Lincoln was running for President a bust was made of his head and mass-produced for sale, and Mrs Lincoln is known to have displayed it in the living room. To which I said, “like a proud mama.” The tour guide agreed.

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This is the closest I will ever get to touching Abraham Lincoln. These banisters are original to the house.

This site gives you a good overview of the interior of the house

That said, according to the tour guide, very little of what’s in the house is actually original, although she pointed out to us every item that was. I found this one document which I think says the entire sum of original objects in the house is 48. The rest of the furniture pieces are similar or identical to things the Lincolns were thought to have owned, based on sketches that had been made of the rooms, or original items held in private collections. If you search on the internet you can see that the sale of Park passes, and the $2/hour parking fees are being used to slowly buy up bits and pieces of the Lincoln’s possessions from private collectors to return to the house.

That said, one original item that they were able to obtain, according to the tour guide, was Mary Lincolns personal toilet … oh and apparently the Lincolns slept in adjoining but separate bedrooms. (No, I’m not going to go there)
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After viewing the house, I walked around the “neighborhood” making a point of stepping into any of the houses that were open for viewing, and reading the various informational signs scattered along the gravel road.
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The contents of each of the open homes had a different focus… sort of like rooms in a museum, with each house constituting a museum room.
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This house focused on the various families who lived in the neighborhood and shared some information about each of them, how we know what we know (the evidence), and items found during excavations, etc.
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While this next house focused on what was involved in restoring this heritage homes NOT to meet modern standards but to re-create the historic ones, historic building techniques, etc.
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This open corner shows the exposed walls, as originally built, with buttons you could push that would create red laser dots of light on the topic being discussed… in this case, she’s pushing on the button for the Nails… and there’s a red dot on one of the nail heads. (As luck would have it the woman standing there’s father had been a builder so she was all excited about it and telling me stuff)
Another of the walk through homes, the between the lincoln home and the visitor’s center, had a detailed display talking about who the Lincoln’s bought their home from and for how much; and how when the they first bought it, it was only a story and a half (a great starter home for a young married couple); but then, as Lincoln became successful and influential, they remodeled it, taking off the roof and expanding it to two floors, etc. (not going to bother posting pictures of it)
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Walking around the neighborhood, it is a very pretty shaded lane, and I found that locals take advantage of it.
Most of the houses you could NOT walk inside of came instead with these interactive options, where you call a number and then listen to a description.
If you want a listen to it call:   +1 (217) 213- 3003   and then press 50#
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According to this guide, Springfield at the time of Lincoln’s having lived here was a fairly diverse population, with a large recent immigrant population which included quite a few African-Americans affluent enough to afford their own homes. (apparently, if you come with a group of children — or 15 or more adults, you can pre-arrange to have a park ranger guide you around)
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For instance, this currently empty plot (before the yellow house) is just a few houses away from Lincoln’s home and used to contain two homes — both of which were owned by a Mr. Jenkins, one of Springfield’s African-American residents (the 2nd home was for his sister). He was fairly prosperous (obviously) and was involved in the “trucking” industry, moving goods around the country.
Both the tour guid and recorded guide point out that he was on good terms with the Lincolns and transported them and their goods to the train station when they needed to move to Washington.
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The reflections on the glass made all my other shots utterly unreadable
That said, there’s also strong evidence that his home and his wagons were all part of the underground railway
To hear about all the details, call +1 (217) 213 – 3003 and then press 51#
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According to the guide this was one of the his wagons, and if you look carefully you can see air holes have been strategically drilled into the boxes
But for something REALLY cool, look below!!!
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Since in this case there was no home at the site (I’m going to take a guess that once the entire “district” and not just the Lincoln home, became a national park in 1971… and was turned into what is essentially an outdoor museum, that all of homes on the property that were not original to the Lincoln’s time period were removed. AS Jenkins’ home was a historically important one, the park service has gone to the effort of creating an artificial Reality tour using a freely available app, which is really kind of cool if you think about it. (I did find it in Apple’s app store, and tested it. IT WILL WORK, if you have your smart phone look at the picture above!!)
Another cool thing was how the locals take advantage of property. I kept seeing folks walking around in twos and staring at their smart phones, my brain went, Pokémon!! And I was right. They told me that the local bar was having a fundraising event that involved playing the game, and that as EVERY home and object had historic importance the park was a very rich Pokemon playing ground for the locals.
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The bar in question is less than a block away from the park’s visiter center (sort of kiddy corner from it) and there is a coffee-house, bar and restaurant, each in a separate house but all owned by the same people,  — I had eaten at the coffee-house, Wm. Van’s Coffee House, already that day. I’d had an avocado and tomato on whole wheat toast with an iced coffee before going to the Lincoln’s home. (You’d think that would be hard to screw up, but they used some sort of pureed and watered down avocado spread… kind of tasted like the stuff sold in plastic bags at supermarkets … instead of just spreading the real stuff)
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and was intending to hit the restaurant for dinner, so when they mentioned the bar’s name I knew which one they meant …
That said, Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery, was supposedly the best place in town. When I got there, I found the menu mostly consisted of unhealthy choices, everything deep-fried with a lot of carbs, etc … As a rule, anyplace that does the unholy triumvirate of salt, fat and sugar can make food that tastes good… it’s making healthy food tasty that requires skill.
I ended up defaulting to a grilled chicken & berry salad with blueberries, strawberries, candied pecans and goat cheese … and I had them substitute straight balsamic for the vinaigrette (i.e., it didn’t need more oil… the cheese, chicken and pecans already provided enough)
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The Mary Todd-Lincoln House.

Definitely worth a visit: Apparently the first museum devoted to a first lady. I learned a lot about her during the visit and now have a lot more respect and sympathy for her than I did previously.

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Finding this place wasn’t difficult (with GPS helping), and once you’re in the right part of town the house its self is easy enough to spot, in fact there are signs everywhere of the “hi you’re here” variety — but I’ve got to warn you, that the signage that was supposed to direct visitors to it’s parking lot was horrible! There’s this narrow little alleyway that odds are you won’t spot, which is where you need to turn down off of the busy main street in order to get to the parking lot behind the house, and G-d help you! It really is NOT clearly marked, nor is the traffic pattern in front of the house set up to aid out-of-town visitors to make the turn safely.

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I enjoyed my visit here. A lot of historical research, time, effort, and money was invested in order to try to recreate the home as Lincoln might have known it when he visited here. According to our docent, a retired female lawyer, as a result of various historical flukes, historians have a pretty good idea of exactly what items were in the house, and if they weren’t successful in tracking down the specific items the Todds owned (although happily in many cases they were), then they were able to replace them with items sufficiently similar as to give visitors a fairly accurate sense of being in their home. Anytime the items were known to have been owned by the Todd or the Lincoln families, the docent would point them out, and she always made it clear when they were not. So for instance they knew Mary Todd had a preference for the work of a particular furniture designer, and they have some of his pieces but aren’t sure if they’re the exact ones own by Mary… etc. In the picture below for instance, the table she (in white sweater) is standing next to was the actual one from the home, as was the bible laying on it.

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I learned a lot of interesting things, such as the house (after the Todds had sold it) became the brothel where a soon to be famous madam, Belle Brezing, who many believe became the template for the Belle Watling character in ‘Gone with the Wind,’ got her ‘training’; and that after Lincoln’s death, Mary’s son, who didn’t recognized the symptoms of laudanum/morphine addiction (which she had been proscribed as a cure for migraines) had his mother declared insane, and tried to get control of her money.

The first time I read about this place was in a blog devoted to ‘things worth stopping to see while road-tripping with the kids down to Disney World.’ However, back in June of 2015, when I was initially making that trip south from Chicago to Orlando, I was still one month shy of the end of the proscribed (by Jewish law) 11 months of mourning for my father, and as such couldn’t do anything ‘fun.’ However, I remembered it now, almost a year later, and since I discovered it was effectively on my path from my friends home in Georgia, to visiting another friend currently doing time in Ohio, I made a point of stopping to see it (in fact, all other things I did while in Lexington were peripheral to this stop).