President Abraham Lincoln has the most written about him of all the presidents. He led our nation at a divided time, and lived the American dream, being born in a rural log cabin in Kentucky and moving all the way to the White House, in Washington, DC. While he is loved across the country, there is only one state he called home, and that is Illinois, nicknamed the Land of Lincoln. He lived most of his adult life in Springfield, the state capitol. It was here that he raised his family, practiced law, and served in the state legislature before becoming President. The Lincoln home where he resided is a National Park site. His boyhood home in Kentucky and the Ford Theater, in Washington DC, where he was assassinated, are also National Park sites you can visit to learn about President Lincoln.
Planning Your Visit
Visiting the Lincoln Home does require prior planning. Entrance to the home is only available with a guided ranger tour. Free tickets can be obtained at the visitor center. During peak times it can fill up, so arriving early is suggested. Entering the home requires a ticket but there is more to see than one building at this historical site. It is unique because there is an entire neighborhood that has been restored and you can walk down the street and see the same buildings that Lincoln himself would have seen. Some of the other restored buildings have museum exhibits of Lincoln’s time in Illinois. Others have signs outside describing the history and architecture. If you time your visit right, you may also witness living history exhibits to learn more about life in Springfield with Lincoln.
The Visitor’s Center is the first stop on the visit. It is where you pay for your parking and reserve your free tour tickets. There is also a movie to watch and a few small exhibits to introduce you to Lincoln. Before you head outside to explore the neighborhood, be sure to pick up your Junior Ranger book to guide your discoveries if you didn’t print it at home. There are activities in the book to complete as you walk the streets and learn about Lincoln’s neighbors. During your tour of the Lincoln Home, the Ranger may even drop hints of which page to do when on your tour, like he did for us.
Some of our favorite observations in the Lincoln home included seeing his stove pipe hat. We learned he often kept important letters or documents in it when he wore it: a secret briefcase of sorts, I suppose. The carpet throughout the house is a replica of the original carpet, which surprised me because of the bright color and design. The Ranger told us it was the stylish thing to mix loud patterns on the carpet with loud wallpaper. We also were able to see his writing desk where he did some of his work, as well as his extra-long “Lincoln sized” bed.
Nearby Lincoln Sites to Visit
While the Lincoln Home is the only National Park Service Site in Illinois to honor Lincoln, there are many other sites nearby that celebrate and honor our 16th president. He is buried across town from his home, in the Lincoln Tomb along with his wife and three of their four children. It was one of the first landmarks added to the National Historical Registry. Springfield, Illinois also hosts the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The Lincoln Museum opened in 2005 and offers something to engage all ages from elementary through high school and beyond.
If you are still wanting more Lincoln living history, take a drive to Lincoln’s New Salem, to experience the log cabin village where he lived in his early 20s. It was abandoned soon after Lincoln moved and returned to pasture. Rebuilt by the Civilian Conservation Corps. during the 1930s and 1940s, the historical village features 23 furnished buildings is open seasonally. The grounds also include hiking trails and camping. Springfield makes a great weekend field trip to study our famous president and the places he called home.