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Oct 25

The Land of Lincoln

Car FestivalOur last stop before crossing into the State of Missouri, was in Springfield, Illinois and we were looking forward to exploring a few of the many Lincoln sites in and around the city.  Little did we know that our visit was timed to coincide with the 12th Annual Route 66 Mother Road Festival and Car Show!

According to the Festival website: Each September, during the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival, the streets of Springfield come alive with the rumble of engines from hot cars, cool trucks, vintage motorcycles, street rods, customs and everything in between. Hundreds of vehicles line the streets of Springfield’s historic downtown in a display that is guaranteed to wow even the most-seasoned car enthusiast.Springfield Car

This 3-day, free car show & street festival, celebrating the past, present & future of Route 66, also offers outdoor stages with live music, commercial vendors, kids’ activities and entertainment, Route 66 celebrities and events, plus much more.

Food Stall

Well — there was no way we could pass this one up, so on Saturday morning we drove into downtown Springfield, found parking within walking distance of the event and followed the crowds and the music to where it was all happening!  Apart from the amazing display of vehicles, there were food stalls selling everything from hot dogs to pizzas to Greek salad and gyros.  There were also vendors selling every type of Route 66 merchandise you can imagine!

With Lincoln

 It was in this area that we bumped into — can you believe it? — Abraham Lincoln!  Of course, we had our photograph taken with him.  Such a nice man, too!

We walked several blocks enjoying the cars, chatting with people and taking photos.  We stopped for a Gyro lunch and then enjoyed a beer at an outdoor restaurant on the square.  Now it was time for a little sightseeing.  We learned that there are more Lincoln sites in Springfield than in any other city and, with limited time, we had to choose carefully.

We started off walking through the ground floor of the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, just a few feet from where we had enjoyed our lunch.  There are guided tours of the upper floors but the timing didn’t work for us so we moved on to the Old State Capital Historic Site.

DividedHere we were fortunate to find a guide who gave us a private tour!  We stood in the Chamber where Abraham Lincoln argued cases before the Illinois Supreme Court, where he debated Stephen A. Douglas, where he gave his famous House Divided speech in 1858 and where he lay in State before his burial.

According to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency   The Greek Revival-style building was completely reconstructed in the 1960s. The first floor is composed of a central hall flanked by rooms interpreting government offices, two libraries, and the supreme courtroom. A complex of first-floor rooms also provides an audiovisual theatre and staff offices. Recreated second floor spaces include a magnificent rotunda, legislative chambers, and smaller offices and meeting rooms. The building is located in the center of a large landscaped yard surrounded by a replica of the original 1850s ornamental iron fence. 

With the help of the very knowledgeable guide who showed us around, we felt as if Abraham Lincoln would be walking in at any moment!   What a great history lesson!Lincoln Statue

A fitting end to our day was a visit to Lincoln’s burial place  in Oakridge Cemetery, a short distance from downtown Springfield.  It was Mrs. Lincoln’s wish that her husband be buried there, and the setting is quite spectacular.  Set in twelve and a half acres and rising to a height of 117 feet, the exterior of the monument truly reflects the importance of the man.  The tomb was designed by Larkin Meade and today contains the remains of not only President Lincoln but his wife, Mary and three of their four sons, Eddie, Willy and Thomas.  Their fourth son, Robert, is buried at Arlington Cemetery.

We parked and approached from the south side of the tomb where we came face to face with a reproduction of Borglum’s bronze head of Lincoln (the original is in the Capital Building in Washington DC).  Tradition dictates that you rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck, so it’s nice and shiny!  We did the same, only to learn later that this action will erode the metal and eventually change the shape of his nose.  Oh dear!

Lincoln Tomb

Once inside the tomb, we immediately felt an atmosphere of somber reverence. Lighting is dimmed and a peaceful, serene feeling surrounded us.

Lincolntomb.org  gives the facts  “Interior rooms of the Tomb are finished in a highly polished marble trimmed with bronze. The south entrance opens into a rotunda, where hallways lead into the burial chamber. The rotunda and corridors contain reduced-scale reproductions of important Lincoln statues as well as plaques with excerpts from Lincoln’s Springfield farewell speech, the Gettysburg Address, and his Second Inaugural Address. Lincoln’s remains rest in a concrete vault ten feet below the marble floor of the burial chamber. A massive granite cenotaph marking the gravesite is flanked by the Presidential flag and flags of the states in which the Lincoln family resided. Crypts in the chamber’s south wall hold the remains of Lincoln’s wife and three of their sons.” 

For us it was more about feelings than facts. We walked slowly, reading the plaques, admiring the marble from several states as well as Europe. Standing in front of the cenotaph was a very moving experience and we left there with a reverence for the man who stuck to his principles, regardless of the consequences, and who played a huge role in the development of the United States, as we know it today.

lincolnWe still had two important Lincoln sites to explore – Lincoln’s Home and Presidential Museum –  but these would wait for another day.  We needed time to absorb what we had learned … it takes longer the older you get!   Back to our house on wheels and our next exploration.

Photos:

Springfield Route 66 Car Festival

Lincoln in Springfield

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