We spent a day in Springfield, Illinois, on our way to Florida at the beginning of April, and I've already shared 2 posts about Abraham Lincoln's permanent tomb and his first tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery. I didn't want to continue posting about our journey without also sharing a tour of his Springfield home. Since I have many photos to share, I'll divide his home tour into 3 parts. This will be the longest post of the 3, so let's get started.
President Lincoln's home is a national historic site - part of our National Park System. The main parking area is located next to the very nice visitor center. There's a nominal fee to park, but the visitor center, the film about his life, and the home tour are all free of charge. Here's one of the first signs you'll see at the visitor center. This will tell you most of what you need to know when visiting the site.
As you enter the visitor center, there's a large photo of the "Great Republican Rally at Lincoln's Home" on August 8, 1860. Lincoln is the tall figure in white just to the right of the front door.
You'll need to inquire at the desk inside the visitor center for home tour tickets. Based on when the next tour is available, you can choose to watch the film on Lincoln's life in the theater inside the visitor center either before or after your home tour. I do recommend the film, as it does contain some tidbits on his life that the average visitor may not already know. At the end of your trip, be sure to save enough time to browse the bookstore/gift shop in the visitor center. They have a large selection of books on Lincoln and the Civil War - many at very affordable prices. I picked up 2 books I didn't already have and also found a souvenir Christmas ornament for the Christmas tree we put in our loft that we call our "Memory Tree."
It's a one-block walk from the visitor center to Lincoln's home. This is the only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned, and it's where he and Mary lived for 17 years until moving to the White House.
Since all the neighborhood homes have been restored, you can almost transport yourself back in time to 1860 as you walk the sidewalks. Unfortunately, we were in the midst of a day-long downpour, so we didn't walk the entire neighborhood to photograph the other homes. Oh well, we were really here for this one anyway.
Our tour began with the Park Service guide inside the small gray house (the Charles Arnold House - some siding missing) on the corner opposite from the Lincoln home. I believe you meet your guide outside on the corner during better weather.
Since it was April and raining buckets, we were fortunate that only one other couple was taking the tour with us - and big coincidence - they live in lower Michigan and know someone who lives about 5 miles from us in the U.P. It was nice to be in such a small group for our tour, as we were able to ask a lot of questions, and it made the entire experience much more personal.
I should tell you that the home is kept purposely dark, but flash photography is allowed. Between the darkness of the rooms and the light that was coming through the windows, it was sometimes difficult to get quality photos, so you may find the clarity of some photos in this post to be severely lacking. I do apologize for that in advance.
You enter the Lincoln home through the front door. The parlor is on your left; the sitting room is on your right. You'll notice the doorbell above the door to the parlor.
Directly in front of you is a hallway that leads to the dining room. That coat/hat rack is original to the Lincoln home.
Here's the view from the dining room looking back toward the front door to give you a better idea of the layout. Notice the staircase leading to the second floor. Yes, the hallway is blocked to visitor traffic with a railing at both ends.
You'll find railings to guide you throughout the home - making it impossible to sit on the furniture or touch the items on the fireplace mantels!
OK, let's go back to the front door and turn left to go into the parlor. Here's a sketch made in 1861 of how the front parlor looked at that time.
The parlor is a long room running the length of the left side of the main part of the house. We were standing in the front parlor looking toward the rear parlor for the next photo. Notice the folding doors? There's a matching set on the right. The Lincoln family could close these doors to create two rooms out of one - often for socializing separately. For example, the men could be at one end discussing politics, and the ladies could be at the other end discussing anything ladies in polite society would discuss. The front parlor was considered a more formal space.
More views of the front parlor:
George and Martha Washington are hanging above the mantel.
Gold cornices at the windows.
Next is a sketch of how the rear parlor looked in 1861. The large bookcase on the right is not there today in order to create the walkway for tourists through the room. Abraham Lincoln often used this rear portion of the parlor as a study.
Notice there are 2 fireplaces in this long parlor, so each section of the parlor had a heat source. The carpeting, wallpaper, and window treatments are consistent to both parts of the parlor.
More views of the rear parlor:
The rear parlor has a door leading into the dining room. I stopped to take one last photo looking toward the front parlor from the dining room door. This is probably the worst photo I snapped, but it helps you to see the layout.
As you enter the dining room, the table is in front of you, and there's a sideboard with hutch on the wall to your left.
The small table in the corner near the kitchen door had some faux baked goods - perhaps Mary Lincoln's famous white almond cake recipe. (Could someone please straighten that candle? My perfectionist self wanted to straighten several candles in the home. But. Those. Railings!)
In the next shot, you can see the back staircase leading to the second floor from the kitchen just behind the dining room. To the right of those stairs is a door leading outside to the porch on the right side of the house. There's a closet directly in back of me. To my left rear is the hall leading to the front door, and to my right rear is the door leading into the sitting room.
The sitting room is where we'll go next. As you enter the front door, it's on your right. The sitting room is where the boys played and the Lincoln family spent the majority of their family time. It's where we'll begin the second post in this series on the home of Abraham Lincoln.
All is well in the Keweenaw.