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New exhibits to focus on Lincoln’s life in Springfield

A life-size bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln and his family will be the highlight of a series of 20 outdoor exhibits depicting Lincoln’s life in Springfield that will soon decorate downtown.

The exhibits are part of a new program called “Here I Have Lived,” which is designed to better explain Lincoln’s everyday life during his nearly 25 years in Springfield.

“This is a wonderful new addition that will depict Lincoln’s life and the life of his family in Springfield,” Mayor Karen Hasara announced Monday. “It will bring our community into the life of Lincoln.”

The focal point of “Here I Have Lived” - the title comes from Lincoln’s farewell speech when he left Springfield to assume the presidency - will be the statue of Lincoln, his wife Mary and their sons Robert and Willie that will be placed on the Old Capitol Plaza.

It will depict a typical family scene, with Lincoln, on his way to the Capitol to make a speech, pausing while Mary adjusts his tie, Willie hangs from his coattails, and Robert stands nearby.

Although the contract has not yet been approved by the Springfield

City Council, Nicky Stratton, director of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the sculpture is expected to be done by Larry Anderson, an artist from near Seattle who specializes in realistic bronzes.

The other exhibits will be a series of display boards or plaques supported by steel frames that will each tell some aspect of the story of Lincoln and his family in Springfield.

The boards will vary from about 4 feet by 1 foot to about 6 feet by 2 feet. Some will be displayed vertically, and some horizontally. Some will be attached to light posts or sign posts, while others will have their own supports.

Each will tell a part of the story of the Lincolns in Springfield, and each will have a component explaining something about what the community was like when the Lincolns lived here.

Each display will also have a metal medallion with a scene on it in relief tied to the story told. Visitors, especially children, will be able to do rubbings of the medallions and create an entire collection of artwork related to "Here I Have Lived."

Among the sites and stories the exhibits will illuminate are Lincoln's first law office at 109 N. Fifth St.; the site of an 1860 meeting at Sixth and Monroe streets where Republican Party members met in "wigwams" made of wood and canvas; the Globe Tavern on the north side of Adams Street between Third and Fourth streets, where the Lincolns lived when they were first married; and the barbershop of William "Billy the Barber" Florville, on the north side of Adams Street between Sixth and Seventh streets, where Lincoln spent much time visiting with friends and cronies.

In some cases, the exhibits will feature surviving historical structures, while in others they will restore a semblance of buildings and other sites that were destroyed long ago.

Historical research for the exhibits was done by Dick Hart, a Springfield attorney and amateur historian who has done extensive research on Lincoln-era Springfield. Bryan Andreasen, a historian with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, used Hart's work and other resources to write the story for each exhibit.

The exhibits were designed by the St. Louis firm of Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets Inc., which has designed exhibits for clients including Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, the Gateway Arch National Historic Site, Sea World, Busch Gardens, Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry and the St. Louis Zoo.

Stratton said the displays will be built of steel and a resin-based material to resist rust, weathering, graffiti and other damage.

The exhibits will be erected by spring, Hasara said, while the statue of the Lincolns is expected to be completed in 2004.

Maynard Crossland, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, said "Here I Have Lived" will complement the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum now under construction.

The program will "take the story beyond the walls of the museum," he said.

Most of the $769,000 cost of the program is being paid through a $506,000 "travel enhancement" grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation

"Here I Have Lived" could be expanded if additional funding becomes available, Stratton said. Researchers have identified more than 50 sites suitable for interpretation through the program, she said.

Doug Pokorski can be reached at 788-1539 or doug.pokorski@sj-r.com.

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