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© Abraham Lincoln Online
Old State CapitolDowntown Mall
State Historic Site
Put this historic Greek Revival building on your "must" list when visiting Springfield. Located on the old town square, it was associated with Lincoln as early as 1837, when the cornerstone was laid. Lincoln's close friend Edward Baker served as the dedicatory speaker. As a legislator, Lincoln had been instrumental in moving the state capital of Illinois from Vandalia to Springfield earlier that year. The capitol building, designed by architect John Rague, was the third to appear on the square, displacing two previous courthouses.
The city outgrew the building while Lincoln was President, and work on a new statehouse began soon after his death. The present building was dismantled in 1966 and rebuilt, which allowed the inclusion of an underground public parking lot and space for offices. The original stone exterior was stored and rebuilt, but the interior was completely reconstructed.
Lincoln spent much time in the building, where he tried cases before the Illinois Supreme Court, borrowed books from the state library, and swapped stories with other lawyers and politicians. He delivered his famous "House Divided" speech in Representatives Hall in 1858 ("I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.") when he began his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Lincoln lost that race to Stephen A. Douglas, but was nominated for President two years later. As a Presidential candidate, he was a celebrity, and huge crowds of well-wishers and office-seekers poured into town. Lincoln received them in the second-floor Governor's reception room because his law office was too small.
After Lincoln's inauguration in 1861, Stephen Douglas urged a cheering, nonpartisan crowd in Representatives Hall to put aside political differences to save the Union. Four years later, Lincoln's body lay in the same room, as a crowd of 75,000 mourners filed past to pay their last respects. Across the street, a banner over Lincoln's law office read, "He lives in the hearts of his people."
The Old State Capitol State Historic Site is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday from May through Labor Day and from Tuesday through Saturday from September through April. It is closed on major holidays. The last tour begins 45 minutes before closing. The building is handicapped accessible. Suggested donation.
Groups of 20 or more should make reservations. Call 217/785-7960 or write: Site Manager, Old State Capitol State Historic Site, 5th & Adams Streets, Springfield, IL 62701.
Click here for a map
A Part of History (State Journal-Register)
Looking for Lincoln
Old State Capitol (Illinois Historic Preservation Agency)
Old State Capitol Foundation
Old State Capitol Gets Lincoln Desk and Chair (SJ-R)
Springfield Photo Tour
Television Tour of the Old State Capitol (Illinois Channel)
Bannister, Dan W. Lincoln and the Illinois Supreme Court. 1995. Write to: 22 Washington Place, Springfield, IL 62702 or call 217/787-6534.
Davenport, Don. In Lincoln's Footsteps: A Historical Guide to the Lincoln Sites in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Revised edition, Trails Books, 2002.
Simon, Paul. Lincoln's Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years.
Temple, Sunderine W. and Wayne C. Illinois' Fifth Capitol. Springfield, Illinois: Phillips Brothers Printers, 1988.
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