Friday, June 5, 2020

Homeward Bound

The purpose of our 2017 road trip was to bring back family heirlooms from my father-in-law's house to his daughter who lives in Wisconsin. We spent a couple of days with my sister-in-law, then headed for home, taking a more southerly route on the way back to see other things, with our first stop being Springfield, Illinois. The trip out had mostly been scenic, with stops in several national parks, but the trip back would be more historical, with us visiting three different presidential libraries, so the focus of three of the next four posts will be a different presidential library. 

Obviously, we were in Springfield to see things related to Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president. Our first part of the day was devoted to the newly developed presidential library and museum. This particular library has been set up well after the death of Lincoln, so many things that are incorporated into other presidential libraries/museums weren't present at this one. One thing I have to say about this particular museum is, it's slick, meaning there's a lot of high tech things to keep everyone interested, but not a lot of artifacts that one would normally associate with a typical museum of someone's life.

We watched a presentation about Lincoln's time in office presented by a docent as he walked us through the Civil War, only to find out at the end that the docent was a hologram. Like I said, very slick and high tech. Now I have to assume his papers  and writings were probably over in the library part of these two buildings for scholars, but as a history buff, I would have liked to have seen actual artifacts that Lincoln used, etc. The lack of actual artifacts probably stems because of the amount of time between his death and the actual creation of the museum. Things like that tend to vanish into other private collections or, as in this case the National Park Service owns many actual artifacts at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. 

I'd been to Lincoln's home when I was around 10 years old, but wanted to see it again as did my youngest. So after walking through the museum, we drove over to the Historic district and bought tickets for Lincoln's home tour. While we waited, we toured the grounds and the museum learning more about our 16th president. For those of you who don't know, Abraham Lincoln moved from Indiana to Illinois as a young man and settled in Springfield where he made his living as a lawyer and later as a politician. This house is the only house that he ever owned and many of the furnishings are original. You get a tour of both upstairs and down, seeing all of the rooms in the house. I asked about the tree out in front as there's a photo of the front of the house and the tree appears to be about the same height now as it was back in 1861 right before Lincoln was to head to Washington D.C. to become president. For historical accuracy, the National Park Service wanted to keep the tree the same height as it was in the photo, so the tree is literally dug up and a new tree is planted every so often, so the tree is not the original.

At the home, we were able to see a top hat that had been worn by Lincoln, furniture that was actually in the house when he moved to Washington, plus the bed that he slept in while living there for 16 years. The photo doesn't do the bed justice, but that bed is no longer than about 5 and a half feet in length and it could possibly be shorter. Knowing that he was our tallest president at 6 feet 4 inches, he had to have slept diagonally across the bed as there's no way he would have fit lengthwise. And yes, that's a chamber pot under the bed that would have had to have been used, at least in the winter months, due to the cold weather. I'm not sure if that was actually used by Lincoln or not and I didn't ask.

The house and grounds surrounding the house (they extend for several blocks in all directions from the house) are extensive and have many historical plaques to read as you wander around the grounds. Overall, this led to a much more pleasant experience for a couple of reasons. The museum was loud, there weren't as many actual historical artifacts that could be traced directly to Lincoln, while the Lincoln Home NHS had many artifacts and buildings that were standing during the time that he actually walked the streets of Springfield. Couple that with it being outdoors and the atmosphere was just more pleasant. I'm not saying to not go to the library. I thought it was a neat experience, but I thought his home was a better place representation of his life there in Springfield.

The next day was the 4th of July, the first that I would spend outside of California since I was 3 years old. 

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