During the 30 minute tour of President Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL (where he lived for 17 years before leaving for Washington and the Presidency) the Park Ranger tour guide mentioned several times that Lincoln sought to give his family some of the comforts and little luxuries that he had never enjoyed himself while growing up in Kentucky.
It was particularly effective when the guide ended the tour in the kitchen, and he commented that the small room – it held mostly a stove and prep table – was approximately the same size as the interior of Lincoln’s entire boyhood log cabin.
This home was the only one that Lincoln and his wife Mary ever owned, and the streets around it are now a National Historic Site. You can walk around the outside areas any time, but need to get a ticket with a time slot for the free tour inside the house.
As you might imagine, there’s been increased interest in Springfield since Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln was released. Our group included people from multiple U.S. states plus the Philippines.
In the downstairs part of the house, I liked the sitting room across from the parlor. That’s where the Lincoln sons Willie, Tad and Eddie would play, and Lincoln himself would stretch out on the floor there to join them. The family chairs in the house were apparently chosen for everyone else’s comfort but the tall future President.
Mary’s original sewing kit is there on a side table near a mirror – I can imagine her making repairs to a shirt while sitting near the front window to get some light and a breeze, especially in late summer.
In the upstairs bedrooms, there are lots of family stories to hear from the guide, and younger visitors get to ask all of those chamber pot questions.
I had fun tweeting, “I’m in Lincoln’s bedroom!” and sending out a photo of his writing desk tucked into a corner.
It seems awfully cramped for a big guy.
Be sure to leave time to walk up and down the street out front and learn about Lincoln’s neighbors, who were a varied and interesting lot and included a prominent participant in the Underground Railroad that helped move slave fugitives toward free states.
There are plenty of places around Springfield to learn more about Lincoln’s life and his Presidency, but there is something very poignant about seeing the home where he and Mary happily raised their rambunctious sons and spent the years before the Civil War.
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