Old State Capitol, Union Station

Old State Capitol

September 30 & October 2, 2018

We spent parts of two days at the Old State Capitol. While the exterior may look a bit timeworn, the interior has been nicely restored.

This building served as the capitol from 1839 to 1876. During the 1840s and 1850s the capitol dominated Springfield’s square and was the center of public life.

The capitol had offices for various state officials such as the governor, secretary of state, treasurer, state auditor, and adjutant.

This is also where the state assembly, state senate, and state Supreme Court conducted their business.

Old state capitol

Although he had a law office a few blocks away, he spent many hours in the capitol, including its law library preparing cases for trial. If you look closely at the picture you might see a stovepipe hat.

State library

He argued many cases in front of the state supreme court, several of them against Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant”.

State Supreme Court

Lincoln also delivered some of his most memorable speeches here, including the “House Divided” address in the Representatives’ Hall. During the 1860 election campaign, the governor’s room served as his unofficial campaign headquarters.

After the assassination, Lincoln’s Funeral Train retraced his steps and returned his body to Springfield where he lay in state here in the Representative’s Hall.

Governor’s office

Public Square

October 2, 2018

The four blocks surrounding the Old State Capitol was considered the Public Square. Although all the old stores and businesses are gone, the square is dotted with markers highlighting some of those that occupied the area back in Lincoln’s day. One was the Clark M. Smith All-Purpose Store that Mary Lincoln frequented, purchasing such things as silk, boots, eggs, and sugar.

Dr. French, Lincoln’s dentist, could also be found on the square. After one particularly painful tooth-pulling experience, the next time Lincoln had a tooth pulled he self-administered chloroform to help deaden the pain.

Isaac B. Curran, who supposedly engraved Mary Lincoln’s wedding ring, had his store on the south side of the square. During Lincoln’s presidency, he appointed Curran to a diplomatic post in Germany.

Lincoln’s first law office was a block removed from the square. He and his law partner, John Todd Stuart, occupied the second floor of what is now an essentially empty lot. Lincoln worked in this office from 1837 to 1841.

Site of Lincoln’s first law office

Union Station

September 30, 2018

Union Station opened in 1898 as the passenger terminal for the Illinois Central Railroad. Its signature was a 110-foot tall clock tower which was removed in 1946. The current clock tower is a reconstruction. The railroad discontinued use of the station in 1971. In 1999 the state purchased the building and in 2005 began returning the station to its turn-of-the-century appearance.

Union Station and park

This sculpture commemorates the centennial of the Springfield Race Riots of 1908.

During two days in August, white mobs attacked black residents, looting and burning many homes and businesses. It all started after two black men – one accused of raping a white woman and the other of killing a white man – were secretly transported out of town for their protection. White rioters lynched two innocent black men in retaliation, murdered five others, and injured many more before state troops arrived to quell the violence. Afterward, the woman who had allegedly been raped recanted, saying she was having an affair with a white man and had lied about being assaulted by the black man. The second black man was tried, convicted, and executed for murder.

This event was one of the catalysts in the 1909 founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in New York City.


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