History Club Visits Springfield

From the desk of History Club at EIU President Emily McInerney:

Each academic year the History Club at EIU takes at least one trip to visit historic sites. This year club members decided to visit Springfield, IL. On April 11, 2015, club members and club advisor Professor Brian Mann visited many locations in the state capital.

The day began early with a now-traditional stop at Starbucks.  After the much needed caffeine boost and a long drive, we arrived at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, within the only National Park in Illinois. During a tour led by a Park Ranger, we got to walk through the only house the Lincoln family would ever own. Even though the house was occupied by others after the Lincolns went to Washington D.C., there remained some original furniture, toys (like Tad’s stereoscope), and “modern” luxuries (such as the Lincolns’ cast iron stove).

Conveniently, there was a coffee shop across the street from the National Park.  While we re-caffeinated, members were able to hear about Prof. Mann’s undergraduate and graduate school experiences.

We then visited the New State Capitol, which, many of us learned during the tour, was the filming location of Legally Blonde 2. Who says that recent history is not made in Central Illinois? At the capitol building we were able to see where both the Senate and House of Representatives meet, though they were not in session. Our tour guide explained how votes were tallied, where the public can sit during open sessions and how to know the days they meet.

After a short walk and drive, we headed over to the Old State Capitol in the heart of downtown Springfield. Here we saw where some of the Illinois legislative traditions began. We toured the reproductions of rooms where a young Abraham Lincoln studied for his law degree, worked as a state representative, and where his body was laid in state during the last stop of the funeral procession before being buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Aside from Lincoln history, the building tells stories of women’s rights, politics, and military history as seen through displays and artifacts.

After the Old State Capitol, we went across the street for a a visit to the Korean War National Museum before taking the obligatory group photograph in front of Lincoln’s law office next door.

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Next we headed up to the north end of Springfield to the Illinois State Military Museum. Seeing the famous leg of General Santa Anna, members were taken through a timeline of the Illinois militia and wars in which it was involved.

We then drove less than half a mile to Oak Ridge Cemetery. Here we visited the Lincoln Tomb and final resting place of Abe, Mary, and three of their four children. Each aspect of the tomb’s interior represented a part of American history; from flags, to stars, and the quote, “Now he belongs to the ages”, uttered by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton when he found out Lincoln was assassinated.

What was very exciting was that each Lincoln historic site clearly was preparing for the reenactment of the Lincoln funeral train, marking the 150th anniversary of the funeral procession, taking place two weeks after our trip.

For lunch, the group went to Dublin’s Pub, giving everyone the opportunity to get a Springfield-famous horseshoe meal.

The History Club left Springfield with many photographs, inside jokes, and a new trivia team name.  Until next year!

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