The Land of Lincoln is no stranger to Civil War Era history. As the home of Abraham Lincoln until the time he left for Washington to take his place as president, Illinois was the site of the famed Lincoln-Douglas Debates and so much more. If you’re looking to explore all of these important historical locations, take a trip through the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, the 42 counties in Central Illinois that tell the story of Lincoln’s life and times in Illinois.
To commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the Illinois Office of Tourism has teamed up with the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition to give visitors a travel itinerary to go “Looking for Lincoln” to discover the “can’t-miss” places in the Quincy area that tell the important story of Lincoln and the community during the Civil War Era:
Day 1 – Quincy
Nestled along the Mighty Mississippi River along the western edge of Illinois, Quincy was a frequent stop for Lincoln, and he counted some of its residents among his closest friends. As you begin your trip, a great first stop is The Quincy Museum. Here, visitors will find an interesting overview of the history surrounding the area and its Lincoln connections, as well as Quincy’s status as the “City of Refuge” for early Mormons on their trek west. The Museum is located in a beautiful stone building that served as Quincy’s original public library.
Across the street from the Museum, visit the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Memorial in Washington Park, created by famed sculptor Laredo Taft. Imagine yourself standing amongst thousands of people who had traveled by foot, horse and wagon to listen to Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debate the major issues of the day facing Illinois and the nation.
For an even greater understanding of the significance of the debate and the key players from in and around Quincy, stop by the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Interpretive Center, located just beyond the debate site.
After lunch, head over to the John Wood Mansion, the beautifully restored Greek Revival home of Quincy’s founder and 12th Governor of Illinois. In the Carriage House next door, be sure to see the Lincoln Gallery Collection, featuring original artifacts surrounding Lincoln’s life and his assassination.
The Dr. Richard Eells House is a definite “must-see” as you continue your journey. The 1835 home was a stop for runaway slaves as they made their way north to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Quincy was the first “station stop” for slaves as they crossed the border from Missouri, then a slave state.
For more Civil War stories, plan to visit the All Wars Museum, featuring more than 5,000 military artifacts, beginning with the Revolutionary War through present day.
Day 2 – Pittsfield and Nauvoo
A brisk morning walk through the downtown will take you on the Lincoln Story Trail, with more than 18 Looking for Lincoln Wayside Exhibits that tell stories about the people and places that were an important part of the Abraham Lincoln legacy.
This is the perfect time to look for Lincoln in nearby areas of the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. Just a short drive from Quincy is the charming town of Nauvoo. Here, along the banks of the Mississippi, you can step back in time to experience the lives of the early members of the Mormon Church who settled here in 1839. The village of Old Nauvoo sets the stage for prairie life from 1839-1846 through more than 30 historic attractions and year-round living history interpretation.
Take a drive to Pittsfield for the Lincoln Talking House Tour – an audio driving tour that tells the stories of 14 buildings whose early owners played significant roles in the life and times of Lincoln. Many of the buildings are still homes occupied by modern residents of Pittsfield.
If visiting in the summer, take part in one of the annual “Looking for Lincoln” Signature Events. Held each year on the first weekend of June, Lincoln Days Civil War Reenactment gives you a front row seat as Civil War battles rage before your very eyes between Union and Confederate troops.
These are just a few of the amazing Lincoln attractions found all across the state. To start planning your trip through the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, visit LookingforLincoln.com and EnjoyIllinois.com.
– Illinois Office of Tourism