Category Archives: Illinois History

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Illinois Presidents Feature Image

Illinois has a history as rich as its food – and if you don’t believe us, just take a trip to Springfield and grab a horseshoe sandwich! Illinois is home to some of the United States’ most famous presidents, and history buffs can find information about these American leaders in all corners of the state.

But, if quirky facts are more your style, take a look below at a few little known details about these great American leaders.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, 1861-1865

Likely the mostly widely recognized Illinoisan, Abraham Lincoln is more than just a former president: he is a state icon. But, Honest Abe is not just known for his policy. With his large frame and long limbs, the tallest president of the U.S. is also enshrined in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. According to history.com, Lincoln has an impressive track record of only being defeated once in nearly 300 matches.

Learn more about Lincoln at one of these exciting Springfield attractions:

MiniAbe Big Ten

Mini Abe knows he’s number one!

Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States, 1869-1877

Think you know what to call the 18th Commander in Chief of the United States? Guess again. Due to a mistake by a benefactor on his application for West Point, Ulysses S. Grant is widely known under the wrong name. Born Hiram Ulysses Grant, the “S” in this president’s name actually stands for nothing.

Take a walk through Galena and get a glimpse at a day in the life of this American leader:

Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, 1981-1989

Ronald Reagan has left a lasting impression in American history books and on the silver screen, but among former peers and colleagues, President Reagan is known for his sweet tooth. This former Commander in Chief began eating jelly beans to help him quit smoking during his run for Governor of California. This continued into his presidency, and a crystal jar of jelly beans was always available during his Cabinet meetings.

Get off the beaten path and take a look at Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home in Dixon.

Ronald Reagan boyhood home

Stop by to learn more about Reagan’s transition from this white house to one in Washington, D.C. and everything in between.

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, 2008-2016

Too much of a good thing can sometimes be just that: way too much. Our nation’s current president reportedly worked for Baskin Robbins during his youth, and it’s left quite the impression. He now jokes that he still can’t eat ice cream to this day after spending one too many summers scooping ice cream in Honolulu.

Be sure to stop by the Obama Family Home in Hyde Park on your next trip to Chicago to learn more about the life of President Obama, and stay tuned for the Obama Presidential Library coming to Chicago!

For more trip ideas, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Bloomington Getaway Feature Image

Kick off 2016 and beat cabin fever by treating that special someone to a romantic weekend away. The city of Bloomington offers you and your loved one a getaway with big historical charm and a small town feel.

Check out some of the top places to stay, cultural landmarks to see, unique restaurants to visit and perfect date night activities here!

Vrooman Mansion Bed & Breakfast

With a charming history dating back to 1869, the Vrooman Mansion is a luxurious bed and breakfast nestled in the heart of Bloomington. Under the legacy of Julia and Carl Vrooman, the mansion was used for social gatherings for the couple’s friends, including political figures like President and Mrs. Wilson, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others. Today, this lavish estate offers visitors the chance to experience a powerful part of history.

Vrooman Mansion - (at) acschultz86

The Vrooman Mansion allows guests to explore the fine restaurants, shops, and attractions of Central Illinois while providing a welcoming and comfortable home base. (Photo by Instagramer (at) aschultz86)

Epiphany Farms Restaurant

Dine like a local at Epiphany Farms Restaurant, a dining experience committed to a “Farm to Fork” concept. This Bloomington favorite offers seasonal dinner menus and creates signature dishes and drinks with handpicked ingredients straight from their farm, ensuring your date night dinner is both fresh and delicious.

Epiphany Farms - (at) leah_horcher

Instagramer (at) leah_horcher captured this yummy shot of Blackberry panna cotta, honey-yogurt, almond florentine, fresh blueberry, mint and mochi.

David Davis Mansion

A weekend away in Bloomington wouldn’t be the same without a visit to the David Davis Mansion, a Victorian home that tells the story of the generation that led United States through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Home to Judge David Davis, mentor and campaign manager to Abraham Lincoln, this must-see historical landmark boasts 36 lavishly decorated rooms and a peek into Davis’ role in Honest Abe’s legal and political career.

David Davis Mansion - (at) ctbruni

Completed in 187, the David Davis Mansion combines Italiante and Second Empire architectural features. (Photo by Instagramer (at) ctbruni)

Illinois Symphony Orchestra

You don’t need to visit a big city to see a critically-acclaimed musical show. Grab tickets for you and your partner to enjoy the diverse repertoire of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra to complete a romantic weekend away in Bloomington.

Illinois Symphony Orchestra

Celebrating its 23rd season, the Illinois Symphony Orchestra performs at several local venues, including the Second Presbyterian Church and Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo Courtesy of Illinois Symphony Orchestra)

For more romantic getaway inspiration, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Land of Lincoln Feature Image

The Land of Lincoln is not just one of the most history-rich regions in Illinois, but in the entire country. Springfield alone is home to more Abraham Lincoln historical sites than any other place in the world, and beyond that, there are even more attractions where history buffs can soak up knowledge in Central Illinois. 

Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center

Celebrating the rich history of Litchfield, this museum gives visitors a look at the evolution of the culture, lifestyle and economy of America’s Heartland across several generations through the prism of one Midwestern town. Early agriculture, the growth of railroads, industrialization and Route 66 are all covered by this fascinating museum that just opened in 2012.

The Litchfield Museum highlights several eras of Illinois history.

The Litchfield Museum highlights several eras of Illinois history.

Route 66 Arcade Museum

 For a different kind of museum experience, head to Atlanta to see classic video games that date back to the 1930s, many of which are still playable! The interactive museum features more than 40 vintage pinball and arcade games, including the original PacMan game, and cost only a quarter for visitors to play.

MiniAbe tries his hand at a vintage game at the Route 66 Arcade Museum.

MiniAbe tries his hand at a vintage game at the Route 66 Arcade Museum.

Carlinville Historic District

 This historic downtown district features the “Million Dollar Courthouse,” a destination for artists and architects from all over the world, as well as the Macoupin County Jail, a medieval-looking fortress that has been open since 1869. The Macoupin County Historical Museum also houses exhibits and artifacts reflecting the history of the area in a beautiful two-story Victorian mansion.

The “Million Dollar” Courthouse in historic downtown Carlinville. (Photo courtesy of Instagramer (at) rmasters78)

The “Million Dollar” Courthouse in historic downtown Carlinville. (Photo courtesy of Instagramer (at) rmasters78)

The Original Steak’n’Shake

 Brush up on your diner history with a stop at the original Steak ‘n’ Shake at 1219 South Main Street in Normal. It still resembles a 50s-style diner and serves all the quintessential American fast food favorites: burgers, fries and milkshakes.

For more historical attractions across the state, check out EnjoyIllinois.com for more trip ideas.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Historical Adventure Feature Image

Home to Abraham Lincoln, Americana and the birthplace of the corndog. History comes alive around every corner in Springfield, home to more Lincoln sites than anywhere else in the nation. Explore everything from Abe’s house and law offices to his must-see presidential museum. Route 66 makes its way through Springfield leaving behind plenty of Americana in the form of classic diners and kitschy roadside attractions.

Throughout Springfield there are historical sites with ties to Lincoln – enough to fill a multiple-day itinerary. Here are a few of our top recommendations.

The Lincoln Home

Get an intimate look at Lincoln during a tour of the Lincoln Home, the only house he ever owned. The Lincoln family lived here from 1844 until they left for Washington. The Lincoln Home is located in a historic four-block neighborhood that looks much as it did in the mid-1800s, complete with wooden sidewalks. A visitor center and restored neighboring homes display exhibits that tell the story of Lincoln’s time spent with his wife, children and friends in Springfield.

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Re-enactors at the Lincoln Home in Springfield.

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices

This is the only remaining structure where Abraham Lincoln maintained working law offices. Lincoln and his final law partner, William Herndon, operated from the top floor of the building from 1843 to 1852. Filled with clutter and makeshift furniture, the offices draw a vivid picture of what a normal day was like for Lincoln and Herndon. Today the building includes a visitor center, federal courtrooms and attorney offices.

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The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices in Springfield.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

This museum is one of the most-visited presidential museums in the nation where visitors can experience the entire Lincoln story under one roof, from Abe’s humble beginnings in an Indiana log cabin to his days as president in the White House. Be dazzled by two special effects theaters featuring historical ghosts and a Civil War battlefield, life-like vignettes that depict important moments in the president’s life, and artifacts that range from Lincoln’s stovepipe hat to an original copy of the Gettysburg Address.

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The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

The Lincoln Tomb

The Tomb is the final resting place of President Lincoln, his wife and three of their four children. It was constructed between 1869-1874 in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. Be sure to rub the nose of the bronze Lincoln bust at the entrance, which is said to bring good luck. Dogs are allowed on the site; they are not allowed inside the monument.

Lincoln Tomb

Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site is where Abe Lincoln was laid to rest.

Abraham Lincoln’s legacy extends far beyond Springfield with plenty of museums and historic sites throughout the state. See more of the Lincoln attractions in Illinois here.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Obscura Society Image USE THIS ONE

With the new Illinois Office of Tourism and Atlas Obscura partnership, events are happening throughout Illinois this spring and summer. Sign up for the email list to receive exclusive invites to explore unique and lesser-known places throughout the state. It’s a great opportunity to hang out with like-minded adventurers!

Illinois Society Logo

Check out AtlasObscura.com for unique events and attractions around the state

The partnership officially launched in February at a vintage carnival themed event with more than 450 attendees at Salvage One – an event space in Chicago known for its vintage antiques. It was here where the Illinois Obscura Society was born. Guests were treated to acts of contortion, mind reading, juggling while unicycling, an old-timey brass band and a sideshow fire eater to top it off. The main event was Thom Britton from FreakShow & Tell. He wowed the crowd by eating fire and shared his trade secrets, explaining how it’s possible to eat fire to an enchanted crowd.

Recently, the Illinois Obscura Society conducted a tour of a Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth. The owners of the Gold Pyramid House, Jim and Linda Onan, describe their unique golden home as powerful, mysterious and exotic. The pyramid is surrounded by a moat and guarded by a 50-foot statue of Ramses II. Everything was built in the 1970s when there was a popular New Age belief that pyramids could focus power and improve health. The family now offers tours of their six-story, 17,000-square-foot home.

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The Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth, Illinois (Photo: Steven Glynias)

Gold Pyramid with Statue

An Egyptian sculpture stands guard in front of the Gold Pyramid House (Photo: Steven Glynias)

There are a lot of great events happening on May 30 to celebrate Obscura Day 2015. Mark your calendar and check out all the events below!

obscura_day_badge

Underwater Wonders of Mermet Springs
Belknap, Illinois
Visit this unexpected diver’s paradise without getting wet!

Behind the Scenes at the Blue Waters Supercomputer
Champaign, Illinois
Join us for exclusive access to one of the world’s most powerful computing centers.

The International Museum of Surgical Science
Chicago, Illinois
Join us for a special tour of this unique museum and the mansion that houses it.

Walking in the Footsteps of Leopold and Loeb
Chicago, Illinois
Join us as we revisit what was called “The Crime of the Century”.

The Grounds of Graceland Cemetery
Chicago, Illinois
Stroll amongst the dead and the artwork that commemorates their passing.

Fishes of the Field Museum
Chicago, Illinois
Join us for an exclusive tour of the Field Museum’s Piscine Collection.

The Art of Letter Writing
Chicago, Illinois
Enjoy exclusive access to the Letter Writers Alliance Club House in celebration of Obscura Day.

Explore the Busy Beaver Button Company
Chicago, Illinois
Busy Beaver is the button maker to the world. Now you can see just how they do it.

Catching a Flick at Route 66’s Last Drive-In
Litchfield, Illinois
Since 1950, the summer skies of Litchfield have been filled with Hollywood.

Caravanning Illinois’ Route 66
Route 66, Illinois
Join us as we explore the first 300 miles of the mother road.

Exploring Chicago’s Baha’i Temple
Wilmette, Illinois
The Baha’i faith welcomes everyone to find peace in their beautiful temple and gardens.

The Illinois Obscura Society of Atlas Obscura was created in partnership with Enjoy Illinois. Sign up to stay in the know about upcoming, exclusive tours and adventures. Expeditions will continue throughout the spring and summer. Don’t miss out on your chance to explore every quirky corner of Illinois!

–The Illinois Office of Tourism