Heart of Illinois
Historical day-tripping in the Land of Lincoln
Want to hit the road? Look no further for a great one-tank trip! These destinations are just a hop, skip and jump away – within three to four hours of Springfield. Head out to find the amazing sites in the corners and edges of Illinois on the roads less traveled.
Mitchell Museum in Mt. Vernon
Head south for a day of art. At Cedarhurst, they have it all. Located on a 90-acre site, Cedarhurst offers exciting visual and performing arts programs for the public. In the Rolling Meadows enjoy Cedarhurst’s Sculpture Park, an outdoor gallery with more than 60 large-scale sculptures, including new sculptures by renowned artist Jun Kaneko. Inside the Mitchell Museum, art connoisseurs are immersed in classic and contemporary art located in four galleries. The museum profiles works by artists Mary Cassatt, Maurice Prendergast and Childe Hassam and offers an American painting collection assembled by founders John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchell. “This is a great day trip where you can enjoy the art and experience the nature,” said Sarah Sledge of Cedarhurst.
Cedarhurst hosts Thursday Night Live each week throughout the summer. The art galleries and Sculpture Park are open until 8 p.m. each Thursday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Visitors are welcome to enjoy weekly TNL programs, music on the patio, food concessions and cash bar.
The Mitchell Museum at Cedarhurst is at 2600 Richview Rd., Mt. Vernon. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. 618-242-1236. http://www.cedarhurst.org.
Moline, location of John Deere headquarters, is in the northwest corner of the state. In downtown Moline, the John Deere Pavilion is right next to the John Deere store. At this educational stop, kids can power up virtual reality simulators, climb into huge machines, watch videos on the giant media wall and learn about the legacy of John Deere, who changed the course of agricultural history with his self-scouring steel plow. The Pavilion offers insight into farming and encompasses all aspects of agriculture, including interesting historical tidbits. Exhibits rotate so if you have been to the Pavilion before, there is always something new and different to see at this kid-friendly stop that includes a special Discovery Zone with agriculture-based activities. If you have a little extra time, ask about a visit to the John Deere headquarters that was designed by Eero Saarinen and a tour of the two beautiful mansions associated with the Deere family.
The John Deere Pavilion is at 1400 River Drive, Moline, 61265. Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-4 p.m., 309-765-1000. www.deere.com.
Across the Mississippi River from Quincy is Hannibal, Missouri, home of Mark Twain. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was born in Florida, Missouri. In 1835, when he was four, his family moved to Hannibal. Using his childhood memories as a youth in a river town, Twain penned the popular The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), along with more than two dozen other books, that put Hannibal on the map. The stories of these fictional characters based on Mark Twain’s recollections have made Hannibal a unique place to visit.
Start your visit with a ride in the Hannibal Trolley Company Sightseeing Tours to get your bearings and figure out just where you want to go. During the summer enjoy a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat. Visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Museum and Museum Properties which include the Clemens Boyhood Home, a National Historic Landmark, the Becky Thatcher House, Huckleberry Finn House, J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office and the Museum Gallery and Interpretive Center. These buildings are located in the charming historic district. Don’t miss the Mark Twain Cave Complex, which boasts Missouri’s oldest and newest Show Caves.
Cave Hollow West Winery offers tastings with wines named after some of Twain’s writings with a twist like the Gilded Page and Innocent Broad. Besides the winery, there is also the Mark Twain Brewery located downtown on Main Street where you can dine or try out some of their brews also named after Twain’s writings, or sip a Molly Brown brew. The Molly Brown home, where the survivor of the Titanic was born, is also open for tour.
There are several other Twain stops as well as the beautiful Rockcliffe Mansion that you spy as soon as you enter town. Rockcliffe Mansion is a 13,500-square-foot grand residence built on four acres and situated on a limestone bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Hannibal also offers ghost tours and an array of places to eat and stay. If you’re looking for a romantic overnight stay, Hannibal has a variety of bed and breakfasts located in old historic homes.
For information about times and locations of the sites in Hannibal, contact the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau. Located at 505 N 3rd St., Hannibal, Missouri, 63401, 573-221-2477, email@example.com.
Nauvoo is located in Hancock County on a bend in the Mississippi River, on the Great River Road near the borders of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri and is a National Historic Landmark District with more than 40 restored sites and two working museums. Free wagon rides are offered year round. Enjoy Nauvoo’s restored sites that will take you back in time to the 1840s, a time when Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, settled the area with more than 12,000 followers. Nauvoo’s working museums will showcase additional heritage groups such as the Native American tribes of the Sac and Fox, along with the French Icarians and various German groups. Nauvoo is also home to eclectic shops – including the famous Hotel Nauvoo, an inn and restaurant renowned for its high-quality food; Baxter’s Vineyards and Winery, the oldest winery in the state of Illinois; The Nauvoo Fudge Factory, making fresh, homemade fudge and the Nauvoo Mill and Bakery, milling flours and making delectable treats. Tour the blacksmith shop and take home a hand-forged iron ring and stop at the former shop and home of Jonathan Browning, one of the oldest gun makers in the world.
To learn about all the great stops in Nauvoo, contact the Nauvoo Tourism Office,1295 Mulholland Street, Nauvoo, 217-453-6648, www.beautifulnauvoo.com
A tie-in to the history of Joseph Smith in the town of Carthage is the historic jail where Joseph Smith, leader of the settlement at Nauvoo, was murdered in 1844 along with his brother, Hyrum. The jail is constructed of native yellow limestone and was built between 1839 and 1841. Tours of both the jail and visitor’s center that was built by the LDS church in 1963 are available.
Carthage also boasts the Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum, which was created by Dr. Alice Kibbe, who was curator of Carthage College. Dr. Kibbe stayed behind with the museum items she purchased when the college moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Howard Perry, one of the board members, said she felt the museum should stay in Carthage so she bought the collection and put the museum in her house. After she died, she deeded both her home and collection to the city of Carthage.
The museum has several Lincoln items from Lincoln campaign enthusiasts called the Wide Awakes. There is a rare Wide Awakes cape along with an 18-star hand-sewn flag. The museum has a John Deere open buggy built in 1900 in St. Louis as well as local historical items.
The Hancock County Courthouse was built in 1907 boasts large stained glass windows, mosaic tile and painted murals.For more information, go to the Carthage tourism website, http://www.carthage-il.com or call 217-357-3800.
Clayville historic site is located near Pleasant Plains, 17 miles northwest of Springfield. The site profiles the Broadwell Inn, built in 1824 by Moses and John Broadwell. The Inn served as a stagecoach stop and public house until 1847, when John Broadwell sold the property. While it was a stagecoach stop, stagecoach passengers, freight caravans, freight carriers, cattle drovers and circuit riders of the legal profession stopped by the inn. Who knows, Abraham Lincoln may have been one of the visitors. The Broadwell family also owned and operated a tannery and wood mills, and established Sangamo Town. Other village buildings were constructed by a previous owner before Clayville became a rural life center. Some of these buildings are also open to the public. Clayville offers an array of events and a chance for visitors to tour and reconnect with local history. Clayville conducts annual spring and fall festivals as well as a Folk Music Festival and A Clayville Christmas.
Located on Illinois State Highway 125 east of Pleasant Plains, Clayville is open to the public with free tours Tuesday – Saturday, April 1 to Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 217-572-4984, www.clayville.org.
Twenty miles north of Springfield, Elkhart is located off I-55 on old Route 66. From the interstate it is easy to see the hill the Ice Age carved out, rising 777 feet above sea level. For many years, several Indian tribes populated the area around Elkhart Hill, with the first white settler arriving in 1819. The Elkhart Cemetery reads like a Who’s Who with the likes of Civil War general and three-term Illinois governor Richard J. Oglesby, who lived in Elkhart from 1890 until his death, and John Dean Gillett, who was known for raising superior quality beef and for his friendship with Abraham Lincoln. Captain Adam H. Bogardus, a wildfowl market hunter, conservationist and champion wing-shot, who toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s “Wild West” show, is buried here. Elkhart was also home to three historical baseball figures.
Come to Elkhart today to enjoy learning about the history of the town outlined in the Lincoln Heritage Signs and a Looking For Lincoln Wayside Exhibit as you stroll in the turn-of-the-century downtown.
Elkhart’s “Historic Rt. 66 Statue and Wayside Exhibit,” opened in October of 2014, focuses on a stop that Shirley Temple made while on her way to the premiere of Little Miss Broadway in Springfield when she stopped at Elkhart to eat. Little Miss Broadway was a 1938 musical drama film about a theatrical boarding house and its occupants. The exhibit consists of a metal silhouette statue and accompanying informational signage.
Keep an eye out for the doughboy statue presented to the Village of Elkhart by returning veterans of World War I. Wander in shops and check out the Wild Hare Café and Talk of the Town restaurants on Governor Oglesby Street. The Blue Moon Pub offers live entertainment regularly and there are a few antique shops and a slot car raceway that offers great fun. Head north for a day trip getaway.
Elkhart is located off old Route 66, between Springfield and Lincoln. The historic downtown is open Tuesdays through Sundays year-round. Contact Peggy Lee at 217-947-2046, http://www.elkhartillinois.us/index.html.
This Menard County site is the reconstructed village where Abraham Lincoln lived for six years. The village includes 12 log houses, the Rutledge tavern, a school, stores and a mill along the village trails. You can learn a lot about Honest Abe. While living in New Salem, he clerked in a store, split rails, enlisted in the Black Hawk War, served as postmaster and deputy surveyor, failed in business and, after an unsuccessful try in 1832, was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834 and 1836.
Besides visiting the sites, consider taking in one of the Theatre in the Park performances. The plays are held in a 475-seat outdoor theater Fridays through Sundays from mid-June till late August. Visit www.theatreinthepark.net for more information and a schedule of upcoming performances.
Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site is about two miles south of Petersburg and about 20 miles northwest of Springfield at 15588 History Lane, Petersburg, 62675. Call to check for hours and special events at 217-632-4000 or http://www.lincolnsnewsalem.com.
Lincoln Heritage Museum
The Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College in Lincoln reopened April 26, 2014. It is ranked as one of the “30 Most Amazing University Museums in the World.” The first floor is filled with Lincoln artifacts and the second floor includes an interactive display that opens after Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theater. The museum director, Tom McLaughlin, said the museum focuses on Lincoln’s character. “Empathy, perseverance and intellect are all qualities Lincoln had, that we can all live out and emulate,” Keller said. “The museum offers living history that brings characters to life.”
Visitors to the museum can either take the quicker walk-through without the audiovisual effects, or if you have an hour and a half or more, touchpoints provide all the details of Lincoln’s life after viewing the artifact and story boards on the first floor.
The Lincoln Heritage Museum is located at Lincoln College, 1115 Nicholson Road, Lincoln. Call 217-735-7399 or log onto http://museum.lincolncollege.edu/ for information. Open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed Sundays and holidays.
Carlinville historic sites
Carlinville sits off Route 4 about an hour south of Springfield. Carlinville sites include the castle-like Macoupin County Jail that was built in 1869 with a cannon ball method, using cannon balls left over from the Civil War. The Gothic design gives the structure the look of a fairytale fortress. The jail sits across from the “million-dollar” courthouse that is still in use today. The courthouse was a pet project of Judge Loomis and was worked into part of his re-election campaign.
Besides these sites, the Macoupin County Historical Society is located in the Anderson Mansion, a lovely Victorian mansion that is open at times to tour. The home is set on 17 acres and has numerous outbuildings that are open during the Spring and Fall Festivals. Carlinville is also home to the largest number of Sears Homes in the U.S. Built in 1917 by the Standard Oil Co. of Indiana for workers serving their coal mines, you can drive by these structures that came out of a catalog and have lasted almost 100 years. Log onto http://www.carlinville.com/ for details about what this town that has been deemed “One of the Best Small Towns in America” has to offer!