Springfield’s museums and historic sites
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site
A visit to Springfield is not complete without touring the magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana-Thomas House, now an Illinois State Historic Site. The home contains the largest collection of site-specific, original Wright art glass and furniture and was Wright’s first “blank check” commission.
In 1902, Susan Lawrence Dana, the socialite daughter of a Springfield industrialist, commissioned architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new residence around the existing family home. Trusting in Wright’s genius, Dana spared no expense, and Wright went all-out in what’s considered one of his first full expressions of the Prairie Style. When it was finished in 1904, the $60,000 project was the largest residence Wright had built – 35 rooms on three main levels, encompassing 12,000 square feet of living space. Dana loved to entertain, and her house was designed with that purpose in mind. The grand entrance is theatrical; one enters the house as though walking onto a stage. The three floors contain 16 varying levels.
In the early 1980s, to preserve this architectural gem, the state of Illinois acquired the residence from then-owner Thomas Publishing. The Dana-Thomas House Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the house, hosts programs and special events. Extensively restored in 2011 to reflect even more of its former grandeur, the house is operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
The house contains the largest collection of Wright furniture and art-glass windows in the world. The house also features a panoramic mural, created by internationally renowned artist George Niedecken, who painted many murals for Wright. The Sumac Gift Shop offers many Wright-related items.
Events at the Dana-Thomas House include Made for Music Concerts, specialty tours, Jazz in Bloom, and special floral designs during the holidays.
Dana-Thomas House, 301 E. Lawrence Ave., 217-782-6776, www.dana-thomas.org. Hours are Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed Library at Lawrence Education Center
At Dana’s request, Wright also designed a library for the Lawrence School in honor of her father, the late Rheuna Lawrence. Not too long after Wright designed the space – one of only 10 interiors Wright designed for a building that wasn’t his – the school converted the library into a classroom. However, Wright’s original construction records were discovered in his Taliesin West studio, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the library was restored in the 1980s. It is now part of the Lawrence Education Center, 101 E. Laurel St. From mid-September through mid-May, the library is open to the public Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. During summer, call 525-3233 for current hours.
Illinois State Museum
Did you know Illinois was once located south of the equator and covered by a glacial sea? Learn more about Illinois’ natural history as well as 12,000 years of human history at the Illinois State Museum. Interactive exhibits, educational programs and special events provide a fun and educational experience for people of all ages.
See the Ice Age behemoths that once roamed the glacial expanses. Rotating art exhibitions demonstrate the rich tradition of both decorative and fine art within Illinois. Children will especially love the Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum where they can join the museum staff -- excavating fossils, collecting specimens, and creating exhibits -- through the power of imagination and free play. This museum is a Springfield gem.
Several changing art exhibitions provide an opportunity to learn more about Illinois artists.
Just Good Art: The Chuck Thurow Gift; Feb. 4, 2017- May 8, 2017. This exhibition is a selection from the newly acquired gift of over one hundred modern and contemporary artworks from Chicago collector Chuck Thurow.
Michiko Itatani: Celestial Visions; March 28, 2017- June 5, 2017. Michiko Itatani is one of Chicago’s most well-respected contemporary artists. This exhibition features new acquisitions of drawings and prints alongside installation-based and heroically scaled figurative paintings from the Museum’s Fine Art Collection
Robert Middaugh; June 18, 2017-Aug. 29, 2017 This exhibition of recent gifts to the collection highlights the career of Chicago artist Robert Middaugh (1935-2011). Middaugh’s paintings and constructions present a magical realist world where strange machines of unknown use inhabit a deserted world.
The museum offers a wide range of special programs. For more information, visit www.illinoisstatemuseum.org or contact email@example.com or 217-782-0061. Super Saturdays, held on the first Saturday of each month, offer free, thematic activities recommended for children ages 5 and up. The Paul Mickey Science Series takes place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month in the museum’s auditorium. Adults interested in learning more about science, art and history are invited to attend the Brown Bag lectures at the Museum’s Research & Collections Center at 1011 E. Ash St. in Springfield. Bring your lunch and hear a different speaker and topic at noon on the third Wednesday of each month.
The museum is located at 502 S. Spring Street in the Capitol Complex, south of the Illinois State Capitol. Museum hours are Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m; Sunday noon-4:30 p.m. The children’s Play Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday: 1-4:30 p.m. The Museum is closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Admission fee is $5 for adults ages19-64. Free: Youth, Seniors, Military Personnel, Veterans and Illinois State Museum Society Members. www.illinoisstatemuseum.org, 217-782-7386.
Elijah Iles House
The Elijah Iles House was built in the 1830s, making it one of Springfield’s oldest houses. There is evidence that it was designed by the same architect who designed the Old State Capitol. It is one of Illinois’ earliest residences in the Greek Revival style of architecture.
Two of Springfield’s most famous citizens, Abraham Lincoln and poet Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, are known to have visited the house. Lincoln spent time in the house as a guest of Robert Irwin and he enjoyed many a card game in the front parlor. Because of the house’s impressive architecture and rich history, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Having been moved from two earlier locations, the house found its current home at the corner of Seventh and Cook in 2004. The house is thought to have been built by Elijah Iles in 1837. An elevator, accessible from special parking behind the house, provides access to visitors with limited mobility. The Farrell and Ann Gay Museum of Springfield History is located in the house’s lower level. Exhibits have included topics such as Springfield’s early beginnings and the history of the Illinois Watch Company.
Elijah Iles House, 628 S. Seventh St. Open for tours 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, April through October or by appointment. No charge, but a voluntary donation of $3 or more per person is suggested. 217-492-5929, http://ileshouse.org/
Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site
“Prairie troubadour” Vachel Lindsay captured the attention of audiences around the world during the early 1900s. He was born on Nov. 10, 1879, and died on Dec. 5, 1931. Both events took place in the Lindsay family home at 603 S. Fifth St., across the street from the Illinois Executive Mansion. Lindsay’s father, Thomas, was a physician; his mother, Catherine, was an artist and social reformer. Lindsay was supposed to follow in his father’s footsteps, and after high school he attended Hiram College in Ohio to study medicine, but he eventually dropped out to attend art schools in Chicago and New York City.
In the early 20th century, Lindsay set out on a series of tramps across America. At the conclusion of one of these trips, his poem “General William Booth Enters into Heaven,” a eulogy to the founder of the Salvation Army, was published in Chicago’s Poetry magazine. The poem brought him national attention, and subsequent works garnered international acclaim. Some of his best-known poems include “The Congo” and “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight.”
Lindsay’s family home, now a state historic site, has been restored to depict life in 1917, when Lindsay’s parents still played an active role in community life. Examples of Lindsay’s poetry and art, not a part of the house at that time, have been added to showcase the poet. Events include poetry readings and writing workshops.
Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site, 603 S. Fifth St., 217-785-7960, www.vachellindsay.org. Tours by reservation.
Korean War National Museum
The Korean War National Museum is the nationally designated museum for the Korean War, honoring the men and women from throughout the world who served. The museum contains a collection of historically significant pieces and supporting stories that bring to life a conflict that partnered nations from around the world to combat the expansion of Communism. This international and historic museum pays tribute to the sacrifice of over one million Koreans, 36,574 Americans and thousands of allied troops and support personnel.
The Korean War National Museum is located at 9 S. Old State Capitol Plaza and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m Tuesday-Saturday; closed during January. For more information, call 888-419-5053 or 217-523-7230 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum
As the soldiers who fought in the bloody Civil War returned to civilian life, many retained the bonds of brotherhood forged in battle. Several fraternal organizations of Civil War veterans sprang up, and the Grand Army of the Republic, established in Decatur in 1866, became a leader among them, with more than 409,000 members who previously served in the Union forces. The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum in Springfield memorializes those veterans and sits within walking distance of the Lincoln Home and across the street from the Elijah Iles House.
The collection includes tintype photos by Mathew Brady, rare drawings of the infamous Andersonville and Libby prison camps, and a complete list of Union soldiers held there during the war. Owned by the National Woman’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, the museum also maintains many volumes of Civil War history that may be examined on-site.
Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum, 629 S. Seventh St., 217-522-4373. www.suvcw.org/WRC/garmuseum.htm. Open 10a.m.-4p.m. Tues.-Sat. Closed January-February and national holidays.
NORTH OF DOWNTOWN SPRINGFIELD
Illinois State Military Museum
The museum’s permanent exhibit, “Patriots of the Heartland,” chronicles the actions of the military in Illinois from its early militias to current military operations throughout the world. Located on the grounds of Camp Lincoln, headquarters of the Illinois National Guard, the Illinois State Military Museum is dedicated to the state’s military heritage, from pre-statehood days to today. While you’re there, take a close look at the target board used by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to test-fire the new Spencer rifle, or ask about the museum’s collection of Civil War flags currently held in storage but viewable by the public. Added in 2007 is a realistic World War II scene depicting Illinois’ 132nd Infantry in combat on Guadalcanal in 1942. Displayed outside are restored Vietnam War-era AH-1 Cobra and UH-1 “Huey” helicopters and an M60A-3 tank.
Illinois State Military Museum, Camp Lincoln, 1301 N. MacArthur Blvd., 217-761-3910, www.il.ngb.army.mil/museum. Open 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Admission is free. Donations are welcome.
Illinois War Memorials
The World War II Illinois Veterans Memorial in Oak Ridge Cemetery was constructed to honor the 987,000 men and women from Illinois who served our country during World War II, when 22,000 Illinois citizens gave their lives in pursuit of liberty. The memorial design centerpiece is a globe 12 feet in diameter, which represents the world in conflict during World War II. It is surrounded by a granite wall engraved with the names and dates of major battles of the Pacific and European theaters of war. A central plaza of personalized engraved bricks completes the design.
The Illinois Korean War Memorial, dedicated on June 16, 1996, is also located in Oak Ridge Cemetery. The monument’s centerpiece is a 12-foot bronze bell surrounded by four larger-than-life warriors representing the five branches of the armed forces -- Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines. The names of over 1,700 Illinoisans killed in Korea are inscribed along eight walls of the memorial’s granite base.
The Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Oak Ridge Cemetery was dedicated in May 1988. The memorial incorporates five black granite walls upon which are inscribed the 2,970 names of Illinoisans who died or are still missing. The five black granite walls form interior courtyards, one for each of the five branches of service. Each branch of service is designated by its insignia, which is etched on inner 15-foot-high gray granite walls. Also inscribed on the gray granite walls are the names of those listed as missing in action or as prisoners of war, as well as the names of the highest decorated veterans in each branch of service. An eternal flame burns atop the memorial where the gray granite walls converge.
Oak Ridge Cemetery is open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. daily from April 1 to Aug. 1, and 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily from Sept. 1 to March 31.
Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum
One of Springfield’s newest museums, which first opened in February 2012, recently moved to its new location at 1440 Monument Avenue, at the main entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery. The goal of the museum is to educate the public on the African-American experience through research, collection, preservation and interpretations of that experience.
Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum, 1440 Monument Ave. 62702 217-391-6323 or toll-free 877-757-2246, email@example.com, www.spiaahm.org. Admission with donation. For tour groups of 11 visitors or more, admission is $3 per person. Winter hours (Nov. 1 through March 31) Tuesday through Friday noon-4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Seasonal hours (April 1 through Oct. 31) Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Extended hours and individual tours available on request.
Illinois Fire Museum
The museum, located in a fire station built in 1938, houses an authentic 1857 horse-drawn hand pumper, complete with water buckets. The antique pumper is parked next to a shiny brass fire pole once used by state fairgrounds firefighters. A fully restored 1939 Diamond T Pumper, donated by the Beardstown Fire Department has also taken up residence at the museum along with a replica of the 1948 Ford used by the old state fairgrounds fire department.
Open to the public since 1994 by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Illinois Fire Museum is also home to one of the nation’s largest fire department patch collections. The exhibit includes patches from throughout Illinois, the United States and some foreign countries.
The highest honor bestowed upon Illinois firefighters; the “Firefighting Medal of Honor” is also showcased at the Illinois Fire Museum. Additionally, real fire scene photos, fire helmets, antique and contemporary uniforms, call boxes, nozzles, pike poles and fire extinguishers each have their own story to tell as they decorate the walls and exhibits of the museum.
Children can test their fire safety knowledge in the children’s interactive, educational computer room. Here, children learn about hazards in the home, fire safety behaviors and tips on how to react if a fire does occur.
Illinois Fire Museum, Building 7, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Central at Main, 217-524-8754, http://www.sfm.illinois.gov/Public/Illinois-Fire-Museum. Open by appointment only, Monday-Friday. No appointment is needed during the Illinois State Fair. Admission is free.
The Pearson Museum
Located in the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, this teaching museum covers various aspects of healing, including pharmaceutical, surgical, dental and alternative medicine. Treatments through the centuries come to life in permanent and changing exhibits. Named for long-practicing Springfield physician Emmett Pearson, the museum features a dental exhibit, a complete homeopathic dispensary and an entire 1900 drugstore from Canton, Illinois, with its many apothecary jars and vials. School groups and practicing physicians often visit the museum to hear lectures.
Pearson Museum, 801 N. Rutledge St., 545-2155. Open by appointment. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. http://www.siumed.edu/medhum/2010Templates/-2010Pearson/2010PearsonIndex.html
Air Combat Museum
The Air Combat Museum showcases the role of military aviation with an array of aviation memorabilia, including the gun sight from a Messerschmitt 109 and historical aircraft, including a P-51 Mustang, a Vought F4U-5 Corsair and a World War II vintage Ryan PT-22 Recruit. A rare 1928 Stearman C-3B joined the growing collection in 2011. An antique Fleet Model 9 biplane is being restored on the premises.
Air Combat Museum, Capital Airport, 835 South Airport Rd., www. aircombatmuseum.org. Open 9 a.m. -4 p.m. Monday-Friday April through September. Open 7 a.m.-4 p.m.Tuesday-Friday October through March. Closed 12-1 p.m. for lunch. For individual visits, donations are suggested. Group tours are $20, by appointment only, and may be arranged by calling 217-522-2181.
Anyone looking for a complete parts manual for a World War II Martin B-26 Marauder – or another obscure relic from the aeronautical past – should visit AeroKnow Museum. The unique collection of historic photographs, model aircraft and kits dating back to the 1930s, aviation books and periodicals dating back to 1910 and technical manuals celebrates four years at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport this year. Founder and director Job Conger reports that visitation remains “by appointment only,” so call ahead. Though international in scope, Springfield and Illinois aviation history comprise a significant part of the resources of this project in process. The current “cozy quarters” preclude group tours, but up to five visitors at a time are welcome, especially on weekends.
AeroKnow Museum, 900 Capital Airport Drive, Springfield. Located in the Horizon Aviation F.B.O., across the rental car parking lot from the terminal. www.aeroknow.com. Call for appointment 217-331-3661 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camp Butler National Cemetery
One of 14 sites designated national cemeteries by President Abraham Lincoln, Camp Butler was also used to train Union troops and served as a prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. Some 800 Confederate soldiers are buried here. So, too, are 39 German and 4 Italian military personnel and a Korean spy who was working for Germany, interred here after unsuccessful efforts to locate their kin after World War II. The site has an outside touch-screen kiosk that permits visitors to locate the graves of soldiers buried at Camp Butler.
Camp Butler National Cemetery, 5063 Camp Butler Rd., 217-492-4070. www.cem.va.gov/CEM/cems/nchp/campbutler.asp. Office open 7:30 a.m-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Visitation hours are 7:30 a.m. to sunset.
Clayville Historic Site
An assemblage of pre-Lincoln-era pioneer village life on 14 acres that includes a former stagecoach stop built in 1824 and the oldest log cabin in Sangamon County, Clayville Historic Site has risen like a Phoenix from 17 years of neglect. In 2009, the Pleasant Plains Historical Society purchased the grounds and has restored the site. The Broadwell Inn and Tavern, the second-oldest brick building in Illinois, served travelers en route and returning from Beardstown. The site includes two 1830s log cabins, an1850s barn moved to the site and reconstructed and the Rustemeyer Blacksmith Shop, the last active blacksmith shop in Springfield. In 1842, the first Whig Party state convention was held at Clayville. Including some support structures added by Sangamon State University in the 1970s, there are 10 buildings at the site. Guided tours for groups of 10 or more may be arranged by appointment, and visitors may just wander the grounds.
Clayville Historic Site is on Illinois Route 125 about a mile east of Pleasant Plains. From Springfield take Jefferson Street west and stay to the left on 125 where Route 97 (the road to New Salem) breaks north. To arrange group tours and for more information, call 217-481-4430. Open Tuesday through Saturday from April-September, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is by donation. www.clayville.org.