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Thursday, May 27, 2010 01:36 pm

Explore central Illinois

For a memorable summer, take these day trips close to home

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The Flack Barn in McDonough County was built in 1900 and is a double valley cross gable. The farm has been in the same family for 150 years. The barn has undergone a complete exterior renovation with historical colors.
COURTESY MACOMB AREA CONVENTION BUREAU

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and it’s time for summer family fun. Pack for a picnic and head out in the car for a fun day under the Illinois sky. Let Illinois Times and a black ribbon of road be your guides.


Historic Barns of McDonough County

McDonough County, which centers on Macomb, 84 miles northwest of Springfield, offers barn tours by car. These architectural masterpieces are now rare, as wooden barns are replaced by aluminum buildings. “Discover the beauty of rural life by seeing our historic barns nestled in the countryside of McDonough County. These wooden barns are in good to excellent condition and are very old,” says the Macomb Area Visitors Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The newest ones have stood for 75 years. An unusual true-round is showcased as well as the locally unique cross-gable.” There are 30 barns to view.

For details log onto www.macomb.com/macvb or call the Macomb Area Visitors Convention & Visitors Bureau at 309-833-1315.

While in Macomb, check out the old courthouse built in the summer of 1872 out of limestone and red brick.


C.H. Moore Homestead Dewitt County Museum

The C. H. Moore Homestead Dewitt County Museum at Clinton, 47 miles northeast of Springfield, is a must see. “Construction was started on the C. H. Moore Homestead by John and Minerva Moore Bishop,” the website says. “Mr. Bishop was a prosperous grain and lumber dealer in Clinton. Work on the C. H. Moore Homestead was completed in 1867 after the Civil War had ended and life took on a more normal pattern….”

Some of the highlights of the home include the wing added in 1887 to house Moore’s vast collection of books. When Moore passed away, he owned approximately 7,000 volumes that were stored in the two-story-high library with a vaulted ceiling and stenciled walls. In the dining room the parquet floor is fitted with white oak, birch, walnut, maple and cherry.

Besides the home, there is a farm museum and a new toy collection on loan this summer from Jim and Juanita Morris. The Homestead describes the display: “The collection includes toys from the l920s and l930s. Firetrucks, large scale horses and cars of a size made to be ridden by the children make up the display in the basement of the mansion. Recent gifts include an Edison phonograph which plays wax cylinders of old-time melodies and a large picture of Abraham Lincoln by famed photographer Alexander Gardner are newly displayed items. These were given to the museum by heirs of C.H. Moore.”

Many events are planned for 2010. June alone holds the annual quilt show, car show, ice cream social and vintage baseball. The ball game will be held during the 175th Clinton celebration during the weekend of June 19-20. For details contact the museum website www.chmoorehomestead.org or call 217-935-6066


Arcola and the Amish Country

J.H. Hawes Elevator and Museum in Atlanta.
Douglas County is home to Illinois’ largest Old Order Amish settlement. Arcola, 82 miles east of Springfield, and the countryside offer beautiful farmsteads, shops with Amish craftsmanship, horses and buggies and great food. These are just a few reasons to come to this area that offers much. The Amish Interpretive Center (www.amishcenter.com) in downtown Arcola shares information about the history and heritage of the local Amish community.

Looking for a unique festival? Arcola celebrates its heritage as “broomcorn capital of the world” with the Broom Corn Festival held annually on the weekend after Labor Day. The Arcola website touts: “The festival’s parade is central Illinois’ largest and is home to the world-famous Lawn Rangers, who twirl and toss their brooms. The community still boasts ties to broomcorn and the broom industry with companies such as the Thomas Monahan Company and the Libman Company.”

Kids who grew up with Raggedy Ann and Andy may want to know that Arcola is the birthplace of Johnny Gruelle, the creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy. The Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum www.raggedyann-museum.org downtown, while no longer officially open, comes alive for the Raggedy Ann and Andy Festival. The festival, held in June, brings collectors from the world over to trade dolls and stories of Raggedy Ann and Andy.

Nearby Arcola is Rockome Gardens (www.rockome.com). This lovely setting with the rock gardens and Amish craftsmanship has a few new additions to the popular buggy and train rides. They have added a petting zoo and large stock animal displays. For more information about the area, check out the website, www.arcolaillinois.org.


Pittsfield, an outdoor arena

Pittsfield, part of Pike County, draws hunters from all over Illinois and around the United States. This lovely city offers fun events for kids, like Pig Days. Held the second weekend in July on the courthouse lawn in Pittsfield, this event was created to celebrate the fact that Pike County was the Hog Capital of the World.

Honest Abe shows up everywhere, and Pittsfield is no exception. With 11 homes associated with Lincoln history, Abe Lincoln’s Talking Tour offers a tour by tuning the radio to the AM station listed on the house. For a copy of the self-guided brochure, visit the Pike County Visitors Center at 224 W. Washington Street in Pittsfield or the Bureau’s Office at Third and York streets in Quincy. For activities in the Pike County area, go to www.greatriverroad.com/quincy/pikecoattract.htm.

An Amish horse-drawn buggy transports tourists in Arthur.


Taylorville, a central Illinois gem

Coal mining history runs deep under central Illinois. On the historic square in Taylorville, learn more about that history by visiting the Christian County Coal Mine Museum created by former miners. The museum includes information about the bloody 1930s mine wars and encompasses Christian County’s coal mining history. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

As he did in many central Illinois cities, Abraham Lincoln practiced law at the courthouse in Taylorville. Check out the bronze statue on the Taylorville square titled, “The Last Stop.” The statue tells of Lincoln’s request for a “writ of quietus” to silence the squealing village pigs under the 1839 courthouse during a trial. The pig in the statue brings to life that unique story. For more things to do in Taylorville, go to http://visittaylorville.com.


Lincoln area attractions

When heading north to Lincoln, stop in Atlanta to see the J.H. Hawes Elevator & Museum, one of the oldest surviving wooden elevators. This museum describes how grain was processed in years past (www.haweselevator.org).

The Postville Courthouse in downtown Lincoln was used from 1840-1847, and is one of the places Abraham Lincoln practiced law. Besides the courthouse, another place to stop is the Heritage in Flight Museum. Set in a WWII barracks from the German POW site in Camp Ellis, the museum features aviation and military displays. Details are available at www.heritageinflight.org.

Cindy Ladage is a freelance writer who lives on a farm near Virden.  She loves to travel and write about the places where she has been.

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