A lot of people are going to explore Illinois this year because this is the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. During a recent presentation, Chicago Route 66 expert David G. Clark explained how to get the most mileage out checking historical sites within the Land of Lincoln, according to Shopper Source Online:
By following Route 66, The Great River Road and Route 30 you can see many places that Lincoln traveled. A portion of Route 66 was the corridor that was blazed by the Chicago and Alton railroad, the railroad that brought the funeral train to Chicago and down to Springfield. Along the Illinois river was where he took flat boats to New Orleans. In the western part of the state you can go across from west to east on Lincoln Highway, one of the first trans continental highways.
The town of Lincoln was named in his honor in 1853 long before he made his mark in politics. Lincoln had been the lawyer for the people who founded the town. In Springfield you can visit the only house that Lincoln would ever own, and downtown Springfield you will find one of his original law offices as well as the presidential library museum. Inside the train station there is an exhibit about the funeral train. In Alton you can see Lincoln Douglas Square, the site of the final debate that has lifelike statutes of the two. In Galesburg on the side of the Great River Road is the old main building of Knox College, the only building still standing from the Lincoln/Douglas debates.
In Dixon you can see the former Nachusa House Hotel next to the court in which many presidents had stayed. Traveling along Route 30 in New Lenox at Lincolnway High School you can see one of the remaining Lincoln Highway markers placed there in 1928 by the Boy Scouts on top of which is a likeness of Lincoln for whom the school was named. New Lenox was also home to an old brick tavern often used for lodging that predated the railroads. Only a small brick monument remains.
Clark ended the journey in Chicago Heights where the Lincoln Highway crosses Dixie Highway which ran from Chicago to Florida. This area is known as the crossroads of the nation. Lincoln Highway symbolizes the corridors of commerce that Abraham Lincoln strove for during his political and legal career. Clark called Dixie Highway a sort of a reunification of north and south that happened when Lincoln was president. At the southwest corner of that intersection is fountain likeness of Lincoln. Across the street they put up another monument. This is the only one of him smiling as he accepts flowers from young girls.
The cities of Springfield and Lincoln are both on Route 66. Springfield in particular is loaded with Lincoln historical sites, more than what Clark likely could recount here. The presidential library, which I had the privilege of seeing shortly after it opened a few years ago, is especially eye-popping.