I was sent on a business trip to, of all places, Pontiac, IL. I had never heard of the place, quite frankly. Turns out that Pontiac sits pretty much between Chicago and Springfield, IL, so it seemed like a good opportunity to get in another “Abraham Lincoln fix.”
It was almost dark by the time my flight landed in Chicago and I obtained a rental car. The night sky offered a unique opportunity to view the red lights glowing on the massive windmill farms as I made my way to Pontiac. I spent the first couple of days working and, then, I was free to do a little sightseeing.
Pontiac, IL is a tiny, historic town located on Route 66. The town square is decorated with statues of cars decorated in various styles and designs (much like the horses in Louisville and bulls in Chicago.)
People were extremely friendly as I strolled along in the summer heat, taking in the small but interesting museums and artists shops. When I walked into one art museum, the owner couldn’t wait to take me into a dark room and show me her latest find – glow in the dark wedding gowns! I was the first customer to view them since they arrived in Pontiac from Japan. The white wedding gowns looked normal in the light but, when the lights were turned off, they displayed vibrant artistic designs, making them a fun party accessory for the wedding reception. They were pretty awesome!
I also visited the Pontiac Car Museum, which displayed the oldest to newest Pontiac automobiles. My dad would have LOVED that place!
I toured an old school bus that someone had converted into a traveling home. He lived in it as he traveled Route 66 across the U.S. He did hippies proud!
There were several murals painted on town building and sidewalks. They were quite impressive. I felt as if I could have walked right into that car repair shop.
I had lunch at a small cafe in the center of town, and enjoyed dinner outside, on the sidewalk of a small bistro. The food was good, but the small town view was awesome!
That was about all there was to see in Pontiac, so I headed further south to Springfield, Il, the Land of Lincoln. My first stop was the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. I knew I would enjoy it for the simple reason that I am such a fan of American history. What I didn’t know is how much I would enjoy it!
There are some fascinating documents in the library, but the museum exhibits blew me away! “The Boys of Blue and Gray” exhibit was on display during my visit, and it was amazing to see so many personal items which belonged to soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Another fascinating exhibit was of the medical tools used by doctors who treated the injured during the war. I was speechless to see that the doctors really didn’t have much available to use in treating such massive injuries, and it was almost too painful to look at the many photos of injured soldiers. Painful to look at but, still, important to see. I came away with a much better understanding of just how much was sacrificed by so many during that war.
Taking photographs wasn’t allowed in many of the exhibits, but I did get to take some snapshots of a few interesting things. As soon as I walked into the main entrance of the museum, I was greeted by wax sculptures of the Lincoln family – a favorite photograph spot for tourists. A replica of the front of the White House stood behind them. Inside the house was a recreation of a few of the more popular White House rooms as well as some of Mary Todd Lincoln’s dresses.
The museum tour starts with a walk through a replica of Lincoln’s childhood log cabin home, depicting scenarios of him as a child, and takes you through his life as a young man living in Springfield, and on to the White House.
Some of the paintings of Lincoln giving a speech to the masses from the White House balcony and of the celebration in the streets when the war was over are breathtaking. These photos do not do them justice. One has to view the original works of art in order to fully appreciate them.
The replica of Lincoln lying in State after his death felt incredibly real! A hush fell over the room as tourists passed by, paying their respects while George Washington’s portrait watched over the casket. It was quite the experience.
The museum also offers several live presentations, with visual and sound effects that are amazing! I’ve heard it said that the Lincoln Presidential Museum is the best of all of the presidential museums. I haven’t visited the others yet, so I can’t compare them, but I was extremely impressed with this one! Well worth the trip.
I also visited Abraham and Mary’s Springfield home. It’s on a regular neighborhood street, with families living all around it. It was easy to imagine them walking along the streets, pushing a baby carriage. Lincoln is buried not far from his home, at Mary Todd Lincoln’s request. She wanted him to be laid to rest in the town he called home rather than in Arlington National Cemetery. His original headstone was quite unimpressive, but has since been replaced with a large monument.
It was interesting to see so many artifacts from the Lincoln presidential years as well as to learn more about the Lincolns’ private lives. I’m glad I got the opportunity to visit Springfield.
I returned back to Pontiac for the night, stopping to check out a few other sites along the way. I made my way back to Chicago the next morning, but still had several hours to burn before catching my flight home. You know what they say, ” A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do…