Podcast Episode 82: Top Tips for Visiting Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois

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We visit the last home of President Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois…as well as his tomb not far away.

Podcast: Top Tips for Visiting Colonial Williamsburg

Video: Your Colonial Williamsburg Tour


Episode 82 – Lincoln’s Springfield Home

[00:00:00] Scott: Dave did you say Abe Lincoln? some reason that always pops in hilarious I don’t know what it is, but that just lodged its way into my brain, and as they say, it lives there.

[00:00:12] Rent So whenever we talk, whenever they talk about Abe Lincoln, I, for some reason, I think of that scene in Robin Hood You can tell I’m not a historian. 

[00:00:22] Welcome to Talk With History. I am your host Scott, here with my wife and historian Jen. 

[00:00:39] Jenn: Hello. 

[00:00:40] Scott: On this podcast, we give you insights into our history inspired world travels, YouTube channel journey, and examine history through deeper conversations with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers 

[00:00:51] Now, Jenn, before we get into it, I don’t think I told you this before, I may have mentioned it, but we got a good comment on Spotify on one of our older episodes, and it’s a pretty popular download. It was our episode on called Top Tips for Visiting Colonial Williamsburg,

[00:01:07] Jenn: Oh, cool.

[00:01:08] Scott: where we kind of, we talk about the tips and tricks video for visiting Colonial Williamsburg.

[00:01:13] And it was Crystal Brooks. She actually said, this podcast was very helpful for preparing to visit my first time and will also be return to see the things I Yeah. So she found the podcast, she listened to it and kind of helped during her first visit, even though she didn’t hit all the things that we talk 

[00:01:33] Jenn: Mm-hmm. 

[00:01:33] Scott: Hopefully that we had like parking like that. So if you’re listening one, you can find that episode it’s, you can search for it’s top tips for visiting Colonial Williamsburg. Or if you learn something in this particular episode, especially specifically if you’re listening on Spotify, you can comment and kind of after things are posted and say, tell us what you something or Hey, tell us what we missed.

[00:01:55] Jenn: Yeah, and that’s a reminder, this podcast is not only history, but it’s how to visit these sites.

[00:02:03] Scott: Spotify, feel free to comment and let us know if you’ve learned anything. Leave us a five star rating. We really do 

[00:02:11] Intro


[00:02:16] Scott: In the world of American history, few names shine as brightly as Abraham A man of humble beginnings who rose to become the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln left a lasting mark on the nation during one of its most trying times.

[00:02:36] In

[00:02:36] this episode, we invite you to step back in time with us as we wander through the very rooms where Lincoln and his family lived. We’ll uncover the stories behind the walls and wooden floors where Lincoln honed his skills as a lawyer and a politician. And our journey doesn’t end with this long, his longtime home, we also venture over to Oak Ridge Cemetery where the 16th president’s final resting place lies.

[00:03:02] Lincoln’s tomb, a towering monument to his legacy, stands as a symbol of hope, unity, and the enduring pursuit So Jen, I kind of didn’t bury the lead there, we’re going to talk about Lincoln’s home in Springfield, 

[00:03:18] Jenn: Yeah, it is an amazing place to visit. It when Abraham Lincoln boards the train to go to D.

[00:03:25] C. as the 16th president, he leaves in February of 1861, and he turns to the crowd in Springfield the last time he will see everyone there, and says to this place, in the kindness of these people, I owe everything.

[00:03:41] This is the only home Abraham Lincoln will ever own. And what’s so significant about that, before we dive into what it looked like, is he gets there in Springfield in 1837.

[00:03:53] And remember, this is a man who’s only had one year of actual school. Right? He’s self taught himself everything. And so he gets to this town and not only does he see promise in this town, the town sees promise in him. He marries Mary Todd in 1842. They live at , Globe Tavern, which is kind of close to where his museum is today for a year.

[00:04:17] And then they rent a house on 4th Street. This house will be on 8th Street. And for a little while. For like another year, 1842, they live in the tavern. And then 1843, they rent the house. And then in May of 1844, they move in to their first home, his only home that he will buy.

[00:04:38] And it’s on the corner of 8th Street and Jackson Street.

[00:04:42] Scott: And you pointed out in the video that across the street there’s another home that looked like it initially when they got it.

[00:04:48] So I assume that they added the second story.

[00:04:50] Jenn: Yeah. So when they.

[00:04:52] It’s one story, like the house diagonally across the street. And that’s the house I show because that’s what it would have looked like when they moved in. And as they, they move in with Robert Todd, they’ve already had one child, but as they live there, they have three more. And so they need more space.

[00:05:08] So they extend the second story and put the second story on. And so it becomes what it looks like today. But I, I show the house diagonally across the street, and that’s where that most photographed spot is as well. It’s kind of diagonally across the

[00:05:23] Scott: They actually have, if you watch our video, they have like kind of a, a, a, it’s a little more of like a just demonstration.

[00:05:29] But it’s there across the street. And picture, if you can picture, if you’ve ever seen. An old photograph of Lincoln’s home. That corner across the street, that’s Caddy Corner diagonally, that’s kind of the most commonly photographed one and we showed different pictures from that same across the street street corner multiple times and they, they have like a little fake camera and a little badge that says, from here is the most, you know, most photographed spot of the Lincoln home all that stuff.

[00:05:56] So it was really neat to 

[00:05:57] Jenn: It’s really neat. And then, you know, a lot of historic photographs have been taken there. People who have come to visit throughout the years. And I wanted to give the correct address is 413 South 8th Street. And like I said, it’s the corner of 8th and Jackson Street. And yeah, so I just, I, it’s just fascinating to be there.

[00:06:16] Beginnings in Springfield

[00:06:16] Jenn: Like you said, he is the figure of American history. So here he comes to this town, this town that believed in him. and he believed in the town. He meets Mary Todd. Mary Todd’s visiting her sister. So that’s her connection to the town. So she sees promise in this young man and they get married. They start to have children.

[00:06:45] They move into this house. He becomes a very prominent lawyer. He’s one of the best state courtroom attorneys in Illinois.

[00:06:55] Scott: That’s, that’s so… It’s hard to picture that nowadays, you know, someone like works their way up to become a lawyer that is a hundred percent self taught, you know, I mean, it really is incredible. You know, he, he, he really, and I think you mentioned it in the video, or if not the previous one from the Lincoln museum, that he is kind of like the icon 

[00:07:16] Jenn: Yes, yes. And so it’s two years after he’s moved into the House that he is elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1846. And then it’s in 1858 that he starts, he loses the Senate to Stephen Douglas in those debates. But that’s what’s going to catapult him into the White House. Two years later.

[00:07:34] So there’s just a lot, and we talked about this, a lot of successes, a lot of failures. He’ll welcome three children in this house and he’ll lose one in this house. He loses Eddie in this house. He’ll die five weeks short of his fourth birthday. So he’s born in 1846, the same time he’s elected to the U.

[00:07:52] S. House of Representatives, Lincoln, and then he dies almost four years later. And so they hold his wake in the house. So when you visit the Lincoln house, it’s not only where all three boys, the last three were born, but it’s where Eddie’s wake is going to be. So it’s just, it shows you how, so much of the walls hold your life inside of it. And for Lincoln, that is so true. So when we walk through it, even in the parlor, that’s where they come in and tell him, you’re the nominee for president, right? And he doesn’t accept it right away.

[00:08:31] Inside Lincoln’s home

[00:08:31] Jenn: So, it’s so amazing to be in the space, and that’s what I always say, to be in the space of history. It’s where he’s contemplating that. You can picture the gentleman coming in, telling him, and then his contemplation after they leave, after him talking with Mary Todd, after him playing with the boys, having some alone time, just how he’s contemplating it.

[00:09:04] And we walk up the banister, you know, we walk up the stairs and, and the, the docent, the tour guide was like, you could touch the banister that Abraham Lincoln touched. Like he,

[00:09:15] Scott: it was, it was so cool. And coming into the house, right, it’s, and it’s all 

[00:09:20] Jenn: Mm-hmm. ,it’s run by the National Park Service.

[00:09:22] Scott: by the National

[00:09:23] Jenn: It’s all free. We’ll tell you how to visit.

[00:09:25] Scott: yeah, we, we, you come in, and the one interesting thing that I thought was kind of neat, because everything is so original, right, and even the vast majority of the furniture and the items in the house, a lot of that stuff is, is original, you know, which I thought was fascinating, but that you actually have to stay on the carpet.

[00:09:41] So they have a carpet runner that’s basically kind of going all throughout the house. And if you step off this carpet, there’s actually like a little kind of like alarm that, that signals. And it happened once or twice because people just accidentally kind of, their foot shifted off or something like that.

[00:09:55] But they are, I mean, they do that because everything is original

[00:09:59] Jenn: Yeah, so when they left for D. C., they put a lot of the furniture into storage.

[00:10:05] They rent out the house, but they had a full expectation to come home. They had full expectation for Abraham to be president for four years, eight years, and then retire back to Springfield, Illinois, come back to that house. So even though they had rented their house out, I think they rented it to the railroad.

[00:10:23] President. They had full expectations of coming back. And so the, the furniture still exists. And Robert Todd owned all of it. So when Robert Todd eventually hands the house over to be cared for by the federal government, it turns into the National Park Service. He gives all of the furniture and things to them as well.

[00:10:43] His two stipulations were it had to look the same, it had to be cared for, and it had to be free for visitors. But when you visit, so you can visit the Lincoln Home Visitor Center is where you want to go because you need a ticket to get into the house. And you can’t just wander in. And it’s right on 7th Street.

[00:11:03] So if you think, this is on. 8th Street in Jackson. The visitor center is on 7th Street in Jackson. So it’s one block over. And that’s where the parking is. That’s where the restrooms are. There’s no restrooms in the Lincoln House. think they probably, they have like a couple of those little like, chamber pot stools.

[00:11:19] Scott: We showed some of those in the video.

[00:11:21] Jenn: But they have no restroom in the house. They’re probably the outhouse. And so, So that’s where you’re going to go. You see a little movie, you’ll get a ticket because there are only so many people they allow per tour, even though it’s free, you have to get on the schedule, and then you’ll see a little movie, and of course there’s a gift shop there, and it’s a walk over, but it is all handicap accessible, so you can get in.

[00:11:45] And then your tour guide will take you in and again, they’ll let me do the riot act about staying on the carpet.

[00:11:50] Scott: Absolutely. Will our, our tour guide, he was focused, he could tell he’d done this a bunch of times.

[00:11:56] I actually kind of enjoyed him. Yeah. I could tell he was a, he was a, a history nerd at heart. Just like you , and , the rest of our crew here. Yeah. But He had some interesting anecdotes. It was pretty straightforward as far as what he was telling us.

[00:12:09] Jenn: Sure. It was, it was about the same kind of things about the rooms being used for him finding about the nomination at Eddie’s wake. The kitchen was the size of his Kentucky cabin. And so Abraham Lincoln knew that it was the size of his Kentucky cabin. So he always felt like he had made it in life because his kitchen and his adult.

[00:12:32] House was the size of the house he grew up

[00:12:35] Scott: Yeah, and it was, it was pretty, that was neat because the perspective is immediate, right? You can, you’re standing in this space with a bunch of other people

[00:12:44] Jenn: hmm.

[00:12:44] Scott: and the kitchen ain’t big.

[00:12:47] Jenn: No, and, and really it’s just, it’s, it’s again, it’s just to make food because you’re really going to spend time in the dining room. You’re going to eat in the dining room and their bedroom suite, which we show on the video and the bed doesn’t look good. big. I say

[00:13:03] Scott: Abraham Lincoln’s supposed to be tall,

[00:13:04] Jenn: supposed to be very tall. It doesn’t look like a Lincoln sized bed.

[00:13:07] So he must have had to bend his knees to sleep. And it shows some of Mary Todd’s dresses, of course. And then it shows the boys room. So Robert Todd in 1860, he will have left for college. And the two younger boys, Willie and Tad, will share that one boys room. And so they show the boys room as well.

[00:13:26] Scott: And it was neat too because you had mentioned you kind of reiterated in this video like we talked about in, in the previous Lincoln Museum video about how when Lincoln was raising some of his younger kids, he just kind of let them have free reign, you know, and he just kind of let them run around because he didn’t want them to have kind of adult worries.

[00:13:42] And it was neat because I was able to find some. Pictures of Lincoln sitting out front with two of his younger kids, you know, kind of sitting on that little fence

[00:13:53] Jenn: and it’s obviously it’s cropped in from 

[00:13:54] Scott: the fence and just so there he was with his kids right there It wasn’t very clear and it’s obviously it’s cropped in from a photo from across the street that corner we were talking But it was, it was neat to, to see that, right?

[00:14:06] And then they have the same style fence there today as they did back in the 1860s. So you could picture Lincoln’s kids just sitting on this fence and climbing around and him sitting out front because you could see an old picture 

[00:14:19] Jenn: And they also said that they would scream out the windows at him because he’d walk to and from work, right?

[00:14:23] So when Daddy’s coming home, they run out on the porch and run out. On the second story, they would climb out their windows and be on the roof of the sec of that first story, that kind of, and scream for their dad. And people were just so used to the Lincoln Boys. Acting crazy and screaming for their dad when the dad was coming home.

[00:14:40] He just kind of let them do that They said Mary Todd said they would wrestle around the house. It’d be so loud He loved to wrestle with his boys and he really loved what they loved and he hated what they hated so he just It to me, it reminds me of someone who’s growing up with their children, right?

[00:14:56] Because he didn’t have much of a childhood. So he took the time to really grow up with them. And if you ever saw the movie Lincoln, like he gets on the floor and he’s playing with the little soldiers with Tad because he wants to. play with his kids. He wants to be immersed

[00:15:12] Scott: started working when he was pretty

[00:15:13] Jenn: Yeah, his mother dies when so it’s a really neat place to see. It’s there for you. Again, National Park Service, all buildings were closed at five. But what’s neat about the Lincoln Home is they’ve kind of preserved the whole street. 

[00:15:27] The Neighborhood

[00:15:27] Jenn: 8th Street and Jackson Street, they’ve kind of preserved, I would say about four blocks in the area.

[00:15:38] And there’s other famous homes there. There’s a home where the president of Sears grew up. And so you can walk around other homes as well. And the streets are cut off from traffic. So you can walk in the middle of them and you can kind of picture what it would feel like.

[00:15:57] Scott: So you can I can, I can, I would assume that even back then it was probably pretty nice. Yeah. Because the houses are bigger, the streets are really wide and right, you know, if you have the town slash state lawyer living there, or someone who’s a senator, right, I mean, Lincoln’s living in a nice, a nice neighborhood because he’s, he’s done

[00:16:16] Jenn: It’s done well. And so it’s almost like Colonial Williamsburg in some regards, they’ll have, has that vibe and you’ll have people who dress up as Abraham and Mary Todd and you can interact with them walking down the street and they, they light the gas lights and stuff and there’ll be historic talks and historic tours of the whole street.

[00:16:37] And they, they have the schedule also at the National Park Service. So they do a really good job of kind of immersing you in. Abraham Lincoln’s life during that time, 1840s, 1850s, to right when he leaves in 1860s, 

[00:16:52] Scott: Yeah, and we were on a bit of a schedule that

[00:16:55] Jenn: mm hmm.

[00:16:55] Scott: we knew that, that rain was coming, and we were also trying to to stay on the road. So from there, we ventured over to Lincoln’s tomb, which wasn’t too far away.

[00:17:04] Visiting Lincoln’s Tomb

[00:17:04] Jenn: When he is elected president in February of 1861, he takes this long convoluted train tour. From Springfield, Illinois, mostly the northern route, but he goes through the states and hits the Great Lakes And he comes wraps around New York down into DC so after he’s killed they basically do the same kind of procession with the funeral train

[00:17:39] Scott: 1865

[00:17:39] Jenn: Yeah, so on May 4th, 1865 his coffin will pass in front of his So the only house he ever owned, the only house, the house he thought he was going home to, his coffin will pass in front of it. So the tomb is built over in Oak Ridge Cemetery.

[00:17:59] He will be placed into a receiving vault there as they build the tomb and we show it on the video It is a very nice granite tomb and it has a lot of sculptures We’ll talk a little bit about what you see when you walk in and stuff.

[00:18:13] But in 1871 He’s placed in the crypt. It’s it’s unfinished, but he’s so it takes about six years to get the crypt made and then In 1887 because people had broken in and tried to steal his body, they move him into a concrete vault and it’s 10, it’s actually 10 feet below where you actually, what you actually

[00:18:38] Scott: and as you walk up, right, parking is pretty easy. You can find it, you can easily look it up

[00:18:43] Jenn: mm-hmm.

[00:18:44] And it’s indoor. So if, if it was raining, you could walk in.

[00:18:48] Scott: walk in inside of, inside of the crypt area, but outside you walk up and it’s kind of like a smaller version of like a Washington monument,

[00:18:55] Jenn: Yes. Yeah. Obelisk. Mm-hmm.

[00:18:57] Scott: all this, all this style with statues of him throughout, I think, different stages of his life. Life and 

[00:19:03] Jenn: Yes. Around the obelisk.

[00:19:04] Scott: around the obelisk and then there’s kind of the bust of him that’s out front, right? It’s that kind of very he’s got such a famous profile, 

[00:19:13] Jenn: right? 

[00:19:13] Scott: So that’s it’s him. And we were talking about it just before we jumped on the podcast, but it’s it’s the same.

[00:19:20] Sculpture model that we use, that was used for Mount Rushmore.

[00:19:25] Jenn: Yeah, Borglum uses the same model and you can tell his nose is pretty shiny because people rub the Lincoln nose for luck.

[00:19:33] Scott: all our kids wanted 

[00:19:34] Jenn: Yeah. So you can see the patina on all the other bronze, but the nose is very shiny.

[00:19:39] Scott: on all the nose is very shiny. Yeah, that’s and then from there, you, as you start kind of behind the bus, so the bus is looking outwards, facing away from the

[00:19:47] and as you walk kind of past the bus, then you start walking into the, the crypt there, and above the door, I believe, was the Gettysburg Address.

[00:19:56] Jenn: Yes, the Gettysburg Address is right above the door. And when you walk straight in the door, it’s the statue of the Lincoln Memorial, him sitting in the chair. And there’s a book there you can sign to. And so from there, it’s kind of like a circle. You walk from the right around into a circle. And there’s different statues of Lincoln’s life growing up as he progresses.

[00:20:18] And then basically, like directly across from where you walked in is where The actual crypt is where Lincoln’s. Crypt is, and then the boys. Now, it gives you the impression that Lincoln is in the middle, in his crypt, and Mary Todd’s across. They’re actually together.

[00:20:36] Scott: Oh, I didn’t

[00:20:37] Jenn: They’re actually side by side, ten feet below.

[00:20:40] And the boys are across. And it’s only three of the four boys. You have Eddie, who has died young. He was already in Springfield, and they moved his body there. And then you have Willie , who will die while they’re at the White House. And then you’ll have Thomas, I’m sorry, Tad , who dies in 1871. 

[00:20:57] So poor Mary Todd has these three boys. 

[00:21:00] Robert Todd Lincoln

[00:21:00] Jenn: Robert Todd is the only one who’s not there. We have talked about this before. He’s in Arlington National Cemetery. He really has his own place. He has a crypt, a sarcophagus,

[00:21:11] Scott: it’s a big one.

[00:21:11] Jenn: it looks just like Lincoln’s. It almost looks like a replica of Lincoln’s in.

[00:21:16] Arlington National Cemetery.

[00:21:18] Scott: You know, I never actually thought about that, but we just watched the video before we jumped on the podcast, and you’re right, it’s the same color

[00:21:24] Jenn: Yeah, like a pink marble. And Robert Todd is in Arlington. There’s a long story about So, Robert Todd, we’ve talked about this before. He is present with three, present with, he kind of is surrounded by three assassinations of the four

[00:21:42] Scott: right, so he was basically either near, next to, or in the vicinity of three presidents who were assassinated.

[00:21:50] Jenn: Yeah, so his father, he wasn’t there. He was at home when he was shot, but he’s… by his side when he dies. And then he works for Garfield. President Garfield, he’s the Secretary of War, and so he’s with him in the train station in Washington, D.

[00:22:05] C. as he’s, Garfield’s going to visit his wife, and Lincoln is with him when he’s shot in the back. You know, he’s not with him when he dies, but he’s with him when he’s shot.

[00:22:14] Scott: Robert Todd.

[00:22:14] Jenn: And then Mc, McKinley, when McKinley shot in 1901 in Buffalo, New York at the World’s Fair, Robert Todd Lincoln standing right outside the door.

[00:22:23] Scott: so

[00:22:23] Jenn: It’s crazy, right? But Abraham Lincoln’s tomb is amazing.

[00:22:28] Scott: It’s, it’s really nice. Not far, maybe like a mile or 

[00:22:32] Jenn: Yeah, and, and I would say you have to go to both. If you’re gonna go, if you’re gonna hit the museum, you want to hit the house. If you’re gonna hit the house, you want to hit the tomb. It’s like, those are the three big things we saw. I would recommend it be the three big things you see in Springfield.

[00:22:46] The house and the two are free. The museum is not,

[00:22:58] Scott: But the tomb All things in Springfield, right? Just to kind of summarize, and I know that was the episode that just posted before this one about the Lincoln Museum. It’s amazing. The Lincoln Home was kind of like the cherry on top because the Lincoln Museum gave you like that Disney, you felt like you were transported back in time.

[00:23:18] The Lincoln Home, like you really are transported back in time. You’re walking through. The Lincoln house. You’re seeing his furniture. You’re seeing his kitchen. There’s stories about this 600 pound stove that he had bought, I think, not long before he left for the kitchen that they had brought out like while he was in the White House that.

[00:23:39] Because again, they had planned to come back and it was. It was truly incredible to be there and like you said touch the same banister That Lincoln touched every single time he walked up and down those stairs. It was really cool So as we wrap up this episode We encourage you to continue your own Historical Explorations.

[00:24:01] Visit these remarkable sites in person if you can, or delve deeper into the stories and lessons they hold. Remember, history isn’t confined to the pages of a textbook. It lives and breathes in the places we visit, the stories we uncover, and the connections we make with the past. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing or leaving us a review and sharing talk with history with your fellow history enthusiasts.

[00:24:24] Your support really does mean the world to us, and it helps us bring more riveting historical tales to life. History is more than names and dates. It’s the collective journey of our human experience. So keep your curiosity alive and keep exploring and keep talking We’ll talk to you next time.

[00:24:42] Jenn: you 

Published by Scott

The mountains are calling, let me grab a jacket and my kids.

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