The Great State of Illinois is also known as the 'Land of Lincoln' and the 16th Congressional District is home to many events and landmarks honoring our 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
Congressman Kinzinger has sponsored legislation with his Illinois colleagues to expand the National Heritage Area to further preserve the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln across the Stateline. The legislation H.R. 314, the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area Amendment Act, was introduced in Congress with bipartisan and bicameral support. Learn more about this bill here.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln, "I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him." As a proud Illinois native, Congressman Kinzinger believes that preserving our history for the education of future generations is important to the fabric of our country, and to the legacy we leave behind. Here are some of the historical moments with the 16th President in the 16th District:
- On August 20, 1858, Abraham Lincoln visited the home of William T. Hopkins (the day just before the Lincoln-Douglas debate in Ottawa, Illinois). The ‘Hopkins House’ was located on Main and Liberty Streets, and had a ballroom for events, a basement for offices, and a barbershop where—according to an interview back in 1917—Abraham Lincoln got a shave by George Washington ‘Wash’ Foster, a freed slave from Ohio. [Read that story here in the Morris Herald-News.]
o The ‘Hopkins House’ burned down in 1888. The barber shop was located in the basement, and sits below what is now known as ‘The Fabric Center’ at 301 Liberty Street.
- As a young circuit-riding lawyer, Lincoln occasionally practiced law at the first Iroquois County Courthouse in the original "Middleport" area on the Iroquois River, on the west side of Watseka. The house where Lincoln would stay overnight still stands at 714 N. Chicago Street, but the balcony where he once gave a speech as a presidential candidate is no longer there.
o As for the Old Courthouse (completed in 1847), the square on which it stood is all that remains today. This area is now a small park located one block from the West Watseka School.
- Fun Fact: Henry Bacon, the architect who designed the Lincoln Memorial located in Washington, D.C., was born in Watseka on November 28, 1866. His family moved to Michigan a few years later.
LA SALLE COUNTY
- Abraham Lincoln rode to the 1858 debate at Washington Park in a horse-drawn carriage. That carriage is now housed in the La Salle County Historical Society Museum located on the banks of the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal in North Utica.
- Located on the lawn of the Ottawa Boat Club (OBC) property, a stone sundial was dedicated in memorial of the spot where Abraham Lincoln “was mustered out of the Black Hawk [War] as captain and re-enlisted as a private in [the] Black Hawk War on this spot in 1832.”
o The Lincoln Sun Dial was dedicated on December 3, 1918 (the 100th Anniversary of Illinois’ Statehood) along with two other memorials in Ottawa, and though it’s had recent restoration work, the sun dial still stands at the OBC today.
- Following a brief speech to the delegates in Chicago, Abraham Lincoln traveled by stagecoach back to Springfield, and on his way, stopped in Ottawa for breakfast on the morning of July 9, 1847.
- In June 1851, Lincoln was in Ottawa to pursue a legal case before the Northern Grand Division of the Illinois Supreme Court, which was then located in Ottawa. His opposing legal counsel was none other than Stephen Douglas.
- Two years before he would take on Stephen Douglas in their first senatorial debate, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Ottawa’s Washington Square to campaign for John C. Fremont, the first presidential candidate of the Republican Party in 1856.
- On August 21, 1858, the First Lincoln-Douglas Debate was held in Ottawa’s historic Washington Square. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas kicked off the first of seven senatorial debates, with an estimated 20,000 spectators gathered to watch, including the aforementioned barber ‘Wash’ from Morris, IL. The site of the debate is marked by a boulder and plaque, and the centerpiece of the square has a fountain topped with two bronze statues: the “Railsplitter” and “The Little Giant.”
o A mural of the Lincoln-Douglas debate can be found on a building located on La Salle and W. Jackson Streets.
- Illinois and Michigan Canal is home to a replica 19th Century canal boat and was frequently used by the Lincoln Family. While serving in the House of Representatives in 1848, Abraham Lincoln and his family would utilize the canal when traveling from Washington, DC by stopping in Ottawa, then La Salle, and then taking the steamboat home to Springfield.
o As a state legislator, Lincoln was a strong advocate for the construction of the I&M Canal and viewed it as a vital transportation infrastructure development for the economic future of Illinois.
- The Abraham Lincoln Memorial Bridge is the longest state-operated bridge, measuring 7,122 feet, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The bridge carries Interstate 39 over Illinois 351, three wetlands, two active railroads, the I&M Canal and towpath, and the Illinois River.
- The Lincoln Monument is a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln that commemorates his 1832 service in the Black Hawk War. Located in President's Park, the bronze statue was sculpted by Leonard Crunelle (a French-born coal miner turned sculptor living in Illinois) and was dedicated on September 24, 1930. The memorial is maintained by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as a state historic site, and included in the National Heritage Area, as expanded by Congressman Kinzinger’s legislation, H.R. 314.
- The Nachusa House is a former hotel building along Galena Avenue on Illinois Route 26. This hotel was a popular stop along rail and stagecoach lines, and was a known layover for Abraham Lincoln, who stayed numerous times and generally occupied the same room on each visit.
o A designated Lincoln room was established in his honor and the room was furnished similar to how it was when Lincoln stayed there. The balcony outside the room was known to be a place where Lincoln would sit and socialize.
o The Nachusa House was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1983. And the designated Lincoln room has since been converted into an apartment.
o Throughout its history, Nachusa House hosted notable guests including U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and then-President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis.
- The Dixon Public Library, constructed in 1900, is home to an extensive collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia located at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Third Street.
- The Lee County Courthouse was completed in 1901, but on the site of the original county courthouse building, a stone marker commemorates when Abraham Lincoln addressed a crowd assembled on the courthouse lawn on July 17, 1856.
o Fun Fact: The Courthouse sits on land that was donated by the Founder of the town of Dixon, John ‘Father John’ Dixon.
- H.I. Lincoln Building: In 1860, Henry I. Lincoln, a distant relative of Abraham Lincoln, created a two-story building on the main street of town to house his dry goods store. This unique building now houses the Lincoln Highway Association National Tourism Headquarters and The H.I. Lincoln store.
o Learn more about the Lincoln Highway, the first improved transcontinental highway in America, here.
- Abe Lincoln & Strevell House Mural is located on the 200 block of East Washington Street.
o In January 1860, a few months before he was elected President, Abraham Lincoln attended a reception at the home of Pontiac lawyer Jason Strevell following a speech Lincoln gave at the nearby Presbyterian Church.
o As the story goes, the 6 foot Strevell did not think Lincoln was 4 inches taller than himself. And so, in a letter to his son, Strevell described how he carefully measured Lincoln, who was standing in his stocking feet with his back to the door casing, using a 2-foot rule on top of Lincoln's head, Strevell found him to be "exactly 6 feet 4."
o As such, the left side of the mural shows Strevell measuring Lincoln. The center of the mural depicts the Strevell house before the current restoration began, and on the right side of the mural, Lincoln is shown arguing a legal case for one of Pontiac's own.
- The Young Lincoln Statue is located on the south side of the Livingston County Courthouse. The statue was designed by sculptor Rick Harney, and was dedicated on June 23, 2006. The life-size statue depicts Mr. Lincoln as the young lawyer who came to Pontiac many times to try cases in circuit court.
- Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated political issues on May 18, 1840, following the first court case at Livingston County. This Riverbank Debate took place 18 years before the two young attorneys would face each other again, vying to represent Illinois in the United States Senate.
o The historical marker, courtesy of ‘Looking for Lincoln,’ is located on the banks of the Vermilion River at North Mill Street.
- The Pontiac Historical Exhibit, located inside the courthouse, is home to one of Abe Lincoln's beard hairs, preserved under a magnifier.
- Stillman's Run Memorial is the site where Abraham Lincoln helped bury soldiers who had been killed and scalped the day before during his military service.
- Abraham Lincoln was a guest at the Applington House, which is also the Polo Historical Society headquarters. It is one block east of the main highway, located at 123 North Franklin Avenue.
- Before it was named the Patchwork Inn, and before becoming President, Abraham Lincoln frequented the hotel during his travels in the mid-1850s for lunch and lodging. In 1851, the Inn was known as “Moore’s Hotel” and was the first hotel for the City of Oregon.
- Abraham Lincoln spoke in Oregon on August 16, 1856, and the location is marked by a large stone that says exactly that: “Lincoln spoke here—-August 16, 1856.”
- The Adams Statue is a bronze sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and Chief Black Hawk emerging from the same base. Created by Jeff Adams and dedicated in October 2002, the “Paths of Conviction, Footsteps of Fate” statue is located in a park off of Route 2.
- On Oct. 3, 1845, Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to Williamson and Madison Durley discussing a conversation he had with them when the Durley’s were digging potatoes near what is now Route 26 and High Street, close to the Putnam County Courthouse.
o An engraved copy of the letter hangs in the hallway of the courthouse.
- And while there is no definitive proof that Lincoln was ever at the Putnam County Courthouse, it is highly likely he stopped in to practice law whilst in town.
- Inside the DeKalb County Courthouse, a large framed canvas portrait of President Abraham Lincoln from 1860 is on display. The portrait was donated by a local attorney as part of the Illinois Bicentennial Project in November 2017, in connection with the Illinois State Historical Society.
The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is located in the northwestern area of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, approximately 50 miles south of Chicago, and covered by both the 16th Congressional District, and the 1st Congressional District.
- The cemetery is named after the 16th President of the United States, who, while serving as President, enacted the law that established National Cemeteries. On July 17, 1852, then-President Lincoln created national cemeteries “…for the soldiers who die in the service of the country.”
- Located in the 100-block on North Church Street, a five-foot bust of Abraham Lincoln looks over the city’s Courthouse Square. The statue, titled “Iron Determination,” was dedicated in 2009, and it captures Lincoln as the 23-year-old militia captain who came to the Rock River Valley during the Black Hawk War and marveled over its “wondrous beauty.”
o Many people who visit will rub Abe’s nose for good luck, and for some inspiration!