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.