I have a friend in Madang, Papua New Guinea who is a fan of “The Simpsons”. He is always teasing me by telling everyone that I am from Springfield, you know, the home of the “Simpsons”. Yes, I was born and raised in Springfield Illinois, but I am not sure that is the home of the “Simpsons”. I think that almost every State in the Union, as we say, has a Springfield.
The Springfield I come from is the capital of the State of Illinois and is well known because Abraham Lincoln lived there when he ran for President of the United States of America. Springfield has, in the last twenty or so years, started to own up to that fact. When I was a child we all knew, but didn’t really think much about it.
The shopping area of Springfield, like many other cites, moved from the center of the city to shopping malls in the suburbs. When I was a child living in Springfield the downtown square was where you went to shop, see a movie and do your banking. My friend Grace and I went to town almost every Saturday to have lunch and see a movie. It all looks so different today.
The city of Springfield made a wise decision, in my opinion, when they didn’t let the downtown area die. They realized that they had some very important historical sites and that they should capitalize on them. Springfield is a city built on a square. This is my favorite kind of city, as I think it makes finding places very logical. The original state capitol building is located in the center of the square. It was the Sangamon County Courthouse when I was living in Springfield. Sometime before I was born the building was jacked up to add a basement under it.
Several years ago the courthouse was taken down brick by brick, numbered and stored at the state fairgrounds. A parking garage was built and then the courthouse was reconstructed as it was originally built.
The Union railroad station that was built in 1898 was restored and a lovely park built in front of it. There is now the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum across the street from the railroad station. If you are ever in Springfield they are both worth a visit.
As we walked around the square I remembered many buildings and the stores that were there. Here is a picture of the Kresge Building that had the Kresge Five and Dime store in it. Grace and I would have our lunch here or at Woolworth’s Five and Dime.
The Herndon Building held one of the expensive department stores and stood on what I considered the windiest corner in Springfield. This building and all the rest around the square are office buildings now. There are quite a few restaurants and clubs in some of the buildings on the square. I was told that it is quite nice to go downtown at night now. The only things not there anymore are retail stores.
In front of the restored court house is where President Obama declared that he would run for the presidency. Across the street from the courthouse is the building where Abraham Lincoln practiced law. There is a very nice statue of him with his wife and one of their children in front of that building.
We took a walk away from the square a few blocks to visit the house where the Lincoln family lived while they were in Springfield. It has been restored and really looks better than it did when I visited it as a child.
All in all, it was a good afternoon of visiting downtown Springfield and reminiscing about what the area looked like when I spent my Saturdays there.
That evening Jan and I went to watch the movie “Valkyrie” at Pat and John Baisden’s house. Pat is my niece. As we were watching Jan looked out the window and saw the sun setting. He ran out and took a few sunset pictures. This one is my favorite. What a way to end a nice day.