Lincoln landmarks will get dressed up for party

Nicole Milstead

The Lincoln Tomb and Old State Capitol state historic sites are getting facelifts in preparation for the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday next year.

The plaza in front of the tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery is being redesigned to provide better accessibility and traffic flow for the expected increased number of visitors and larger groups. The sidewalk is being replaced in the front of the tomb, and a granite retaining wall is being put in to match the one on the tomb, said David Blanchette, spokesman for state agencies.

A recent group of visitors to the site, Ken and Anna Webber and Pat and Bill Allen of Farmington, Mo., said they thought the work is a good idea.

“We’re just disappointed we don’t get to see the finished product,” Pat Allen said.

“I think they will need it for the anniversary,” Anna Webber said.

Landscaping, drainage and irrigation are all being installed. The famous Lincoln bust also will be moved slightly to the side of its current location to provide better accessibility.

The total cost for the work at the tomb is $619,872 and is being paid for out of capital funds.

Blanchette said the project’s progress depends largely on the weather but should be finished by fall.

The Lincoln Tomb still is open. Visitors may enter by going around the back and along the side of the tomb to the entrance.

Meanwhile, at the Old Capitol State Historic Site, visitors will see scaffolding and machinery at the south entrance. The building’s limestone is being sealed, which should be finished later this week, but the scaffolding will be left up until mid-July to allow contractors to continuously check the progress of the sealant, Blanchette said.

The $25,000 cost is being paid by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

If the $34 billion Illinois Works capital construction bill passes the state legislature soon, another Springfield tourism construction project will start at the end of this summer.

The visitors center on the first floor of the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, 209 N. Sixth St., will be transformed into an 1840s dry goods store with employees dressed in period costume. This is called the “Tinsley Project” because Seth Tinsley owned the dry goods store on the first floor and rented space upstairs to Abraham Lincoln and William Herndon for their law offices.

“Under this plan, the whole building will be a historic site,” Blanchette said.

Nicole Milstead can be reached at (217) 788-1532 or