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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tri-State Travel Thursday - New Salem

This is the first of a monthly installment of local areas of interest.  I live near the tri-state area, which for me is Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.  Therefore it is very easy for me to pop over into any of these states to hit cool places, local festivals, and family friendly fun.  My first post will be on New Salem, Illinois, which is near Springfield.
Obviously they are big on Abraham Lincoln here. 
This village was in fact where he lived until he became President of the United States and left for the White House.  We went in late March and there was still some snow on the ground.  Springfield had just been hit a few days earlier with 18 inches of snow.  Only in the midwest do you get 18 inches of snow one day and then 45-50 degrees within a few days.  This is what was left of the snow when we got there.
snow on the ground
It was a beautiful, sunny day to walk around the village.  It is all set up the way the town was set up around the mid-1800's.  All of the buildings are labeled and have signs telling you whom each house belongs to and a story about that particular building. 
two story building
This was the only two story building in the town.  It belonged to Samuel Hill and his wife.  His wife donated several articles to the New Salem Lincoln League who got the ball rolling to get this village preserved.  Many of the items in the houses are actual items from different families living during the time that Lincoln was living here.  This is the inside of the Hill house with the period items that were donated. 
hill home pieces
I thought the buildings were very nicely set up.  From what the volunteers told me, the sewing loom is real, the plates and several of the pieces of furniture.  Way in the back you can see the stairs going on up to the upper level.
The village contained the saw mill which is what kept the town going, a tavern/inn, a blacksmith, the general store, a cooper, along with the houses of the families from the town..  We were able to go into the general store and the tavern/inn.  Most of the items in the general store were bought and sold via bartering and not money.  Very little printed money was being made at this point in our US history, but you could buy things with spanish silver coin which was widely accepted.
spanish coin
The village has period dress volunteers who man the different buildings.  All of them were very informative and super friendly to talk to and watch.  They seemed to really enjoy passing on their knowledge and information about the village and Lincoln's time there.  I'm sure there are more volunteers during the summer and weekends then what we saw.  I was glad that it wasn't busy though because I could ask questions to my heart's content and not have to worry about holding anybody else up or feeling rushed.  I love hearing all the stories about Lincoln and the townsfolk.  Here is a volunteer talking to and showing us what a cooper is.  Coopers were very important as they made buckets, barrels, and tubs to store and ship items, use in wells, and in the house.  Inside the cooper shop was a copy of a handwritten bill of somebodythat owed the cooper a debt.  From that you can see what he charged for the things that he made.
One of the neat things I thought about the town was that it is built in almost the exact same spot as the town was originally built on.  There is even a archaeological walk that takes you past some of the old walls of the buildings.  We weren't able to take the walk because of the snow as you can see in the picture below.  It would have been very interesting to walk along the same ground as Lincoln and other villagers did.
The town was built around a saw and grist mill which we could not see because it was closed for the winter, but it sits over the road that we drove on to get here.  They dammed up the Sangamon River to be able to use water to power the mill.
Down that path somewhere is the sawmill that we couldn't get to.  My son was quite disappointed by that.  We will have to come back again to see it.

There is a museum store which is a stone structure, not part of the original village, that was open.  It sells old fashioned cooking books, 19th century toys, and fun stuff like that.  My son bought his harmonica there, but they have all sorts of reproductions.  They also have the "simple life toys" that children don't play with much anymore to take you back if you would like to.  The old fashioned puzzles that drive me crazy to try and figure out, but yet my husband loves because he "gets" them.  Anybody else have a significant other like that?  Don't you just want to slap them sometimes haha?  No seriously I love and adore my husband, but sometimes......
One of the puzzle toys that make me go crazy trying to figure out!!!

A few examples of the back to the simple days toys that they sold.  There were several more shelves of them as well. 
The pretty stone building that housed the store.

The village also had a video you could watch about Lincoln and the town and a small, but cute museum to walk through as well.  My son had no interest in seeing the movie, but we did walk around the museum.  The museum featured bronze statues and quotes of Lincoln's, along with the timeline of the town and Lincoln's life.  Very informative and interesting exhibits. 

museum 3
It was not an overly interactive museum, but my son did find at least one exhibit that he was able to play with.
museum 1

museum 2
The exhibits were set up nicely and easy to read.  It was interesting to get some back history on Lincoln.  Also most of the exhibits had names of the people who owned the different items, along with pictures of them for you to see.

 My favorite part was the interesting story/gossip about a certain lady that Lincoln had "courted" before he married Mary.  They have no proof of this courtship, according to my volunteer sources, but the story remains.  "I can't say whether or not it is true, as there are no written records of this courtship, but you never know....." says one of the volunteers with a wink at me.  Gotta love a good old-fashioned unrequited love story.  Every famous person needs to have one.  wink..... wink.....
I have to admit that as a lifelong Illinois resident I had never been here before.  I'm glad that I was able to this early spring and see and read about some of our own local history.

New Salem Basics
There is no charge to go to the museum, but they do suggest a donation of $4 for adults and $2 for children or $10 for a family.  I always give a few bucks more. 
Not all of the buildings were open for us to walk through considering the season, might be a better summer place to visit. 
You could look into all the buildings but could only tour a few.
Sawmill is closed during the winter.
Bring comfortable shoes, its all paved, but you will do some walking and there are stairs to get down to the sawmill.
The archaeological walk is not paved, just grass.
They do have a little cafe for drinks and some lunch, which wasn't open when we went

This is part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and R We There Yet Mom and Travel Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.  Head on over to any of these sites to see other cool travel places.
Please head over to my Facebook page and Like me for more pictures and check out my photography website!

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  1. Love the look of the old houses and though you couldn't see everything, I think having fewer people around is a real bonus.
    We are having similar wonky weather to you - snow, sun, wind... Hopefully a real spring is not far behind.

    1. It definately feels like spring today! Beautiful sunny day, but rain is on its way. Yes I do like having less people around when I go to visit places. Too many people make me antsy :). Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Sere, what a wonderful history bit aboutn Lincoln and his 'hood. Enjoyed the photos.

    1. Thank you! Local history is always interesting to me.

  3. I love living history museums and this one looks fascinating. Would love to learn more about Lincoln's story from before he became President.

    1. I really like the living history ones too. They are fun to visit. There is a lot written about him from before he became president so quite a bit seems to be known. Which is prett cool! Thanks!

  4. What a historic place to visit. Would love to see that in person one day. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thanks! Come on by! We're pretty friendly out here :).

  5. Do you have other Lincoln related historical sites to visit? Might be worth a theme trip :)

    1. Actually Amy I do. Springfield Illinois has several different sites to visit. There's a museum about him, his tomb, which I will be posting about later, a library, his home, multiple sites. I couldn't visit them all in the time I had, but we will definately be going back to check out the rest! You can google Springfield and Lincoln for more of the sites as well.

    2. Loved your post1 Just went to Lincoln's Birthplace National Historical Site today in Kentucky not too far from Louisville. It was beautiful.

    3. Want to make it down there. I might be making a trip that direction in early June. It would be fun to go and visit a non-Illinois Lincoln site. Thanks for reminding me about this :).

  6. I love Samuel Hill's two storey home. I would like to live in it today. Walking around to the different buildings would be lovely on a good day. It is funny how we put off seeing things in our own state, and then wonder why we did :)

    1. I know. I get so caught up all the other places that I forget about my own backyard. I hope to change some of that here. Haha it was a pretty good sized home for the day and with modern plumbing probably quite livable :).

  7. This is a wonderful living museum. We haven't explored this part of the country much and what a great place to start. Beautiful stone building too. Thanks for introducing me to a worthwhile visit.

    1. If you are ever in my neck of the woods let me know! You are welcome.

  8. I LOVE New Salem - my in-laws live less than 20 mins from there - we go every summer - it's so pretty & green!!

    Also, during the summer, there is LOTS to do in Springfield with Lincoln - the museum, his house, the old Courthouse - you can even try to find him and have a visit! Springfield does it well!

    Thanks for linking up!

    1. Glad I could this week. Next time you are in town you will have to let me know :). Thanks for the info on Springfield in the summer! I hope to go back when they do have more going on to check out the rest of the Lincoln tour. We just couldn't see it all in the one day we were there. But it's an easy drive for us to come back again. Thanks!

  9. I love history sites, and this one looks especially interesting. Totally get the snow thing--they are forecasting another snow storm for this week in Minnesota.

    1. Oh no!!! Spring in the midwest is crazy! It was interesting and fun to walk around :). Thanks for visiting!

  10. Awesome Blog friend. Thank for this nice and informative sharing friend. I am a tourist and like to see the beautiful and historical places around the world. Your Blog is very informative for me. I must visit in this museum after complete my grand canyon tour from la. Thanks a lot for your nice and informative sharing. I am really thankful to you.