Old State Capitol State Historic Site (Illinois) - State House

State House

From 1820 through 1837, the political capital of the young state of Illinois was the small village of Vandalia, Illinois in the south center of the state. On the National Road, Vandalia was initially well-situated to fulfill its governmental role. As northern Illinois opened to settlement in the 1830s, however, public pressure grew for the capital to be relocated to a location closer to the geographic center of the state.

A caucus of nine Illinois lawmakers, including the young Whig Party lawyer Abraham Lincoln, led the effort to have the capital moved to the Sangamon County village of Springfield. Their efforts were successful in 1837, when the Illinois General Assembly passed a law creating a two-year transition period and asking the state to move its capital to Springfield in 1839 .

Workers built a state office building, large for the time, on the central square in Springfield in 1837-40. The cost was $240,000, of which the city of Springfield paid $50,000. The structure, designed by local architect John Francis Rague and constructed of locally-quarried yellow Sugar Creek limestone, contained chambers for both houses of the General Assembly, offices for the Governor of Illinois and other executive officials, and a chamber for the Illinois Supreme Court.

It was in this building that Lincoln served his final term as a state lawmaker in 1840-41. It was here, as a lawyer, that he pleaded cases before the state supreme court in 1841-60. It was here, in the Illinois House chamber, that he made his House Divided speech in June 1858, announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. It was to the same chamber, in May 1865, that his body was returned from Washington, D.C. prior to final burial in Springfield's Oak Ridge Cemetery.

As a result of economic growth spurred by the American Civil War and consequent industrialization, this fifth or Old State Capitol was, by the 1870s, too small to serve the purpose for which it had been built. Illinois built its sixth and current State Capitol building four blocks to the southwest, and the state government turned the Old State Capitol over to Sangamon County to serve as the county courthouse.

Read more about this topic:  Old State Capitol State Historic Site (Illinois)

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