Article Summary: Historic Sites In Illinois
Historic Sites In Illinois. More Than Just Parks has 10 incredible must-see sites for you.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the 10 Historic Sites In Illinois that you’ll want to see.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks. It also includes sites not managed by the National Park Service. After all, we’re more than just parks!
If you are planning a trip to Illinois then you might want to pick up a copy of Exploring the Land of Lincoln: The Essential Guide to Illinois Historic Sites by Charles Titus.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Table Of Contents: Historic Sites In Illinois
Historic Sites In Illinois
- Top 10 Historic Sites In Illinois
- Top 5 Historic Sites In Illinois
- Why Trust Us About Historic Sites In Illinois?
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Top 10 Historic Sites In Illinois
10. John C. Flanagan House Museum
Welcome to the Land of Lincoln. At More Than Just Parks we’ve put together what we consider to be a list of the Top 10 Historic Sites In Illinois. And we’re kicking off our amazing list at #10 with the John C. Flanagan House Museum.
It’s a historic house located in the city of Springfield, Illinois, that was built in 1874. It was originally owned by John C. Flanagan, a local businessman and politician who played an important role in the development of the city.
It is believed that Abraham Lincoln was once a guest in the home during the Lincoln-Douglas Debates from 1854 to 1860.
Today, the John C. Flanagan House Museum is owned and operated by the Kalamazoo Historical Society and is open to the public for tours. The museum offers visitors the opportunity to step back in time and experience life as it was in the late 19th century.
The museum features period furnishings, including Victorian-era furniture, decorative arts, and clothing. Visitors can also explore the museum’s gardens, which have been restored to their original Victorian-era design.
In addition to offering tours of the house, the museum also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including lectures, workshops, and other educational programs related to local history and culture.
9. Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
We move from a historic home to a place which celebrates one of the most important architects of the 20th century. At #9 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Illinois is the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator who is widely considered to be one of the most significant and influential architects of the 20th century.
He was known for his organic architecture style, which emphasized the integration of buildings into their natural surroundings and the use of natural materials.
Wright designed over 1,000 structures during his career, including homes, offices, churches, schools, and museums. Some of his most famous works include: the Robie House in Chicago, the Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Wright was also known for his innovations in construction techniques and materials, including the use of reinforced concrete, steel framing, and glass curtain walls. He was a proponent of sustainable design and believed that buildings should be designed to be in harmony with their environment and function in a way that was efficient and sustainable.
In addition to his work as an architect, Wright was also a prolific writer and educator, publishing numerous books and articles on architecture and design. He founded the Taliesin Fellowship, a school and community for architects and designers, which continues to operate today as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Check Out This Amazing Historic Site
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is the former home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Wright purchased the property in 1889 and designed and built the studio in 1898. Over the years, he made numerous renovations and additions to the property, including the construction of a separate house for his family in 1895.
The home and studio were the center of Wright’s professional and personal life for many years, and he used the space to design many of his most famous and influential buildings.
Today, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is open to the public as a museum and education center. Visitors can take guided tours of the property and see the spaces where Wright worked and lived, including his drafting room, library, and living quarters.
The museum features a collection of Wright’s furniture, artwork, and personal items, as well as exhibits and displays that explore Wright’s life and career. Visitors can also see the original drafting tables and tools used by Wright and his apprentices, as well as examples of Wright’s architectural designs and models.
Among Wright’s most famous works are Fallingwater, a house he designed for the Kaufmann family in rural southwestern Pennsylvania; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, a spiral-shaped building that is now one of the city’s most iconic landmarks; and the Unity Temple, a Unitarian Universalist church in Oak Park, Illinois, that is considered a masterpiece of modernist architecture.
Throughout his career, Wright also wrote extensively on architecture and design, and he was a passionate advocate for the importance of architecture in shaping the built environment and enriching people’s lives.
He also mentored many younger architects, including some of the most significant figures in American architecture, such as Eero Saarinen and Richard Neutra.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s contributions to architecture and design continue to influence the field today, and his legacy is celebrated through the ongoing preservation and restoration of his buildings and the many institutions dedicated to his work and ideas.
8. Garfield Park Conservatory
We move from a place which celebrates a gifted architect to a historic greenhouse and botanical garden. At #8 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Illinois is the Garfield Park Conservatory.
The conservatory is one of the largest Victorian-era greenhouse complexes in the United States and it covers an area of about 4.5 acres. The complex includes a series of interconnected greenhouses that showcase a wide variety of plants from around the world, including tropical, desert, and temperate species.
The conservatory is home to over 2,000 plant species, including palm trees, cacti, ferns, and more. The conservatory also features a variety of gardens, including a fern room, a desert house, and a show house that features seasonal displays of flowers and other plants.
The Garfield Park Conservatory is open to the public year-round and offers a range of educational programs and events for visitors of all ages.
7. Hauberg Museum
At #7 we return to the fantastic world of Frank Lloyd Wright with a home which was designed by him. At #7 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Illinois is the Hauberg Museum.
This fascinating museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and culture of the Native American tribes of the upper Mississippi River Valley. It’s housed in a historic home built in 1909 for the Hauberg family, a prominent local family with a long history of civic and philanthropic work in the Rock Island area.
The Hauberg family donated the house and its contents to the city of Rock Island in the 1950s, with the intention of turning it into a museum of Native American life. The museum officially opened to the public in 1966 and has since become one of the premier institutions of its kind in the United States.
The Hauberg Museum features a collection of over 1,000 objects and artifacts that illustrate the daily life, traditions, and beliefs of the Native American tribes that once inhabited the region. The collection includes examples of pottery, textiles, weapons, and other items used in daily life, as well as religious and ceremonial objects.
In addition to its exhibits and collections, the Hauberg Museum also offers educational programs and events for visitors of all ages, including lectures, workshops, and guided tours.
The museum is dedicated to promoting greater understanding and appreciation of Native American culture and history and to serving as a bridge between different communities in the region.
6. Galena Historic District
If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your buck then you’ll be thrilled with our next historic site because it’s a collection of buildings and homes in the city of Galena, Illinois. They are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. At #6 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Illinois is the Galena Historic District.
The Galena Historic District is known for its well-preserved 19th-century architecture, which includes a range of architectural styles, including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Gothic Revival.
The Galena Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, recognizing the town’s important role in American history and its significant contribution to the country’s architectural heritage. The district encompasses over 85 percent of the town’s buildings and includes over 1,000 structures.
Visitors to the Galena Historic District can take a self-guided walking tour to explore the area’s historic buildings and sites.
Highlights of the district include the Old Market House State Historic Site, which was built in 1845 and served as a center of commerce and government in the town; the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, which was the home of the 18th President of the United States; and the Dowling House, which is the oldest house in Galena, dating back to 1826.
Other notable buildings in the district include the DeSoto House Hotel, which is the oldest operating hotel in Illinois; the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society and Museum, which is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the region; and numerous historic churches, homes, and commercial buildings.
Top 5 Historic Sites In Illinois
5. Cahokia Mounds
We’re on to the Top 5 Historic Sites In Illinois. If you’re someone who loves historic sites that go way back then our next one is for you. At #5 we have the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site preserves the central section of the largest prehistoric Native American city north of Mexico. Occupied from 700 to 1400, the city grew to cover 4,000 acres, with a population of between ten and twenty thousand at its peak around 1100.
The site is dominated by the hundred-foot-tall Monks Mound, the largest prehistoric earthen mound in the Americas, and supported several multiple-mound satellite villages in St. louis, East St. Louis, Mitchell, Dupo, and Lebanon Emerald Mound.
In 1965 Cahokia Mounds was designated a National Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1966 and in December 1982 was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. (Source: Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources)
4. Hull House Museum
We’re on to the “Final Four.” At #4 is a historic site which celebrates the important work of one of Chicago’s most influential citizens. It’s the Hull House Museum.
It’s a historic site and museum located in Chicago, Illinois. It is housed in the Jane Addams Hull-House, which was founded by social reformer Jane Addams and her colleague Ellen Gates Starr in 1889.
The Hull-House was a settlement house that served as a center for social reform and activism, providing a variety of services to immigrants and working-class people in the surrounding neighborhood.
The Hull-House became an important model for social reform and activism, and was instrumental in shaping the modern social work profession.
Today, the Hull House Museum offers visitors a chance to explore the history and legacy of the Hull-House and its impact on American society.
A Place Where Immigrants Could Learn
Hull House offered residences, as well as a place where immigrants and neighbors could commune, learn, share and acquire the tools that would help them put down roots in their new country.
There were kindergarten and day care facilities for the children of working mothers; an employment bureau; an art gallery; libraries; English and citizenship classes; theater, music and art classes; cooking, sewing and technical skills; and American government classes. (Source: Jane Addams Hull House Association)
Jane Addams was the second woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
If you’re interested in learning more about this amazing woman than I recommend reading Jane Addams: Twenty Years at Hull-House by Jane Addams.
Things To Do At Hull House
The Museum consists of two buildings: the Hull Home, which features exhibitions about the history of Hull-House, and the Residents’ Dining Hall, which holds an event space, the Museum’s gift shop, and staff offices.
Hull House Museum connects the histories of the Hull-House Settlement to present-day social justice issues. Exhibitions and public programs highlight histories of activism, progressive education and democratic principles of participation and exchange.
3. Ulysses S. Grant Home
We’re on to our final three historic sites and they’re all well worth the visit. At #3 is a site which celebrates the man who took the reins of the beleaguered Union Army during the bloodiest conflict in American history and found a way to win. It’s the Ulysses S. Grant Home.
George Washington was the first victorious general to ascend to the White House. He would be followed by others among them Ulysses S. Grant.
Grant (1822-1885) commanded the victorious Union army during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and served as the 18th U.S. president from 1869 to 1877.
Things To Do
Here are some things to do when visiting the Grant Home:
- Take a guided tour: The Grant Home offers guided tours, which last approximately 30-45 minutes and cover the history of the house, as well as Grant’s life and presidency.
- Explore the grounds: The Grant Home is situated on a beautiful, tree-lined street and features a well-manicured lawn and garden. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll around the property and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
- Visit the museum: Adjacent to the Grant Home is a museum that contains artifacts and exhibits related to Grant’s life and presidency. Visitors can learn about Grant’s military career, his time as president, and his personal life.
- Attend special events: The Grant Home hosts special events throughout the year, such as Civil War reenactments and holiday celebrations. Check the calendar of events to see what’s happening during your visit.
- Shop in the gift shop: The Grant Home has a gift shop that offers a variety of souvenirs, books, and other items related to Grant and the Civil War.
- Learn about Galena: The Grant Home is located in the charming town of Galena, which is known for its historic architecture and charming downtown area. Visitors can explore the town’s shops, restaurants, and other attractions.
2. Pullman National Monument
We’re on to the final two on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Illinois. In the runner-up position is an incredible site with a truly amazing story to tell. It’s the Pullman National Monument.
To understand the historic significance of this place, however, a short history lesson is in order. But have no fear because we never assign any homework.
The Pullman Strike of 1894 would forever change labor relations in the United States. It began on May 11, 1894, when several thousand train workers started an unannounced strike at the Pullman Company in Illinois.
Over the next few months, dozens of workers would die in strike-related violence, and the President and Supreme Court would finally become involved in the strike’s outcome.
Why Did The Strike Happen?
Why did this strike happen? In 1893, the country was gripped by a severe recession. George Pullman had built a company famous for making railroad cars. He also created a town for his workers in Illinois.
There they enjoyed many amenities but were also financially dependent on the Pullman Company for their homes and utilities.
Pullman made a decision to cut workers wages by 25%. He did not, however, reduce their living costs which meant that workers could no longer afford to provide for their families. This was the event which triggered a monumental clash between labor and management.
The Federal Government Intervenes In The Pullman Strike
U.S. Attorney General Richard Olney sought an injunction in federal court barring union leaders from supporting the strike. He demanded the strikers cease their activities or face being fired. The Union, led by organizer Eugene V. Debs, ignored the injunction.
President Grover Cleveland ordered the United States Army to get the trains moving again. The arrival of the military and the subsequent deaths of workers in violence led to further outbreaks of violence. During the course of this strike, 30 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded.
In an olive branch to organized labor, President Cleveland and Congress dedicated Labor Day as a federal holiday.
If you’re interested in learning more about this epic event in American history then I recommend a book that is a real page turner. It’s The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America by Jack Kelly who offers a vivid account of the greatest uprising of working people in American history.
The Labor Organizer Who Wanted To Be President
Eugene Debs was arrested during the Pullman Strike. He was defended by famed criminal defense attorney Clarence Darrow.
Debs, who was a socialist, political activist, and trade unionist, was one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World. He used his notoriety from the Pullman Strike to run for President of the United States as the candidate of the Socialist Party of America–five times.
Things To Do At The Pullman National Monument
Here are some things to do when visiting the Pullman National Monument:
- Take a tour of the historic Pullman district: The Pullman district is a historic residential area that was built in the late 19th century to house workers at the Pullman Company. You can take a guided tour of the district to see the beautiful architecture and learn about its history.
- Visit the Visitor Center: The Pullman National Monument has a Visitor Center where you can learn about the history of the Pullman Company and the significance of the site. The center also has exhibits and displays that showcase the company’s contributions to the development of the United States.
- Explore the factory site: The Pullman Company’s factory site is located within the national monument, and you can explore it to see the remains of the factory buildings, including the clock tower and power house.
- Walk through the Pullman Palace Car Company Administration Building: This building is located within the historic district and is one of the most well-preserved buildings from the Pullman Company era. You can take a guided tour to learn about its history and architecture.
- Attend a ranger-led program: The Pullman National Monument offers ranger-led programs that include guided tours, talks, and workshops. These programs provide a deeper understanding of the history and significance of the site.
- Go on a bike ride or hike: The Pullman National Monument has several trails and bike paths that you can explore to see the natural beauty of the area. The monument is also part of the larger Chicago Lakefront Trail system.
1. Lincoln Home National Historic Site
We’ve saved the best for last! Illinois is known as the “Land of Lincoln” so was there ever any doubt as to which site More Than Just Parks would select for the #1 spot? It’s the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.
In 2021, C-SPAN asked a group of distinguished presidential historians to rank our nation’s presidents from worst to best.
At the top of their list, with a total score of 897 points, was Abraham Lincoln. George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt came in second and third respectively.
Why is Abraham Lincoln considered the greatest president of all time? Simply put, he saved the Union.
In the process of saving the nation, Lincoln managed to define the creation of a more perfect Union in terms of liberty and economic equality that rallied the citizenry behind him.
Lincoln Transformed The Presidency
Lincoln transformed the Presidency. He remade the president’s role as commander in chief and as chief executive into a powerful new position. In the process, he imbued the office with broader powers by making it supreme over both Congress and the courts.
His detractors argued then and now that he took actions which were unconstitutional such as suspending the writ of habeas corpus.
For Lincoln, however, it made no sense “to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution.” No President in American history ever faced a greater crisis and, in saving the Union, no President ever accomplished as much.
If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive and learning more about America’s greatest president then you cannot do better than Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years. Sandburg won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for his monumental work on America’s 16th President.
Visit The Home Of America’s Greatest Leader
Visitors can take a guided tour of the Lincoln Home. You can step back in time and see how Abraham Lincoln as a family man and a lawyer.
He lived in this house with his wife and family for 17 years before moving to Washington. And the best news of all is that admission is free.
Before heading to the Lincoln Home, however, I recommend going to the Visitor Center. There you can watch two films. One highlights Abraham Lincoln’s life in Springfield and the other is a virtual tour of the Lincoln Home.
Visitors can also explore a four block historic neighborhood and see various exhibits and displays while learning about the history of the Lincoln’s neighborhood.
If you’re interested in learning more about Abraham Lincoln (and who isn’t) then check out these other popular Lincoln sites in Springfield: the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln’s Tomb, the Old State Capitol and the Great Western Depot/Lincoln Depot.
List Of Historic Sites In Illinois
- Lincoln Home National Historic Site
- Pullman National Monument
- Ulysses S. Grant Home
- Hull House Museum
- Cahokia Mounds
- Galena Historic District
- Black Hawk Museum And Lodge
- Garfield Park Conservatory
- Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
- John C. Flanagan House Museum
Why Trust Us About Historic Sites In Illinois?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, U.S. Forest Service, and more for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
And, in 2018, our father – having spent a lifetime teaching history – joined us so that he could help us to tell the stories behind these amazing places.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!
What Is A National Park? To learn more about the difference between the various National Park Service designations check out our article that explains everything!
Illinois National Parks: 5 EPIC Illinois National Parks