The Illinois State Capitol

In the last week, we have visited the location of Illinois’ first capital, Kaskaskia (although there is no longer a Capitol building there), the site of Illinois’ second capital, Vandalia (where the fourth state Capitol building still stands), and the Old Capitol Building in the current capital city, Springfield. And while we were in Springfield, we also toured the sixth building to serve as the Capitol, the current Illinois State Capitol (which is referred to as the “new” Capitol, even though it was built in 1868). Confused yet?


It’s hard to explain how beautiful and grand this building is. It’s not only the tallest classically designed state Capitol building in the country at 361 feet, it’s also taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.! I guess Illinoisans have a very high opinion of themselves!


There is a very welcoming statue in the center of the building:


The interior details are amazing, and everywhere you look…walls, ceilings, and floor. Turkey commented that this building is about as close as we get to something like Buckingham Palace, and he’s totally right…it has a very regal feel!

We saw both the House and Senate chambers, but as there was a committee meeting in the House chamber, I was only permitted to take photographs in the Senate chamber:


The highlight of the interior of the building is, without a doubt, the dome. Pictures really don’t do it justice, but I’ll try anyway:




Back outside, you really need to walk all the way around the building to admire all of the exterior details:


I have lived in Illinois for most of my life, and this was still my first visit to our state capital. I don’t know what took me so long, but I’m glad I finally had the chance to see Springfield, and tour our amazing Capitol Building!

The Old State Capitol

Yesterday, we visited Vandalia, IL, which was the second capital of our state. While we were there, we toured the Capitol building, which was the third such building in Vandalia alone, and the fourth total for the state of Illinois (the first having been in Kaskaskia).

Of course, the capital moved to Springfield not long after that building was completed, and a new Capitol was built (conveniently just across the street from Abraham Lincoln’s law office)…the fifth for the state. We had the chance to tour that building today.


Although it’s laid out in a similar fashion to the Vandalia Capitol, with two main floors for business, and a third-floor gallery, it’s a much, much bigger building. And unbelievably, even it wasn’t large enough, which is why it’s the “Old Capitol Building!”



It is a beautiful building, and it’s dripping with history…this is the place from which Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech. We were lucky enough to get to meet “Lincoln” himself while we were there!



It’s amazing to think that he actually walked the streets around this building!

It’s a shame that it served the state for a relatively brief period of time, but at least it’s still around for us to enjoy and learn from!


The Second Illinois State Capital

Last week, we visited Kaskaskia, home of the “Liberty Bell of the West” and site of the first Illinois state capital. Today, we visited the second Illinois state capital (and fourth Capitol building), the Vandalia State House, which was built in only 89 days in 1836. That town boasts the oldest existing capitol building in the state (even though that building was the third Capitol building in Vandalia, and was only the seat of state government for a few short years after it was built).



There are three floors to the old Capitol building. The first floor had offices for the Secretary of State, the Illinois Supreme Court, the Treasurer, and the Auditor. (Interestingly, the governor was given no office in this building.) Among the notable things that happened on this floor were the chartering of the city of Chicago, and the awarding of Abraham Lincoln’s law degree.

The second floor was home to the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate. Lincoln and Stephen Douglas both spoke from this floor, where they each earned $4 a day as representatives. This is also the place from which Lincoln made his first public comment regarding slavery.


The third floor, which is not accessible to the public, was home to the galleries, from which the constituents could watch the proceedings in the House and Senate.


As far as I understand, the building was renovated pretty extensively after it ceased being the Capitol building…originally, it was a simple red brick structure; the Greek influence was added for the building’s tenure as a courthouse.



This was another interesting piece of Illinois history. Next up…Springfield!

The First Illinois State Capital

Today we drove down to Kaskaskia, IL, to check out the site of the first state capital. The town has both a complicated history and geography. It was founded by French Jesuits as a mission to Native Americans, and later became the capital of Upper Louisiana. It remained an important western location in the early years of American colonization and independence, and is known as the home of the “Liberty Bell of the West,” which was a gift from King Louis XV of France (inscribed with the words “For the Church of the Illinois, by gift of the King across the water”), and which was rung after George Rogers Clark and his men liberated the town on July 4, 1778.



Kaskaskia became the capital of the new Illinois Territory, and was briefly the capital of the state of Illinois after it was admitted to the union. The area has always been prone to flooding, however, and in 1881, the Mississippi River changed course, destroying most of the town, and leaving it on the wrong side of the river from the rest of the state. While it is still part of Illinois, despite being west of the river, it is today almost a ghost town, with just about a dozen residents calling it home. There is still a church there, however, which does hold weekly services.



What We’re Reading–All About Illinois

This year’s edition of summer school is focused on learning all about Illinois: the history, people, and regions of our fair state. I found a curriculum (the first six books on the list), as a starting point, and I’m also adding books about famous Illinoisans, as well as (mainly fiction) books set in our state. We’ll also spend a decent amount of time focusing on Chicago, as it is the biggest city in the state, and the city by which I grew up. How do you learn about your home state?

I also highly recommend the book There Are No Children Here for high school students. It’s a book I read almost two decades ago, and it had a profound impact on me.

I’ve got several fun field trips planned, as well. Stay tuned for details!