Interested in history?
Then Jacksonville is the perfect place to spend some time. The city’s rich heritage includes numerous interesting sites that help make history relevant to new generations.
Destination choices include the murals of downtown Jacksonville that depict our history in a unique artistic fashion. Or, visit one of the many Underground Railroad sites, including Woodlawn Farm, or some of the historic homes in Jacksonville’s historic district. Walk in the footsteps of greatness, following the lives of Stephen Douglas, General Benjamin Grierson, or listen to stories about Abraham Lincoln on the Voices of Jacksonville Audio tour. Jacksonville is proud that many important figures have called
our city their home.
Your choices are numerous, so we hope this guide can help you decide how to spend your day!
ABRAHAM LINCOLN VOICES OF JACKSONVILLE AUDIO TOUR
Downtown and other historic sites
Follow in the steps of Abraham Lincoln through historic Jacksonville. See the actual places and hear the real stories of Lincoln as his friends and associates knew him while Looking For Lincoln in Jacksonville. These creative history stories are professionally recorded and interesting for visitors of all ages. Jacksonville is an official member of the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, a consortium of Illinois communities that share the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Tune to radio frequencies at each location for stories. Maps are available at our office or www.lincolninjacksonville.com.
State Street and Main Street
Jacksonville’s historic city center is in the midst of an exciting renaissance to restore historic traffic patterns, improve access, enhance park amenities and landscaping, all making downtown even more appealing. Highlights include restaurants, theaters, shops, galleries, murals, audio & walking tours.
Painters from all over the U.S. and as far away as Ireland and Australia worked on these 10 historical murals. They are located in various areas of downtown Jacksonville. For more information call (217) 245.6884.
Click here to view WallDog brochure
UNDERGROUND RAILROAD DRIVING TOUR
Various Jacksonville Locations
Jacksonville was one of the many stations along the Underground Railroad and one of the busiest during the mid-1800s. Prominent abolitionists like Edward Beecher, first president of Illinois College and brother to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Jonathan B. Turner and Benjamin Henderson, a former slave, were among the many that were relentless in the pursuit of freedom for all. The Underground Railroad was neither a railroad nor underground. It was a series of safe places where abolitionists helped runaways, “freedom seekers,” find an escape from slavery. Networks existed across the United States, to help move people into areas of the country where they could find freedom. In Jacksonville we have at least nine documented sites which were important to this endeavor during the years before the Civil War. Although most are private residences, many of the homes used in the Underground Railroad can still be seen in Jacksonville.
For more information call 217.243.3755.
East of Jacksonville. Follow Morton Avenue east over Route 72, and follow the signs.
The showcase homestead of Jacksonville’s extensive Underground Railroad network. Former slaves were ushered through this home on their way to freedom.
Summer Hours or by Appointment (217) 243-3755.
Suggested Donation $3, free parking
OTHER HISTORIC SITES
In Community Park, Morton Avenue & Main Street
The bandstands in Community Park were originally built as part of the grounds of the State Hospital. Their unique construction and Victorian detail earned one of them a home in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
ELI BRIDGE WHEEL
Community Park, at the intersection of Main Street and Morton Avenue.
Although the factory is not open for tours, a spin on the locally-operated wheel is available in Community Park during the summer and autumn months. Jacksonville is home to the Eli Bridge factory that builds rides including the famous Big Eli Wheel, Scramblers, and other amusements.
Located in Duncan Park
Visit the only Governor’s mansion still standing in the state other than in Springfield. This restored mansion was used for State business during the term of Governor Joseph Duncan from 1834-1838. The three-story, 17-room mansion was built in 1834. The mansion is owned and operated by the Rev. James Caldwell Chapter NSDAR. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and houses many of the original Duncan family furnishings. Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, Wednesday & Saturday 1-4pm. Suggested donation: $3, Students 6-12 $2, children under 7 free
HERITAGE CULTURAL MUSEUM
301 East State Street
This center will feature the history of Jacksonville, and will include meeting rooms and a community resource center. Closed while under renovation.
ILLINOIS SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF ALUMNI ASSOCIATION MUSEUM
125 Webster Avenue, Building 11, Thomas Officer Hall
The museum has 2 floors of displays.
Monday-Friday 9am-noon, Saturday by appointment, closed on Holidays
Adults $2, Senior citizens & students $1, under 12 free
MORGAN COUNTY COURTHOUSE
West State Street
Built in 1868, the Morgan County Courthouse is the center of government for the county.
PRAIRIE LAND HERITAGE MUSEUM
On the corner of Michigan Avenue & Lincoln Avenue in South Jacksonville.
This museum shows off some of the smaller household and farming items from the past and also includes a section on farm equipment, automotives, a complete veterinarian’s office and more. Open during the Prairie Land Heritage Steam Show & Fall Festival Days, during the last full weekend in September. Fall Festival admittance fee includes entry to the museum.
Self-guided walking tours of Jacksonville historic sites are available in our office, or by visiting the Walking Tours page.
Illinois College graduate and teacher, Bateman was principal of what is purported to be the first free public high school in Illinois — West Jacksonville District School — in the 1850s. A friend of Abraham Lincoln, Bateman is said to have been the last person to shake hands with Lincoln as the train pulled away from the Springfield depot.
DR. GREENE VARDIMAN BLACK
In 1864, this father of modern dentistry began his Jacksonville practice, which would continue for 34 years. His Jacksonville office has been reconstructed as an exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution.
WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN
Illinois College graduate, Bryan practiced law in Jacksonville from 1883-1887 prior to making three unsuccessful campaigns for president of the United States.
STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS
Douglas was nicknamed the “Little Giant” because he was short (5’ 4”) but considered by many a “giant” in politics. Douglas served as Morgan County State’s Attorney from 1834-36. A resourceful politician, he held offices as a state legislator and as a U.S. Congressman. Democratic nominee for President in 1860, Douglas lost to the Republican Party’s candidate, Abraham Lincoln, whom he had defeated two years earlier in a Senate contest following the famed series of “Lincoln Douglas Debates.”
BENJAMIN H. GRIERSON
Grierson joined the Union war effort as a volunteer from Jacksonville. His family lived in Jacksonville and remained here during the Civil War. He taught music in Jacksonville and was a merchant, owning a general store in Meredosia. An unlikely candidate for a cavalry officer, he had been kicked in the head by a horse in his youth. “Grierson’s Raid” was a sixteen day foray through the South, from LaGrange, Tenn., to Baton Rouge, La., pulling the attention of the Southern army from Vicksburg and allowing Grant to take Vicksburg.
Lincoln represented clients in a number of court cases at the second Morgan County courthouse, which was located on the southwest corner of Central Park in Jacksonville. It is said that Lincoln found his opposing attorneys in court here to be quite challenging.
To learn more about Abraham Lincoln and his many ties to Jacksonville, contact the Visitors Bureau, or visit lincolninjacksonville.com for audio tour information.
This former multi-time world champion heavyweight boxer and member of the Boxing Hall of Fame was an outstanding athlete at Jacksonville High School. His track coach entered him in eight State events and Ken placed first in all. As a result, the “Ken Norton Rule” was instituted in Illinois high school sports, which limits participation of an athlete to a maximum of three track and field events. His professional career includes a shocking victory over Muhammad Ali in 1973 to win the NABF Heavyweight Crown, breaking Ali’s jaw in the process. For more information, visit www.kennorton.com
JONATHAN B. TURNER
In 1833, Turner settled in Jacksonville as a professor at Illinois College. He was a great proponent of the public school system in Illinois and is recognized as the father of the land-grant college idea.