The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has partnered with the City of Springfield in providing a fresh, inviting place for guests to the city. The Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, located at the southwest corner of the Old State Capitol Plaza, has been closed since Labor Day 2014. Plans originally called for a $1 million renovation of the space, but due to the state’s budget impasse, the site never reopened. Now, the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau is leasing the space and preparing to open a visitors’ center to welcome tourists.
According to Troy Gilmore, who works for IDNR as site superintendent for state historic sites of Springfield, “The welcome center will have information about the city of Springfield as a whole, beyond the capital city’s connection to Abraham Lincoln, but being so close to many highly-visited Lincoln sites will be a great asset to downtown.”
The Springfield city council voted unanimously in April to sign a five-year lease with the State of Illinois in order to create a welcome center, with the idea that the SCVB offices would remain in the current location at 109 N. Seventh St.
Lisa Clemmons Stott, executive director of Downtown Springfield, Inc., said the Welcome Center will be a positive addition to downtown.
“DSI asked for some sort of visitors’ presence on the Old State Capitol Plaza several years ago, because we saw
timeand again many visitors lost in the heart of town,” she explained. “The new visitors’ center will be a great one-stop place for information, including our map of downtown businesses. We also appreciate that visitors will be able to use the restrooms there.”
Jeff Berg, the tourism manager for the SCVB, said that about $100,000 has been spent on the renovations so far,which includes new flooring and paint. The Welcome Center will feature photos lining the walls, brochures of
local attractions and a 10-panel LED display that showcases places to visit, shop and eat. Berg noted that the back portion of the space is still a work in progress, with one possible use being displays that would highlight products made in Illinois. There is also the possibility that the upper floors will eventually be reopened.
Gilmore also hopes that the new Welcome Center may lead to expanding the use of the site down the road.
“Opening the main level of the historic site is the first step in reopening the entire building. For now, guests can see a recreation of Lincoln’s Law Office on the main level, along with a recreation of the post office from 1840,” he said.
The center is geared towards visitors to the area and will be operated by the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau as an extension of its services; however, the site will serve as a resource for residents as well.
The Welcome Center will officially open Saturday, Nov. 24 in conjunction with Downtown Springfield’s Holiday Walks that kick off the same day.
Winter/Holiday Hours of Welcome Center
Monday thru Friday: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Wednesday open until 8 p.m. during the Holiday Walks
Saturdays: 1- 5 p.m.
- Open through the Tree Lighting Ceremony on November 24.
Hours will be updated after the first of the year.
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