Europe isn’t the only place to see visually striking architecture. The buildings in the American Midwest can rival those across the Atlantic. Springfield, located in central Illinois, is home to historical buildings designed according to a range of architectural styles. From a Roman Catholic Church to a Frank Lloyd Wright original, here are buildings that are worth a visit.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 for Socialite Susan Lawrence Davis, this home is an example of early Prairie School architecture. The 12,000-square-foot building, with its 35 rooms and two-story living room, includes 450 art glass windows, many etched with a motif of the sumac plant commonly found in Illinois’ prairies. Other outstanding features include the barrel-vaulted ceilings in the gallery and dining room and an indoor terracotta fountain near the entrance. Wright also designed more than 100 pieces of furniture in the home.
This Italianate mansion depicts the typical lifestyle of Springfield’s wealthy and influential during the Victorian era. Owned by attorney and state politician Benjamin Edwards and his wife Helen, it was the center of the city’s social life during the late 1800s. Ulysses S. Grant, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln and other distinguished politicians, judges and lawyers attended dinner parties, picnics and political rallies at this mansion. Throughout its guided tour, docents in period costumes tell intriguing stories that help visitors experience antebellum Springfield. Children will enjoy visiting the playroom and touching the blocks, games, books and other 19th-century toys.
This distinctive Roman Catholic Church brings classic Italian architecture to Springfield. Its interior, modeled after Pope Francis’ favorite church in Rome—the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore—features palatial coffered ceilings and ionic columns. A black-and-gold marble altar, ambo and baptismal font contrast with cream-colored walls. The tabernacle, which sits on the high altar of the church’s back wall, is made of a rare pink and black marble called Rose Breche. Above the tabernacle, framed in black and gold marble, is an intricate mosaic of the Immaculate Conception based on a 17th-century painting by Spaniard Bartolomé Murillo. Sixteen stained glass windows along the north and south walls illustrate Christianity’s growth and the church’s role in the development of the New World.
The hipped roof, arched windows and three-story pyramidal tower of this historic train station are typical characteristics of the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. Once used as a passenger terminal for four railroads, Union Station now houses temporary exhibits as part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum which is located across the street. The surrounding Union Square Park includes a statue of Lincoln and a memorial for the victims of a 1908 race riot. After a day at the museum, grab one of the park’s covered tables and eat a picnic dinner or enjoy a concert or theater performance during summer evenings.
This Roman Catholic church is an prime example of the Neo-Gothic architecture popular in 19th-century England. The facade includes typical Gothic characteristics such as pointed arches, a steeply sloped roof and tall towers embellished with lattice work. The Neo-Gothic theme continues inside the building with vaulted ceilings, scagliola (stucco) columns and side altars made of Botticino marble mined in Italy. Take a few moments to walk around the church’s nave and enjoy a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta and a bas relief of Jesus and his Apostles reminiscent of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. A grotto at the front right-hand side of the church tells the story of a 14-year-old French peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous who experienced apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858.
No trip to Springfield is complete without a stop at one of the most visited presidential libraries in the United States – the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Dedicated to the 16th president of the United States, visitors interact with Lincoln’s legacy through life-sized dioramas, film clips, high-tech exhibits, hands-on activities, and holographic theater performances. This 200,000-square-foot complex is 50% larger than any other presidential library. Architecturally, the building’s contemporary facade combines several distinctive styles including classical columns, Prairie-style overhanging eaves and modern ribbon windows.
Some consider this building one of the most beautiful churches ever built in Springfield. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 because of its unique Richardson Romanesque architectural style. Built in 1888, Christ Episcopal Church is best known around Springfield for its unique rough mason block exterior and its arched entryway. Its rusticated bell tower is a typical feature of Early English Gothic architecture. Inside the church visitors will discover stepped buttresses, exposed timber ceilings, polished oak and birch woodwork and other Gothic Revival elements. The church is also known for its beautiful stained glass windows.
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