Truman’s Terrain and the Land of Lincoln

Although our trip’s primary purpose is to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn with his research, our path to and from Detroit consists of various related (and otherwise educational) stops.  Today, the stops included the World War I Museum in Kansas City, the Capitol of Missouri in Jefferson City, and some historical sites in Springfield, IL.

World War I Museum

With a towering concrete edifice, the World War I Monument was recognized as the national commemorative memorial of the war’s destructive toll.

Liberty Tower, World War I Monument, World War I Museum, Kansas City
Liberty Tower, World War I Monument

Standing at the foot of the tower, we looked up to a blinding peak, which seemed to scratch the sun. With such an admiring sight, we found the elevator to climb the approximately ten-story structure. As we stepped onto the balcony of the memorial our sights were lost among the mesmerizing vista of Kansas City.

Kansas City, Skyline, Union Station, World War I Museum
Kansas City Skyline

Perched on our elevated vantage point, we spotted various spouting fountains riddled amidst the city, appropriately nicknamed the City of Fountains.

After descending the 90-year old elevator–a very cozy metal enclosure hanging over rickety wires-we returned to the ground. We then rendezvoused outside the memorial and returned inside the museum, ready to view the exhibits of diverse aspects of the Great War.

With a brief overview of the complexity of the war’s inception, composed of treaties and alliances among the European nations, we began the tour with relics of the nations’ emperors and rulers.

World War I Museum, Timeline, Kansas City
Paul Examines the World War I Timeline

Such antiquities included marksmanship trophies, luxurious smoking pipes and flasks, and  other royal artifacts. As we followed the museum’s exhibits we also viewed the different models of the combatant’s firearms with pistols and rifles from each of the European countries. This exhibit provided a sense of the period’s need for manufacturing, where each nation used its resources and laborers to mass produce their own firearms. Among the exhibits were showcased other aspects of the war which had not been experienced prior to the Great War, such as chemical warfare. With masks worn by these trench soldiers, grenades which contaminated the air with hazardous gas, and the spray of mustard gas which would burn the flesh of patriotic fighters, the atrocities witnessed in this war were unlike any other. Furthermore, the dugouts in which the military denizens took, what could loosely be termed, refuge, imposed a very deplorable, unsanitary, demoralizing lifestyle for the fighters of World War I. To further exhibit the effects of industrialization on war, there were also maquettes and life-size models of the war’s u-boats, primitive military air-crafts (some made out of cloth and wood!). and missiles.


Most notably, in the American campaign section of the museum, we found two modified Ford Model T’s which would have been used during the war.

Model T, Henry Ford, World War I, WWI Museum, Kansas City
Paul and Ryan Examine the War-Purposed Model T

Even though the war acted as a catalyst for the modern industrial culture and economy, it also began a new age of catastrophic war. No other showcased artifact was able to capture this horror than Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” which we listened to inside one of the museum’s powerful exhibits. It was this poem that spoke the truth of the war’s atrocious effects on the lives of those who died and survived World War I. After this reflective visit to the museum, we went back to our traveling mini-van and got back on the road in order to reach Jefferson City on time for our tour of Missouri’s Capital Building.

Jefferson City, Missouri’s Capital

After the two hour drive into Jefferson City, we hopped on an already-started capitol tour. Our tour began on the second floor, where there are sixteen murals done in a style called three point perspective, where, at different angles, objects in the painting seem to be altered. For example, in one mural depicting a civil war battle, Union forces look to be attacking, while Confederate forces are retreating, but, at another angle, the roles of the opposing sides seem to switch.

On this same level are the House and Senate chambers. On the house side, there is the House Lounge room, where Thomas Hart Benton, a native Missourian, painted a mural covering all of the walls.

Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri Capitol, House Lounge
Thomas Hart Benton’s Murals in the House Lounge

The murals depict the history of Missouri, both good and bad, from French traders and farmers trading with the natives, to the time of Tom Pendergast, also known as “Boss Tom” (seen in the mural above on the bottom right).

When Boss Tom was arrested on tax fraud and sent to prison, one senator snuck in at night and carved Pendergast’s prison number on the back of his suit. Other congressmen would put out their cigars and cigarettes on his face, and Mr. Benton had to come back years later to repair the mural.

All the faces in the murals are native Missourians, except for one: an Osage Native American who was living on a reserve in Kansas, since natives were removed from their lands in Missouri.

Interestingly and sadly, when Mormons settled in Missouri, they were hated by many, and the governor passed an executive order in 1838 to allow anyone to drive them off of their land by any means necessary, whether that be tar and feathering, burning their house, or murder.

Benton Depicts the Treatment of Mormons in Missouri’s Early History

On the third floor is a hall of famous Missourians, where busts of well-known natives of the state are featured. Two in particular—Emmet Kelley, a famous clown, and Stan Musial, a famous baseball player—are special in that, if you take a picture of them with the flash on, you see features not visible to the naked eye.  With Kelley, for example, you can see his clown makeup when photographed with a flash.

When Stan Musial is photographed with flash, the red “SL” on his cap is visible; without the flash, or by the naked eye, the SL is visible, but not in Cardinal red.

Also on this floor is the grand staircase, a huge staircase which leads from the grounds outside to the third floor, the largest bronze doors cast since the Roman Empire, and a 9,000 pound bronze chandelier suspended from the ceiling of the dome. Having finished the tour of one of the “most interactive capital buildings” (according to Brian Aldaco), our hunger was calling our attention.

Missouri's Capitol Dome
Missouri’s Capitol Rotunda

For lunch we went to a place called Arris, right next to the beautiful Missouri Capitol. Arris is a Greek pizzeria. Every pizza that they serve is named after a different figure from Greek mythology or history, including Achilles, Athena, Atlas, Poseidon, and Plato. Curiously, it seems that the philosopher has determined that eating animals is unjust, as the Plato was a vegetarian pizza.  We went for a meat option.


Between the LEAPsters we split the Aiyaiys pizza, made up of cheese, mushroom, green peppers, and sausage. Professor Yawn got a gyro sandwich of Illiadic proportions in lieu of pizza. We also discovered that Greek pizza bears more resemblance to Italian pizza than American pizza. “Like the Italian pizza, this one had less tomato sauce, and a thinner crust,” commented Paul Oliver. Having tasted among the finest in Greek pie we drove towards Springfield, Illinois in hopes that we would make there on time before the closing of Lincoln’s burial grounds.

Lincoln’s Tomb

After another long car ride we arrived at Lincoln’s Tomb. It is an impressive edifice, boasting a central obelisk that rises to a point high above the rest of the mausoleum.

Lincoln's Tomb, Springfield, IL

A statue of Lincoln adorns the front, his hand outstretched before him. Beneath him various statues of heroes stand. At the base of the tomb is a heavy, metal door that allows entrance into his sepulcher.

The rest of the necropolis was quite beautiful as well. The landscape of lush, green grass and tall trees provided a verdant resting place for the dead. Most curiously, adjacent to Lincoln’s tomb was the old home for the tomb’s caretaker. Due to an edict issued by the governor at the time of the crypt’s construction, all government buildings had to be made in a gothic style. The caretaker’s home is therefore made of stone bricks, and has a presumably faux-watchtower built into its side, as well as battlements upon the roof.

As the tower’s bell knoll marked the time for the cemetery to close, we rode to take a peak of Illinois’ Capital Building. On its grounds stood a statue of Abraham Lincoln…

Abraham Lincoln, Illinois Capitol Building
The LEAP Guys with Abraham Lincoln and the Illinois Capitol

….and Stephen Douglas which we were fond of (he appeared to be strutting). After admiring the very dramatic architecture…


…we rode a few blocks in search of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas home.

Unlike the Usonian homes we had visited in our previous trip, the Dana-Thomas home was designed in a more oriental-inspired design but it still stood as a home far ahead of its time. Even though it was built a hundred years ago, due to its very modern appearance, it could have very well been built yesterday.

To continue on our search for interesting homes, we also went in search for Lincoln’s Springfield home. Situated along South 8th St. and East Jackson St., the homes that surround the former Illinois senator’s residence are preserved as they were in the 19th century. With the street left unpaved, walking towards Lincoln’s home was an enjoyable stroll down a period of American history that is left frozen in time in those few blocks near The Great Emancipator’s home. As we caught the last glimpses of the residence, with the sun already beneath the horizon and fireflies glittering along the dirt road, we hoped onto our minivan ready to make our three-hour ride to Chicago. With a very satisfying day of historical learning coupled with an estimated total travel time of eleven hours we deemed it appropriate to pat ourselves on the back for having enjoyably finished the second day of our trip.


Midwest Tour, Day 3: The Land of Lincoln

After a quick, “on-the-go” breakfast, Constance and I enjoyed the first part of our morning at The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.  We have both been to Presidential Museums previously (Alex: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; Constance: Harry Truman, George W. Bush, and LBJ), but this was our favorite!

The Lincoln Presidential Library

The museum is innovative, offering visitors an engaging, emotional and educational experience.  It is also the largest of the Presidential Museums, although it is operated by the State of Illinois, rather than the National Archives, and some do not count it as a true Presidential Library/Museum.


Visitors experience Lincoln’s early life by walking through a replica of his childhood home–the famous log cabin.  They have a similar walk-through experience of Lincoln’s “White House” years, this one using 21st century technology to bring the 19th century to life.


Visitors, for example, travel down the “Whispering Gallery,” seeing holograms of Lincoln’s rivals criticizing his decisions.  Of course, we also saw Mary Lincoln surrounded by her rivals, other women in the Capital’s social set, criticizing her appearance and behavior as first lady.


Another noteworthy “replica room” included Willie’s bedroom, turned into his sickroom.  Sadly, Mary Lincoln survived the death of three of their children before they reached age eighteen due to various illnesses.  Two of her children died prior to President Lincoln’s assassination.

President Lincoln’s work on the Emancipation Proclamation was depicted through special effects with an impact. The Hall of Holograms included critics of the Emancipation Proclamation from both sides –that it went too far or didn’t go far enough. It was easy to imagine how the President must have felt while being attacked through these comments.

The Museum contrasted the media of Lincoln’s day with today’s media, offering a simulated version of what his momentous decisions would have wrought in the 24-hour news cycle.


We entered Ford’s Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and then into the  full-scale recreation of the Representatives Hall in Springfield’s Old State Capitol. Alex reported later,  “This room was the most emotional for me. Having walked through Lincoln’s entire lifetime, I felt as if I was walking into this room to pay my respects, and not as a visitor of a museum.”


The walk through Lincoln’s life was made all too real through the use of advanced technology in the museum. To evoke the time of a simpler day, we checked out “Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic,” a play area for younger children.


While there, we learned about the types of toys that Lincoln would have played with as a child and other things that children, such as Alex, would find interesting.

Alex_Lincoln_Size_Chart_WEbWe also learned that Lincoln Logs were invented by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John Lloyd Wright. (We are making a lot of connections on this trip!)


Following the tour of the Museum proper, we explored the grounds.


The Lincoln Depot is nearby, with a statue of Lincoln commemorating the area.  Alex spent time with the wise old President…

Lincoln_Statue_Alex_Web…receiving tips on life, law, and politics…

Alex_Lincoln_3_Web…and even directions to the next destinations.




The Lincoln Home

To continue our Lincoln-inspired morning, we followed Lincoln’s directions to his former home, the only home he ever owned.


Even though Abraham Lincoln lived in Kentucky as a boy, he spent nearly half his life living in Springfield, IL. The home is now operated by the US National Parks Service, having been sold by Lincoln’s only surviving son, Robert, for $1.  The home is part of a 12-acre historic site, in which surrounding homes have also been preserved, giving visitors a 19th-century feel.


A Park Ranger led us on our tour through the home…


…sharing plenty of information on the home’s interior and such trivia as the Lincoln’s humble Christmas celebrations.


We were even allowed to use the original hand railing on the stair case that the Lincolns used! Upstairs, the master bedrooms were covered in an extravagant wallpaper,which made for some interesting pattern clashes next to, say, Lincoln’s bed.


and the children’s rooms were located in the back of the house, over the kitchen, so the heat from the kitchen stove also heated the rooms.

One of the more interesting sites in the home was Lincoln’s desk, where he probably wrote his first inaugural address.

Lincoln_Home_Desk_WebAfter the tour of the home, we explored the grounds, where we actually had the opportunity to enter Lincoln’s outhouse.

Lincoln_Outhouse_WebThis seriously verged on TMI, but it was interesting to see the some of the more unpleasant aspects of 19th-century life, endured even by Presidents.



Having touched the same railing as Lincoln and learned about his life, we had lunch at a home he frequented. That home is now a restaurant, Obed and Issac’s Microbrewery and Eatery, and it is owned by the great-great grandson of Obed Lewis, who knew Lincoln prior to Lincoln winning the presidency.

All the food was satisfying, but we all agreed that the award for lunch of the day went to Constance for trying the fig pizza!


We finished lunch with bread pudding and a very sweet butter cake–too sweet for Alex, but the recipient of rave reviews from the remainder of the group.

Lincoln’s Tomb

Following lunch, we proceeded to Lincoln’s tomb.  We were happily surprised that not only was the tomb an impressive and fitting structure…

Lincoln_Tomb_Exterior_Web…but that its interior is open to the public.

The interior consists of a series of marble hallways, which contain information about Lincoln’s life and death, as well as plaques with text from The Gettysburg Address, Lincon’s farewell to the people of Springfield, and his 2nd Inaugural.


Each corner is also adorned with replicas of famous statues of Lincoln.


The back of the interior is Lincoln’s burial place, just a dozen or so feet away from the final resting places of Mary Todd, Willie, and Tad Lincoln.


His other son, Robert, is buried in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.

The exterior monument is 117 feet tall, and the tomb structure is the largest in the United States.


Illinois State Capitol

We left Lincoln’s grave site to return to downtown Springfield and explore the capitol building.  Awed by the French Renaissance beauty seen from the outside, we entered the majestic building intrigued by what lay within. The external beauty held no match for what we encountered upon entering the 126-year-old capitol building. Ornate fixtures, bright colors, and grand marble surrounded us on all sides. It was hard to find a certain spot to fix our eyes as the overall busy-ness of the interior kept focal points hidden amidst the bright (some might say gaudy)  décor.


Marble staircases, huge murals, and lavish entryways abounded throughout the capitol, which is the state’s sixth such structure. We used our time by going on a guided tour to learn as much as possible.  We visited the House of Representatives Chamber where 750-pound chandeliers hung with their original crystal, giving light to  the chamber’s 118 members.


Interestingly, there are more than 118 desks .  The surplus desks are there to accommodate possible future growth.  In addition, some desks have phones.  These desks are for the chamber’s leadership.


We left the House to head across the building and enter the Senate, where President Obama served as  state senator until 2004.


A bit less gaudy than the previous chamber, the chamber was still opulent, with beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and reflecting light off the rich mahogany walls.


Moving on, we explored the rest of the capitol and learned of its record-holding height at 361 feet, its original price tag of 4.5 million dollars (in 1889), and even some of the saga surrounding former Governor Rod Blagojevich. 

Some of the state’s history (but, thankfully, not that involving Blagojevich) was also told in a bas-relief sculpture just below the dome, including the famous “Lincoln-Douglas Debates.”


And, of course, we took some photos, including one of President Lincoln…


…one of the bronze statue titled “Illinois Welcoming the World,” by Julia M. Bracken, in the center floor of the rotunda…


…and Murals that adorn the walls and ceilings throughout the capitol.

Illinois_Capitol_Mural_2_Web..and even the Governor’s office.



Illinois Supreme Court

After learning so much about the generously decorated state capitol, we left in search of the Supreme Court of Illinois, stopping to pose alongside a statue of President Lincoln along the way.


Originally housed in the capitol building, the Court is now in an adjacent building on beautiful grounds adorned with beautiful fall colors.


Walking in, we were escorted by a deputy marshal of security to the second floor of the building that finished construction in 1908. We explored the law library with its bright blue floors…

Supreme_Court_Law_Library_Web…the Appellate Courtroom that is no longer in use today…


…and the Ceremonial Courtroom where pictures had to be taken, of course, of both me

Supreme_Court_Constance_Web…and Alex making oral arguments…

Supreme_Court_Alex_WebIt was a beautiful room.


Finishing up, we passed Supreme Court Justices of old and new on each side to proceed downstairs and head back out into the beautiful, unseasonably warm and unbelievably pretty Springfield afternoon.


With just enough time to grab Starbucks, we piled into the car and began our journey to Chicago. After a quick three-hour drive, full of conversation, productive picture editing, and Stephanie’s deft driving, we arrived in a southern suburb of the Windy City.  We enjoyed dinner at A-Fusion, with selections of Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine. After enjoying a hibachi show…


…some good food…


and watching Alex (unsuccessfully) attack a monstrous plate of cashew chicken, we headed out.


Odds and End of the Day

We had one more planned stop.  After seeing Bella Abril’s (LEAP Center Student Worker) gopro video from The Great Muddy Escape, we decided to purchase a gopro ourselves, and we look forward to putting that into use in Chicago, tomorrow’s destination.

But little did any of us know we had one more stop to make.  As we headed toward one last stop before reaching the hotel, Constance and Alex didn’t see glances exchanged between Professor Yawn and Stephanie when they realized the Indiana state line was literally minutes away.  They tagged an extra twenty minutes to the trip and Constance and Alex both got to add one more state to their list, making a quick stop in Riverside Park in Hammond, Indiana.