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Historic Sites

Bishop Hill State Historic Site
Bishop Hill Colony was founded in 1846 by a group of Swedish religious dissidents who believed that the Bible was the only true book of God and that simplicity was the way to salvation. Those beliefs brought them into conflict with the state church of Sweden and led to the imprisonment of their leader, Erik Jansson. Pooling their resources in a common treasure, Jansson and his followers emigrated to the United States. The first settlers arrived on the Illinois prairie in the fall of 1846 after walking 160 miles from Chicago. They purchased land and literally "dug in" for the winter. Shelters-half cave and half timber-were built into the side of a ravine running through the town site. Inadequate food and shelter took its toll that first winter. Ninety-six colonists died. The arrival of more immigrants from Sweden expanded the colony and laid the groundwork for remarkable economic gains during the 15 years the communal village existed. Erik Jansson, considered by his followers a second Christ, supervised all of the colony's activities. The industrious colonists prospered under his leadership, and permanent buildings were begun in 1847. A total of 20 large commercial buildings were erected and 12,000 acres of land put into farm production. In 1850 the religious unity of the colonists was disrupted by Jansson's murder, and management passed to a seven-member board of trustess. Bishop Hill State Historic Site is open daily from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. except for major holidays. For information call: (309)927-3345.


Cahokia Mounds
The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric Indian civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient Indian city that is today known as Cahokia. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1982 designated Cahokia Mounds a World Heritage Site for its importance to our understanding of the prehistory of North America. Cahokia Mounds is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. According to archaeological finds, the city of Cahokia was inhabited from about A.D. 700 to 1400. At its peak, from A.D. 1l00 to 1200, the city covered nearly six square miles and had a population as great as 20,000 in extensive residential sections. Houses were arranged in rows and around open plazas, and the main agricultural fields lay outside the city. The site is named for a subtribe of the Illini Indians-the Cahokia-who occupied the area when the French arrived in the late 1600s. What its ancient inhabitants called the city is unknown, since the city existed before European contact. Instead, archaeological investigations and scientific tests have provided what is known of the once-thriving Indian community. The fate of the prehistoric Cahokians and their city is unknown. Depletion of resources probably contributed to the city's decline. A climate change after A.D. 1200 may have affected crop production and the plant and animal resources needed to sustain a large population. War, disease, social unrest, and declining political and economic power may have also taken their toll. A gradual decline in population began sometime after A.D. 1200, and by 1400, the site had been abandoned. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is open daily 8 A.M. to dusk. For information call: (618)346-5160


Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site
Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site is a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood. The six years Lincoln spent in New Salem formed a turning point in his career. From the gangling youngster who came to the village in 1831 with no definite objectives, he became a man of purpose as he embarked upon a career of law and statesmanship. Although he never owned a home here, Lincoln was engaged in a variety of activities while he was at New Salem. He clerked in a store, chopped wood, enlisted in the Black Hawk War, served as postmaster and deputy surveyor, failed in business, and was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834 after an unsuccessful try in 1832. The six years that Lincoln spent in New Salem almost completely encompass the town's brief history. The community was thriving when Lincoln settled here in 1831, but growth stalled before his 1837 move to Springfield to practice law. The 1839 establishment of the county seat at Petersburg hastened New Salem's decline. Facilities: Visitor Center, Restaurant, Picnicking, Camping, Talisman River Boat Trip and Outdoor Theater. Hours of Operation: New Salem is open daily to the public from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. from early March to late October. Open 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. the remainder of the year. For information call: (217)632-4000


Old State Capitol State Historic Site
The Old State Capitol served as the Illinois statehouse from 1839 to 1876. Workers laid its cornerstone on July 4, 1837, five months after legislators voted to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. The first rooms were opened for use in 1839, though political struggles and financial problems delayed the building's completion for nearly fifteen years. Unlike earlier Illinois statehouses (at Kaskaskia and Vandalia), all of the major executive, legislative, and judicial functions of state government were housed in the new capitol. The state's chief executive officers - governor, auditor, secretary of state, treasurer, and the superintendent of public instruction - occupied offices in the building, along with their staffs. Both houses of the General Assembly met there, as did the Illinois Supreme Court, which boasted one of the state's finest law libraries. The Old State Capitol's design reflects Springfield architect John Rague's enthusiasm for Greek Revival architecture, a popular style in Illinois during the early 1800s. The building's perfectly balanced design, majestic classical columns, and exterior details symbolized the ancient Greek example of orderly progress and democracy. During the 1840s and 50s, the building dominated a public square that was the center of Springfield's community life. Concerts, dances, levees, and civic affairs, as well as political rallies and conventions, were held within the statehouse walls. The building was dismantled in 1966 and rebuilt with a modern physical plant and staff facilities. Today the Old State Capitol is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. History comes alive at the Old State Capitol on Fridays and Saturdays (except in May) when site interpreters offer the special interpretive program "Mr. Lincoln's World." The program uniquely blends the traditional guided tour with actors dressed in period clothing portraying characters from the 1850s. These tours are offered from 10 A.M. to noon and from 1 P.M. to 4 P.M. For information call: (217)785-7960


Fort de Chartres
Fort de Chartres is the last of three eighteenth-century forts by that name erected near the Mississippi River by France's colonial government. From 1720 to 1763 French administration of the Illinois Country was centered at the forts, built successively over a 40-year period on or near the same site. The stone fort, built in the 1750s and abandoned in 1771, has been partially reconstructed to provide a glimpse of life in Illinois under the French regime. Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, which also preserves the archaeological remains of the earlier wooden forts, is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Fort de Chartres State Historic Site is open daily from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. It is closed on major holidays. For information call: (618)284-7230

Tourist Attractions

Navy Pier
Reconstructed in 1995 at a cost of $200 million, the new Navy Pier boasts more than 50 acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, and attractions. this year-round entertainment & recreation facility on Chicago's lakefront offers the Chicago Children's Museum, the Imax Theater, and a 32,000 sq.foot indoor botanical garden. Navy Pier also showcases the 1,500 seat outdoor Skyline Stage Pavilion, a four masted schooner, a ferris wheel, and a musical carousel. For information call: (312)595-5100


Six Flags Great America
Six Flags Great America is 300 acres of thrilling rides, spectacular shows and exciting attractions for the entire family new for 1997 the giant drop. Experience the tallest and newest thrill ride in the midwest. Ride up the 227 foot Freefall Tower and plunge back to earth at speeds of 62 mph. GIANT Drop is the newest addition to Southwest Territory, the 11-aCRE region added in 1996. Southwest Territory is home to the exciting Warner Bros. Western Stunt Show, four family rides and Viper- the untamed wooden roller coaster. For information call: (847)249-4636


Scovill Zoo And Park Complex
A 12-acre Zoo that offers over 500 species of animals. The ZO & O Express train ride, a large petting zoo with six different barns and festivals including special events through-out the year. Also located at the park: Oriental Gardens, Project Playground, and Mueller Museum. For information call: : (217)421-7435


Paddlewheel River Boat Excursions
Cruise the scenic Fox River May to October on the Fox River Queen or St. Charles Belle. Afternoon trips are four miles, no reservations necessary. Adults $5, Children $3.50. Private group charters available, including lunch or dinner cruises. For information call: (630)584-2334


A Murder on the Train
Cocktail party, complete table side dinner, cash bar and murder mystery train ride. also "Murder in the Mansion" is also available. For information call: (773) 604-4200