Abe Lincoln & MO (as in Missouri)

Day 3 — Wednesday, September 19 — still in Illinois

We started the day with honest Abe at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.  The city is full of Lincoln sites, but we concentrated on the museum and library.  The museum, built in 2004, houses the largest collection of Lincoln artifacts in the world.  Splendid building, well designed, geared for the common man.  An introductory movie used three screens and holograms to show his life, his famous quotations. and re-enactments of historical events.  Great high-tech techniques brought one of America’s most loved presidents to life.   We walked through a replica of the cabin where he was born, then exhibits that followed his law and political career to the Presidency, finally his assassination.   Next door is his library, housing papers, books, and considerable ongoing research.  The museum and library are downtown, across from a welcoming park anchored by the former train depot.

Moving on to another great building, this one in Carlinville, the Million Dollar White Elephant Courthouse.  It’s handsome, took more than two years to build, 40 years to pay for, costing more than 10 times its original estimate.  Many of its iron doors weigh over a ton, and all interior trim is made of either iron or stone.

The best stop of the day was Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton.  It pays homage to another 66 spot, the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas with Caddies planted hood down in the earth.  The Rabbit Ranch has a row of VW rabbit cars stuck in the ground, and Rabbits in various states of repair, rust, and disrepair sitting around a large yard.  A small shop has — guess what — live rabbits.  Henry is nuts about rabbits, rescues them, and sells 66 souvenirs and all things rabbit.  Fred the Red Rabbit, a real and soft as silk rabbit, holds down the sales counter and allows himself to be petted.   The Rabbit Rance is definitely one of a kind.

We zigged a little off 66 to find Collinsville and the world’s largest ketchup bottle.  Built as a water tower, the bottle is 70 feet tall and stands atop a 100-foot base.  The biggie bottle sits atop a hill, at the former Brooks Foods plant.  Built in 1949, local legend says that red-headed offspring may result if a pregnant woman passes too close to it.

As the afternoon wound down, we crossed the bridge dividing Illinois and Missouri.  I planned to take a photo of myself at each state line, but no way at rush hour with cars whizzing and only inches between the bridge barrier and cars.

At dusk, we pulled into St. Louis, Missouri.  Enter Anna, longtime friend from Easton, Maryland.  She was waiting for us at the downtown Union Station Marriott Hotel.  This hotel uses the former train station’s grand hall as its hotel lobby.  Wow, it’s a looker with a beautiful stained glass set in the towering ceiling, chandeliers, hand-carved wood, and marble floors. The former train tracks have been converted to restaurants and shops one floor under the lobby.  Lovely rooms, and all the service staff were wonderful.  Wish we could say the same for the front desk which made mistake after mistake with our rooms and bill.

Anna rested while Dee and I hotfooted it to the opening concert of the Pulitzer Series, under the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.  This series is devoted to presenting music like an “informance”, with the performers explaining the piece before playing.  The series, sponsored by the Pulitzer Foundation (yes, that Pulitzer as in Pulitizer Prize), is held at an art space designed by Tadao Ando.  The building is ultra modern, spare, all concrete, wood floors.  The concert hall has stadium-like seating for 200, but the acoustics are superb, so live and rich that people must whisper in the lobby two rooms away from the hall.  That particular concert featured two pianists who played facing each other, their pianos fully open, and audience members could stand at a railing and look down at the stage.  The program included Ravel, Debussy, and the contemporary John Adams’ “Hallelujah Junction” which flowed, ebbed and crescendoed in that superb setting.  Great evening.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.