There is a wealth of historical sites sprinkled throughout the Land of Lincoln, providing an intriguing glimpse of the past. Some of the historical sites are natural wonders such as fossil beds and rock cliffs, while others are man-made architectural marvels. Discover something new at these 15 historical sites in Illinois.
Cahokia Mounds is a 2,200-acre historical site of a preserved prehistoric civilization. Here rests the architectural remains of a highly sophisticated native settlement that was larger than London in AD 1250. Visitors can now explore this ancient civilization in Collinsville.
The Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Homesite is the first known permanent residence in Chicago (not including native settlements). This site dates back to the 1780s and became a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
This historic building features Greek revival-style architecture and plenty of fascinating history. Lincoln practiced law in this building and was associated with this historical site as early as 1837. Although the building was rebuilt and remodeled, it remains a spectacle for guests.
Unity Temple in Oak Park was built by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908. Architects consider this structure the first modern building of that period. Visitors can now marvel at this brightly lit sanctuary made almost entirely of concrete.
Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government-operated weapon manufacturing arsenal in the U.S., is a National Historic Landmark packed with history. It served as a prison camp for Confederate soldiers from 1863 to 1865, housing more than 12,000 Confederate soldiers. Although the prison facility has been completely destroyed, tourists can still visit the Rock Island National Cemetery and Confederate Cemetery.
Tour the only home Abraham Lincoln has ever owned and lived in before he became president. Located in Springfield, the 12-room Lincoln homesite looks exactly how it did in 1860 when Lincoln and his wife resided there.
The Modoc Rock Shelter is a National Historic Landmark at the edge of the Mississippi River. This rock cliff features over 28 feet of sediment containing artifacts from prehistoric time periods. Archaeologists believe this site was used as both short-term and long-term camps by hunting groups and families as long as 9,000 years ago.
Located in Chicago, the Arthur H. Compton House was the residence of the professor who discovered the Compton Effect. This discovery proved that light has both a wave and particle aspect. In 1927 Compton also received the Nobel Peace Prize in Physics. Now the Arthur H. Compton House is a National Historic Landmark.
With history dating back to 1790, the Fort De Chartres was a French Fortification built of limestone on Mississippi River’s east bank. It was rebuilt several times due to flooding, and now stands as an Illinois Historic Site and National Historic Site.
Located in Grant Park, the Buckingham Fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world. It produces a water display for 20 minutes each hour, shooting water 150 feet into the air. The Buckingham Fountain is also one of the finest ornamental fountains in the world.
The Kincaid Mounds mark the site of a prehistoric Native American civilization dating back to the Archaic Period from 8000 to 2000 BC, which is the pre-pottery period. The people of that time built large buildings, possibly temples or council houses, on top of large mounds and carved figurines into coal and fluorite. In 1964 this area was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Surround yourself with fossils that formed around 300 million years ago at the Mazon Creek Fossil Beds in Grundy County. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997, this incredible area features various specious of hard and soft-bodied plant and animal tissues preserved in ironstone concretions.
Once the tallest building in Chicago, the Chicago Board of Trade is now a historic landmark and still a primary trading venue. It’s known for its Art Deco architecture, stone carvings, sculptures, and large trading floor. The original Chicago Board of Trade was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.
This historical village now has a population of under 20 people, but it once was a Native American village inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years. In the early 1700s French colonists established a missionary there and it briefly served as the state’s capital from 1818 to 1819. A flood destroyed most of the town in 1881 and again in 1993.
The Holy Family Catholic Church in Cahokia is the oldest Catholic Parish in the United States. Founded in 1699, The Log Church was built in 1799 and is constructed of black walnut timbers. It still stands and is the oldest historic church west of the Alleghany Mountains.