By Edward Epstein
Thursday, June 17, 2021
A bipartisan group of members of Congress from Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, is pushing legislation to expand the Lincoln National Historic Site in Springfield, where the future president lived and worked for 17 years until leaving on his historic rail journey to the nation's capital on Feb. 11, 1861.
The Senate version of the proposal was introduced on May 25 by Sen. Richard Durbin, a Democrat who lives in Springfield and represented the city in the House before being elected to the Senate in 1996. He is assistant majority leader in the Senate. The House version, H.R. 3818, was introduced this week by Republican Rep. Rodney Davis and Democratic Rep. Chuy Garcia of Chicago. They were joined by co-sponsor Rep. Darin LaHood, a Republican who shares representation of the Springfield area in the House with Davis.
The bills would expand the historic site, which includes the home where Abraham and Mary Lincoln lived with their sons before leaving for Washington, to include a replica of the 1844 cottage where the Lincolns first lived. The Springfield-based Abraham Lincoln Association is raising $400,000 to pay for recreating the six-room cottage on empty land near the Lincoln home. The cottage was later expanded into the Lincoln home, the only residence that Lincoln ever owned.
The site's expansion would also include the Elijah Iles home, the oldest structure in Illinois' capital city. The legislation also calls for road improvements in the historic area.
The Lincoln Historic Site is owned and managed by the National Park Service.
Introducing Senate and House versions of the legislation helps facilitate eventual enactment or inclusion in a bigger piece of legislation. Bipartisan support is also important, especially in a Congress narrowly divided along party lines in both houses.