Illinois: Other Historic Sites Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

A list of important historic sites in Illinois.

Abbott House

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: African American history, literary history

Statement of significance: From 1926 until his death, this house was the residence of Robert Sengstacke Abbott (1870-1940), the most successful black publisher of his era. Through his newspaper, the Chicago Defender (established 1905), Abbott encouraged southern blacks to leave the virulently racist South and seek a haven in the northern cities, particularly Chicago.

Bishop Hill Colony

Location: Bishop Hill, Henry County

Relevant issues: Social reform

Statement of significance: Founded in 1846 by religious dissidents who emigrated from Sweden to establish a new way of life on the Illinois prairie, the colony was run as a commune until its dissolution in 1861. Its archives, artifacts, and structures today are important documents for the study of immigration, ethnic heritage, and nineteenth century communitarian societies.

Charnley House

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Statement of significance: The Charnley House is important both nationally and internationally as one of the pivotal structures in the development of modernism in architecture. Its limestone and Roman brick walls are arranged with a strong sense of symmetry, but without any overt references to historical styles. Built in 1891-1892, it was one of the few major residential commissions of Louis Sullivan and was a benchmark in the architectural development of Frank Lloyd Wright, who was then a draftsman and designer in the office of Adler & Sullivan. The house remains close to its original condition, both inside and out. In 1995, in an effort to safeguard its future, Seymour H. Persky purchased it and donated it to the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH). Now serving as the national headquarters of the SAH, this seminal monument in architectural history is open to the public.

Crow Island School

Location: Winnetka, Cook County

Relevant issues: Education

Statement of significance: Constructed in 1940, Crow Island School was the model for the revolutionary Winnetka Plan, features of which are now familiar to most adult Americans. Built to embody the educational philosophy of Charleton Washburne, Winnetka’s city school superintendent (1919-1943), the design incorporated progressive concepts: grade level zoning, child-scale furniture, self-contained classrooms, flexible spaces, classroom access to the outside–in short, the child-centered school. This approach gained broad public acceptance in large measure due to the reputations of its architects, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, and the architectural firm of Perkins, Wheeler, and Will, which spread the design nationwide through its many commissions.

Davis House

Location: Bloomington, McLean County

Relevant issues: Legal history

Statement of significance: From 1872 until his death, this two-story Italian Villa-style mansion was the residence of David Davis (1815-1886), associate justice (1862-1877) of the United States Supreme Court. Davis is best known for writing the majority opinion in Ex parte Milligan, which restricts the right of military courts to try civilians. In a case involving generally President Abraham Lincoln’s controversial 1862 authorization of military arrest and trial, with suspension of habeas corpus, for draft resistance and other disloyal acts, and particularly a man sentenced to hang in Indiana, Davis wrote, “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace.”

Dawes House

Location: Evanston, Cook County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: From 1909 until his death, this two-and-a-half-story brick mansion was the residence of Charles Gates Dawes (1865-1951), first Director of the Budget (1921) and vice president of the United States (1925-1929). In 1924, Dawes chaired an international committee that produced the Dawes Plan, which, though it did not solve the World War I reparations problem, did arrange a rational schedule of payments to be made by Germany. For his efforts, he received the Nobel Peace Prize (1925).

Deere Home and Shop

Location: Grand Detour, Ogle County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: From 1836 to 1847, this was the home and shop of John Deere (1804-1886), a skilled blacksmith who invented and manufactured a steel plow that could scour the tough prairie soil cleanly, unlike other plows that became clogged with the dark, rich soil. Deere’s farm implement thus made possible intensive cultivation of vast acres in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, bringing benefit to the entire United States.

Depriest House

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: African American history, political history

Statement of significance: From 1929 until his death, this was the residence of Oscar Stanton Depriest (1871-1951), the first African American to be elected to the House of Representatives from a northern state (1928). A Republican, Depriest lost his seat in 1934 to the first black Democrat to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

Du Sable Homesite

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: African American history, business and industry

Statement of significance: This is the site of the home of Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable (1745-1818), the black pioneer, fur trader, and independent entrepreneur whose establishment of a trading post at this location marked the beginning of the city of Chicago.

Grant Home

Location: Galena, Jo Daviess County

Relevant issues: Military history, political history

Statement of significance: In 1865, the citizens of Galena presented this two-story brick house to General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), the victorious Union commander. Grant lived here until he became secretary of war in 1867 and again, briefly, following the end of his presidency and trip around the world.

Grosse Point Lighthouse

Location: 2601 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Cook County

Relevant issues: Naval history

Statement of significance: A coastal brick tower built on the Great Lakes, Grosse Point Light Station was the lead navigational marker in the waters of Lake Michigan just north of Chicago Harbor. The light safely guided lakeborne traffic through one of America’s most commercially important and highly traveled corridors, a shipping route which connected the East Coast, Great Lakes, and Gulf Coast shipping interests. In recognition of the importance of this lighthouse to maritime navigation, Grosse Point Lighthouse was fitted with the first second-order Fresnel lens on the Great Lakes. Although the lighthouse was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1941, the second-order Fresnel lens remains in place in the lantern and all original buildings survive unaltered.

Illinois and Michigan Canal Locks and Towpath

Location: Northeastern Illinois

Relevant issues: Business and industry, naval history

Statement of significance: Begun in 1836 and completed in 1848, this canal linked Chicago to the Mississippi River, thus completing a continuous waterway to New York City and making Chicago a leading grain market and meat-packing center. Commercial use of the canal ended in 1933. It is now in Channahon State Park and is also recognized through the establishment of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.

Kennicott Grove

Location: Glenview, Cook County

Relevant issues: Science and technology

Statement of significance: This was the home of Robert Kennicott (1835-1866), nineteenth century naturalist, explorer, and founder of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, whose career illustrates the development of scientific research in the Midwest.

Lincoln Home

Location: Springfield, Sangamon County

Relevant issues: Political history

Web site: www.nps.gov/liho/

Statement of significance: This was the residence of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), who lived here for most of the period from 1844 until 1861, an important era in his advancement from small-town lawyer to president of the United States.

Lincoln Tomb

Location: Springfield, Sangamon County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: Dedicated in 1874, this is the final resting place of Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, his wife, and three of their four sons.

Lindsay House

Location: Springfield, Sangamon County

Relevant issues: Literary history

Statement of significance: For most of his life, this was the home of Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931), one of the major figures in the American poetic renaissance. Using evangelical rhythms to express his dreamlike conceptions, Lindsay created a style which was at once popular and unique. The house contains many of his drawings, writings, and possessions.

Lovejoy House

Location: East Peru Street, Princeton, Bureau County

Relevant issues: African American history, political history, social reform

Statement of significance: Owen Lovejoy (1811-1864), an influential abolitionist politician, lived here from 1838 until his death in 1864. He used this home to harbor fugitive slaves on their way north and several times he faced prosecution in the courts for his role in the Underground Railroad. Elected to Congress in 1856, he gained a national reputation through his congressional and party leadership and fiery antislavery speeches on the floor of the House.

Marshall Field Company Store

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: This twelve-story granite building was designed to house the retail firm of Marshall Field, a pioneer of customer-service concepts.

Millikan House

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: Science and technology

Statement of significance: From 1907 to 1921, this three-story brick house was the residence of Robert A. Millikan (1868-1953), one of America’s best-known twentieth century scientists. In 1923, Millikan received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in demonstrating the existence of electrons.

Montgomery Ward Company Complex

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: Since 1909, this complex has served as national headquarters for the country’s oldest mail-order firm. Founded in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward (1843-1913), the company established the consumer trust which made a large-scale mail-order business possible and set a standard for the mail-order industry which other firms found it necessary to emulate in order to compete.

Nauvoo Historic District

Location: Nauvoo, Hancock County

Relevant issues: Religion

Statement of significance: For seven years, this was the principal city of the Mormons and the headquarters of their church. Originally known as Commerce, it was here that the Mormons began settling in 1839, following their flight from northwestern Missouri. Nauvoo, the largest city in the state, was abandoned by most of the Mormons in 1846 after their leader, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), had been killed by a mob and state authorities had grown increasingly hostile.

Old Main, Knox College

Location: Galesburg, Knox County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: The oldest building on the campus of Knox College, Old Main is the best-preserved site associated with the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. The seven debates between Democratic senator Stephen A. Douglas and Republican challenger Abraham Lincoln keynoted the momentous issues of the sectional controversy which was carrying the nation toward disunion and civil war.

Old State Capitol

Location: Springfield, Sangamon County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: From 1837 to 1876, this structure served as Illinois’s fifth state capitol. Abraham Lincoln was a member of the first legislature which sat here (1840-1841). He made his noted “House Divided” speech here (1858), in accepting the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Old Stone Gate, Chicago Union Stockyards

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: From about 1879 to 1971, this triple-arched, rough-faced limestone gate was the main entrance to the Chicago Union Stockyards. The Stockyards, founded in 1865 to consolidate the many scattered stockyards in Chicago into an efficient unit, symbolized Chicago’s role as a major meat-packing center.

Riverside Historic District

Location: Riverside, Cook County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture, cultural history

Statement of significance: Designed in 1868-1869 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Riverside was the first planned model community in the country, arranged so that open spaces and parkland would be a part of urban living.

Robie House

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Statement of significance: Designed and constructed from 1907 to 1909, the Robie House has won international acclaim for Frank Lloyd Wright’s achievement in modern architecture. Designed in his Prairie style, the house utilizes an open plan.

Sears, Roebuck, and Company

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: Constructed in 1905-1906, this complex has been symbolic of the company’s dominance of the mail-order industry. Founded in 1893, Sears, Roebuck, and Company was the country’s largest mail-order concern by 1900. The complex contains the printing plant that for many years produced the Sears Catalog, the company’s principal selling instrument.

Wells-Barnett House

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: African American history, social reform, women’s history

Statement of significance: From 1919 to 1929, this three-story brick building was the home of Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), African American teacher, journalist, and civil rights advocate. Almost single-handedly, Wells began the fight to awaken the world’s conscience to the realities of lynching; in addition, she crusaded for the rights of black women.

Willard House

Location: Evanston, Cook County

Relevant issues: Social reform

Statement of significance: Constructed in 1865, this was the home of Frances Willard (1839-1898), who made the temperance movement a national force. She became president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1879; her house is now the headquarters of that organization.

Williams House

Location: Chicago, Cook County

Relevant issues: African American history, health and medicine

Statement of significance: This was the home of Daniel Hale Williams (1858-1931), one of America’s first black surgeons, among whose accomplishments are one of the first successful heart operations (1893) and the establishment of quality medical facilities for African Americans.

Wright Home and Studio

Location: Oak Park, Cook County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Statement of significance: Built and rebuilt by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), this is the place where he lived and practiced (1887-1909) in the “First Golden Age” of his long career.

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