The Lincoln Depot
The Depot was opened in 1852 by The Great Western Railroad. The modest structure housed an office and both male and female waiting areas offering travelers respite from the elements. Fire damaged the structure in 1857, but the building was soon remodeled.
The Depot served its most famous patron on the grey, dismal morning of February 11, 1861. President-elect Abraham Lincoln rode a cart from his hotel, The Chenery House, to the Depot having already rented out his home on Eighth & Jackson Streets two blocks away. He used the simple office as a reception area while he waited for his train, shaking hands and talking with several supporters who had come to say their goodbyes. At 8 a.m. Lincoln stood on the back of the train that would take him from his home of 24 years to Washington D.C. and into history. More than a thousand residents of Springfield gathered that morning at the Great Western Depot to see him off. Lincoln, so moved by the outpouring of support by his fellow Illinoisans, gave an impromptu speech:
My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
Prompted only by his staff, the soon to be President started to commit the words to writing. After only a few sentences, the effects of the moving train and a hand bruised by countless handshakes prompted Lincoln to ask his personal secretary, John Nicolay, to finish.
Shortly after Lincoln's farewell the railroad's passenger operations were moved and the Depot was operated as a freight house. Around 1900, a second story was added. When the, now Wabash, railroad consolidated operations in Decatur, Illinois the Depot was sold for storage and warehouse space.
In the 1960s a local group purchased the Depot with the intention of restoring it as a historic site. From 1965 to 1976 it operated as a paid entry museum. In 1968 another fire severely damaged the Depot. Arson was suspected but not proven.
In 1977 Copley Press (parent company of The State Journal-Register, a local newspaper whose roots dated from 1831) bought the Depot and Sangamon State University operated the museum as part of its curriculum.
Copley Press became solely responsible for operation of the Depot in 1980, entering into a cooperative agreement with the Lincoln Home National Historic Site to provide park rangers to give tours through some summer months.
After Copley Press sold The State Journal-Register to GateHouse Media in 2011, the fate of the Depot was in question. Tours ceased amid the need for handicapped accessibility to the site required by the National Park Service.
In 2012 the Depot was sold again to Pinky Noll to be the future home of Noll Law Office. Pinky's husband Jon Noll, a Springfield attorney, is a distant descendent of William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner at the time of the 1860 election. Following a major renovation and rehabilitation effort, the Depot reopened in early 2013. The first floor houses a self-guided museum while the second story exists as the Noll Law Office.