History of Springfield
Before becoming an actual city, Springfield was inhabited by trappers and fur traders who lived and travelled along the Sangamon River. The first permanent settlement consisted of a single cabin that John Kelly built in 1820. At the time, Springfield was actually called Calhoun. The area was fertile and favorable for both agriculture and trade, and in 1821 it became the seat of the Sangamon County. In 1832, the town changed name to Springfield, after the city in Massachusetts, which, at the time, was known for its booming economy and good living standards. The first capital of Illinois was actually Kaskaskia, from the foundation of the Illinois Territory in 1809 to the statehood in 1819. The capital then moved to Vandalia, until 1939, when Springfield became the third and permanent capital of Illinois.
Abraham Lincoln first came to Springfield in 1831, but settled there permanently only in 1837. He made Springfield his home for the next 24 years, working as a politician and a lawyer, before becoming president and leaving for Washington. At the time, Springfield had roughly 10,000 inhabitants.
Springfield was the political, financial and logistical center in the region during the Civil War. New industries and railroads were built to meet the Army needs. After the war, coal mining emerged as a new large industry for the city. The State Capitol was completed in 1887 and it hosted most of the offices until the Centennial Building was finished in 1923.
The first decade of the 20th century was marked by continuous growth and prosperity, however the most notable event of the decade was the Springfield Race Riot of 1908. The initial spark for the riot was the alleged rape of a white woman committed by a black man and also a murder of a white man, also by a black. The white residents of the city, who were probably already enraged by the increasing corruption in the city, started riots that lasted for three whole days and culminated in lynching of two blacks and killing of four whites by black homeowners.
In 2006, Springfield was hit by two EF2 tornadoes that caused $150 million worth of property damage and injured 24 people.
In 2007, Barack Obama, who was the senator of Illinois at the time, announced his run for the presidential elections in Springfield, in front of the Old State Capitol building.
Springfield Geography and Climate
Springfield is located in Central Illinois, in the Lower Illinois River Basin, part of the Till Plain. The city is mostly flat, except for the outskirts towards the Sangamon River, which are hilly. The largest utility structure in the city is the artificial Lake Springfield, created in 1930 by the City Water, Light and Power company. The lake provides drinking water, cooling water for a power plant and also serves as a popular recreational area for the locals and visitors.
The climate in Springfield is humid continental, with hot and humid summers and cold, snowy winters. The city is prone to tornadoes and was hit hard on several occasions (most notably in 1957 and in 2006).
Springfield has at least twenty official neighborhoods and the city proper is based on a grid street system.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 the racial and ethnic makeup in the city was 75.8% White, 18.5% African American or Black, 2.2% Asian, 2% Hispanic or Latino, 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native and 2.3% two or more races. The same year, the median household income was $39,338 and the city per capita income was $23,324.
The largest employer in Springfield is the state government, followed by Memorial Medical Center, St. John’s Hospital, Springfield Public Schools, University of Illinois at Springfield, Springfield Clinic Illinois National Guard and AT&T Mobility.
Culture and Education
Most of the city attractions and major cultural institutions are centered on Abraham Lincoln: the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, the Lincoln Depot and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Old State Capitol.
Dana-Thomas house is one of the most famous “Prairie houses” by Frank Lloyd Wright. Other attractions include Washington Park, Illinois State Fair, Knights Action Water Park and Caribbean Water Park.
Springfield’s residents are known as innovators in food and cuisine. It is believed that the first corn dog on a stick was invented in Springfield, and one of the best-known local foods is the horseshoe sandwich, which is not widely available outside Central Illinois.
There are three universities in Springfield: University of Illinois at Springfield, Benedictine University of Springfield and Robert Morris University.
The city is served by Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, with flights to Chicago, Dallas and Fort Myers. As for the roads, I-55 runs from north to south while the I-72 (a.k.a. US 36) runs from east to west through the city area. Springfield is also one of the cities on the historic Route 66.
Passenger rail transportation is provided by Amtrak (the line between Chicago and St. Louis) and the Springfield Mass Transit District provides bus service for the residents.
Springfield Metropolitan Area has four major bike trails throughout the city proper and towards the nearby towns within the area.
Springfield does not have a major professional sports team but it is known for being the home of a number of minor league baseball franchises.