We drove into Springfield this afternoon to see a few of the many Route 66 sights. We wound up at the Dana-Thomas House which was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1902 for Sarah Lawrence Dana. She commissioned FLW to remodel her family's Italianate mansion located in the fashionable "Aristocracy Hill" neighborhood of Springfield. He converted the old mansion into a 12,000 sq. ft. house with 35 rooms in the “Prairie Style” that made Wright famous. It contains the largest collection of site-specific, original Wright art glass and furniture. We toured the house and climbed the 3 main levels and 16 sublevels. Most of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie Houses” are designed with low ceilings and lots of windows that naturally lead inhabitants to the living areas on the outside of the buildings. This house was no exception, but there was an unusual feature that we haven’t seen in any of his other houses that we’ve toured. The dining room and the entertaining room had high, barrel shaped ceilings giving the feeling of a great hall. Apparently the 2 rooms in this house are two of just four such rooms in all of the houses he designed. Dana lived in the house until just before she died in 1945. It was sold to Charles Thomas, a local publisher, in 1944 complete with over 450 pieces of original art glass and most of the Wright designed furniture. It was used by his publishing firm until 1981 when it was sold to the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency for $1 million. The house went under a $5 million renovation between 1986 and 1990 to bring it back to its 1910 condition. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside of the house.
Along with a few Route 66 sights, we ran across a fiberglass stovepipe hat labeled “Lincoln’s Words” in front of an antique store called the Widow at Windsor Antiques. It is one of a series of decorated top hats representing different aspects of President Lincoln’s life to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday in 2009. The city of Springfield placed them throughout the downtown area. The project was called “Hats Off to Mr. Lincoln” and featured fiberglass top hats designed by local artists and sponsored by various businesses along with the Springfield Rotary Clubs and Springfield Area Arts Council. A total of 19 hats were created and placed in different places around the historic district of Springfield. We didn’t see any others in our travel around the downtown area this afternoon so I’m not sure if all of them are still around. We have to check it out tomorrow when we head back into town to see the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. We’ll probably throw in a couple Route 66 sights too. Stay tuned.