By Merle Rosenstein

Four Presidential Trails, one each for Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama link locations of interest, demonstrating how the state shaped political aspirations, and commemorating efforts at peace, economic prosperity and freedom. The Trails take visitors on a journey through Illinois history from the Civil War to today and display the rich cultural offerings and architectural landmarks across the state. 

The Abraham Lincoln Trail

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Springfield - no creditThe centre of Lincoln’s life was Springfield where he lived and developed skills as a lawyer. The popular Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum chronicles Lincoln’s humble beginnings, heroic battles during the Civil War and his untimely death by assassination. Lincoln’s remains rest in a tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery. Other Lincoln sites:

• Lincoln’s restored law office in downtown Springfield, a Greek revival-style building, faces the Old State Capitol
• Peoria County Courthouse where Lincoln made a passionate plea against slavery on October 16, 1854
• Stone markers in Springfield, Petersburg, Pekin, Metamora, Lincoln, Mt. Pulaski, Danville and Charleston bear witness to Lincoln’s travels through the Eighth Judicial District during his 20 years practicing law. Two original courthouses in Mt. Pulaski and Metamora are still standing

The Ulysses S. Grant Trail

Born in 1822, Ulysses S. Grant was the son of a tanner in Point Pleasant, Ohio. He attended West Point at his father’s urging and fought in the Mexican War. By 1861, Grant had become brigadier general of volunteers and captured Forts Henry and Danielson in Tennessee. Returning to Galena in 1865 as a Civil War hero, Grant was presented with a fully furnished home. The Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, a restored two-storey brick structure, still houses many of the furnishings belonging to the Grant family. Other Grant sites:

• The Desoto House Hotel, the oldest operating hotel in Illinois, is where Grant heard he had won the presidential election
• Grant Park in Galena was established in memory of Grant and other war veterans
• The Old Market House State Historic Site, built in 1846, displays Grant memorabilia

The Ronald Reagan Trail

Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, in 1911 where his father Jack worked as a clerk in the H. C. Pitney Variety store. The Reagan’s relocated to Chicago, Galesburg and Monmouth before returning to Tampico when Ronald was eight. The family moved to Dixon two years later. While in Monmouth, Jack Reagan sold shoes at the E.B.Colwell department store at 208 S. Main St. The store was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1993. Other Reagan sites:

• Reagan’s family home in Dixon has been fully restored
• Dixon Historic Center boasts a restored version of Reagan’s sixth grade classroom, a Reagan History Room, a research center and exhibit rooms, an auditorium, a surround-sound theater and a museum store
•  Eureka holds the largest collection of Reagan memorabilia outside of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California

The Barack Obama Trail

For three years Barack Obama worked as an organizer for a church-based group that helped poor, South Side Chicago residents. Obama graduated from Harvard Law School and turned down top paying law firms to represent victims of housing and employment discrimination in Chicago. It was in the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, where he announced his bid for the presidency. Other Obama sites:

• Chicago’s Grant Park, where Obama gave his victory speech
• University of Chicago Law School, where Obama taught from 1992 through 2004
• South Shore Cultural Center, where the Obamas were married
• Hyde Park neighbourhood, where Obama lived in the late 1980s
• Kenwood neighbourhood, the location of the Obama family home

More information on the historic Illinois Presidential Trails can be found at