"Union Square Park is a great space for everything from special
events to a relaxing break from a daylong visit to the city's
historic sites," Mrs. Blagojevich said. "This park will give
families an even more satisfying experience at the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Museum, which has become one of the nation's top
The $2 million, 86,000-square-foot park
opened to the public over the Fourth of July weekend. It includes a
100-foot-diameter brick-paved performance area in the center that
can accommodate 500 seated or 1,000 standing visitors, with a
6-foot-diameter granite circle in the center engraved with a quote
from Lincoln's Feb. 11, 1861, Farewell Address to Springfield: "Here
I have lived a quarter of a century, and passed from a young to an
The park also features an octagon gazebo clad in Egyptian
limestone to match the adjacent library and museum; a limestone and
wood pergola covering the sidewalk east and west of the gazebo; the
formal Mary Todd Lincoln flower garden; 46 trees and eight varieties
of shrubs; 40 benches; rehabilitated antique light poles to provide
lighting after dark; and a 30-foot limestone seating wall that
serves as the north boundary of the park.
A 9-foot-tall Lincoln statue on a 4-foot limestone pedestal
greets visitors at the southeast corner entrance to the park. The
statue, entitled "A Greater Task," was created by Decatur artist
John McClary and depicts Lincoln facing east toward Washington,
D.C., bracing himself against the wind, with one hand extended in a
welcoming gesture. The pedestal includes an inscription from
Lincoln's First Inaugural Address: "Why should there not be a
patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there
any better or equal hope in the world?"
"Union Square Park is designed to be ‘Springfield's front yard,'"
said Julie Cellini, chairwoman of the Illinois Historic Preservation
Agency board. "It will be the place for orientation programs for
school groups and senior citizen tours, teacher training programs,
and a place for visitors and local citizens to relax and eat lunch
outdoors. We envision movies, musical performances, live theater --
even weddings -- in the gazebo and photo ops with the library,
museum and Union Station as backdrops. We are so fortunate to have
this multiuse green space in the midst of the library and museum's
four-block campus. Besides the museum, which has already had well in
excess of 800,000 visitors, Union Square Park is one more reason to
celebrate historic downtown Springfield."
A life-size seated Lincoln statue on a bench at the park's
southwest corner depicts the 16th president pulling a portion of his
Second Inaugural Address from his trademark stovepipe hat. The
statue was donated by Rick Lawrence of Siciliano Inc., general
contractor for the library and museum project, to honor all of the
workers involved in building the world-class facility.
Some flowers for the park were funded by Mrs. Blagojevich's
Wildflowers for Illinois Program, which has resulted in restoring
almost 200 acres of prairie. The program is managed by the Illinois
Department of Transportation and consists of two separate
initiatives: Wildflowers for Illinois Gateways, primarily along
roadways at state borders; and Wildflowers for Illinois Communities,
in which the Department of Transportation has partnered on
beautification projects with 33 municipalities around the state.
Wildflowers and native prairie grasses offer a number of advantages
over non-native plant species. Not only are these plants restoring
part of our native environment, they are more drought-resistant, do
a better job of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and over
the long run should require less maintenance.
[to top of second column]
"We're proud to be a part of this effort welcoming hundreds of
thousands of visitors to the museum each year," said Illinois
Department of Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin. "The first
lady's wildflower program is designed to improve our quality of
life, enhance tourism and restore Illinois' ecological heritage by
utilizing native plants, keeping us in touch with our prairie past."
The park is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days per week to
pedestrians only -- no bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades or
vehicles are allowed on the park grounds. Portions of the park may
be rented for special events. Twenty-four-hour security is provided
by the guards at the presidential museum. Four emergency call boxes
with flashing alarm lights ring directly to the museum security
"The reopening of Union Square Park signifies the completion of
yet another phase of downtown beautification," said Springfield
Mayor Tim Davlin. "Thanks to the state of Illinois, this park will
stand as a shining example of usable green space which is both
good-looking and practical. It will be the future site for many
outdoor events which celebrate our city and the nation's 16th
president. It will also be a captivating resting spot for many of
our visitors to enjoy."
B.R.H. Builders of Springfield was the general contractor for the
park project, with B & B Electric of Springfield the electrical
contractor and Illinois Forest Products of Beardstown the
landscaping contractor. The park was designed by White & Borgognoni
Architects Inc. of Carbondale, with civil engineering by Hanson
Professional Services Inc. of Springfield. The project was overseen
by the Capital Development Board, which manages all state
construction, repair and rehabilitation projects.
"Our construction partners have done a wonderful job on this
park, creating a peaceful, inviting space for visitors and residents
alike," said Jan Grimes, director of the Capital Development Board.
Meanwhile, the rehabilitation of historic Union Station at the
north edge of Union Square Park continues. The $10.6 million project
is transforming the 1898 structure into a welcome center for the
presidential library and museum complex, complete with visitor
amenities, information and office space. The Union Station work is
scheduled for completion in early 2007.
"The renovation of Union Station will not only further enhance
the beauty of the new park, but it's my hope that it will attract
local residents who might not have otherwise ventured downtown,"
said state Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield. "Springfield and the
state of Illinois have worked hard to develop this world-class
complex, and I know it will not only be a source of pride for the
residents of Springfield, but for all the people of Illinois."
"The park is another tribute to our most famous resident,
President Abraham Lincoln," said state Rep. Raymond Poe,
R-Springfield. "Lincoln site visitors and area residents can sit
awhile and enjoy the park while reflecting on the man and his
"Springfield is on its way to becoming a world-class tourist
destination," said state Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg. "Our rich
history and the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
are attracting visitors from around the globe. The addition of this
park and the future reopening of Union Station will further enhance
the Lincoln experience for visitors and area residents."
Union Square Park, Union Station, and the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum are administered by the Illinois
Historic Preservation Agency.
[News release from the governor's office]