Vandalia Illinois has the distinction of housing Illinois’ oldest capitol building. Yes, that’s right, Springfield hasn’t always been the capitol city of Illinois. Vandalia sits along I-70, about 60 miles east of St. Louis, and in the center of the city stands the Vandalia Statehouse, the last of three Statehouses that were in or near Vandalia. This town is the place where Abraham Lincoln started his political career.

In 1834 Lincoln took his seat as a legislator in the prior Statehouse and moved to the existing structure in 1836 after a fire claimed the first building. The statehouse closed in 1839 after a vote to move the the capitol to Springfield.

After some years serving as a school and county courthouse, the state of Illinois purchased the statehouse in 1918. Several periods of restoration and reconstruction have ensued and the grounds today are overseen by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

The interior of the building has been carefully restored to display the way the government was run in the early 1800’s.

The offices of the Secretary of State, the Supreme Court and the Treasury among others are complete with wood stoves, and quill pens and wood box spittoons adorn them all.

The Representative’s room and Senator’s room upstairs are lined with desks and chairs and one can imagine the bantering and debating back and forth as these political pioneers drew up the blueprints for a growing state.

The building is open for public tours. Be sure to check the operating hours for the current season here.

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– Ed Baumgarten