Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition was
formed in 1998 as a tourism project. The
group was a state-funded initiative that led
to a very successful campaign for wayside
signage at historical points of interest in
In 2002 a feasibility study was conducted
for the coalition by the Illinois Historic
Preservation Agency. The document was
updated in 2007, and a request to the United
States Congress for a national designation
resulted in approval in 2008.
The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage
Area is made up of 42 central Illinois
counties. The western border of the region
is made up of Henderson, Hancock, Adams,
Pike, Jersey and Madison counties. The
eastern boundary is made up of Vermillion,
Edgar and Clark counties. The area includes
these counties and all those in between,
with Sangamon and Logan counties being close
to the heart of the region.
The Looking for Lincoln Heritage
Coalition has now contracted a consultant
firm by the name of Heritage Strategies,
which will guide the coalition in developing
a management plan that will tie the
42-county area together and ultimately
present it to the would-be tourist as a
region with multiple attractions based on a
common theme: the life of Abraham Lincoln.
At the Wednesday meeting, Peter Benton
and Elizabeth Watson of Heritage Strategies
spoke to the group about becoming unified
partners with all the counties in the
One of the most important parts of
becoming a successful region is that all the
counties be actively involved in developing
the management plan by offering their own
insights into their communities and telling
Heritage Strategies what they want the final
outcomes to be.
Benton said the legislation that made the
national area possible outlined six specific
purposes that Heritage Strategies will be
addressing in their management plan.
The plan must define the natural and
cultural legacy of the Illinois region and
how it relates to our national heritage.
The second purpose is to identify
heritage, cultural and recreational tourism
as well as educational and cultural programs
in the area.
The third purpose will identify other
historical subjects significant to the
region, including Native American, European
and African-American history in the region.
The fourth point will be to identify the
role the region played in shaping the life
of Abraham Lincoln specifically.
The fifth point calls for the coalition
to create close relationships with the
private sector, local governments, nonprofit
organizations and local communities to work
with all resources available for the
educational and inspirational benefit of
And finally, the group is to work closely
with the National Park Service. Benton
commented on this, saying that Sue Pridemore
of the Midwest Regional Office of the
National Park Service has been very involved
and helpful thus far.
Benson said his firm has divided the
management plan into three segments, the
first of which has just wrapped up, and the
second part begins with the meeting held in
Part one began with visiting various
communities, conducting public meetings and
gaining information about existing
conditions such as historic preservation,
educational issues, research, community
development and enhancement, and the basic
economy of the region. The purpose was to
determine how the heritage area can work
with the region to the benefit of local
residents and communities.
In part two, the firm will be working
with the coalition and its steering
committee to establish three to four
directions that the management plan can take
in the heritage area. Benson said these
could be programmatic directions, how to
physically organize or how the heritage area
is managed. The group will also try to
forecast what the outcome would be by taking
any one of those directions.
Once that work is done, there will be
another series of meetings in March to
report on the plan thus far.
The final portion of the plan will be the
actual writing of it. Benson said that by
April, his firm will know what the plan
should be, based on input from the
communities. They will then write the plan,
with a goal of having it completed by
When Benton finished outlining the
management plan process, he turned the floor
over to Watson, who talked about what the
heritage area is.
She noted that in the region there are
many great things happening to attract
tourism and draw attention to the Abraham
Thus far, though, the individual
communities have basically kept to
themselves in their efforts to attract
tourism. As a region, there is now a unity
among the counties, and this is something
that needs to be exploited.
top of second column]
She commented on the city of Lincoln and
the Logan County area specifically, saying
that this community has done a great deal to
preserve their Abraham Lincoln heritage
because they love their namesake, but also
because they want the community to benefit
Watson outlined some of the activities
that have taken place in the New England
area, Pennsylvania and Virginia as a result
of a written management plan. She noted that
the heritage areas helped stimulate the
communities economically when activities
that revolved around their individual
histories proved to be profitable.
She said that in those areas, the
development of a productive plan had not
been without its roadblocks. She cited an
example where one tour bus stop was
interfering with a small community church
and said the heritage area had to rework
their stops a little bit so that the
activities of church were not disrupted.
When Watson finished speaking, Robert
Crosby, the project director for the Looking
for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, took the
floor. He began by asking how many of those
in the room were from Lincoln, Mount Pulaski
and other areas.
Of the 20 or so in the room, the majority
were from Lincoln and Logan County, but
other communities were represented as well,
such as Macon County, Pike County, the city
of Springfield and Sangamon County.
Cosby said: "There are a lot of
communities that have stories to tell that
aren't in Springfield. One thing I know
you'll notice is that people, when they hear
you are from Illinois, will say, 'Oh, you're
from Chicago.' 'No.' Then they'll say, 'Then
you're from Springfield,' and when you say
'no,' then they look at you like they aren't
sure there are other towns in Illinois.
"That is the case in a lot of places.
"Where else can you go and stand in the
Mount Pulaski Courthouse, where Lincoln
stood and practiced law? Where else can you
go where that you can visit some of the
places where conspirators planned to steal
Lincoln's body than downtown Lincoln? Can
you go to another place that was named for
Lincoln before he was president?" he asked.
These are the types of things that show
that this region does have a viable story to
tell. The coalition has worked on this, but
there is more to do.
Cosby, Benton and Watson all expressed
that the individual communities in the
region need to join together and decide what
they want the management plan to be and what
they want it to do for the entire region.
Cosby concluded by saying that the
Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition is
designated by Congress as the coordinating
"We're not the boss," he said. "We're not
going to tell anyone what to do."
This concludes Part 1 of a two-part
series. In Part 2, the floor is turned over
to the audience, and community members offer
their input on what the area needs in order
to promote tourism and draw attention to our
rich Abraham Lincoln history and heritage.
Those who spoke included Jan Schumacher
of the Logan County Board; Geoff Ladd of the
Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau; Wanda Lee
Rohlfs of Main Street Lincoln; Tom Martin,
who is on the board of the Looking for
Lincoln Coalition and the chairman of the
Mount Pulaski 175th anniversary committee;
as well as Sue Pridemore of the National
Park Service and others.