Saturday, September 14, 2013

Return to Hannibal

We only had about 100 miles to drive from Springfield to Hannibal, and the overnight storms were moving east as we moved westward. By the time we reached the Mark Twain Cave Campground, the sun was shining.


We had dinner at LaBinnah Bistro, a unique restaurant recommended by our friends Jim and Nancy Tidball in their blog when they were here recently.


The meal didn’t disappoint, in fact was really delicious, and we enjoyed talking with Arif, the owner, who remembered Jim and Nancy!


Each table had at least one fresh rose in a slim vase, and cute salt/pepper shakers that hug!


Yesterday we took a one-hour tour on the riverboat Mark Twain down the Mississippi River. It was peaceful and enjoyable.


Captain Steve Terry was competent and narrated some interesting stories and a few jokes.


As we moved away from the river bank, it was interesting to see Hannibal from the water.



The Hannibal Boat Club was built high to prevent floods. However, at one time it was filled with 2 feet of water when the river flooded.


Captain Steve obviously has lots of experience controlling this riverboat.


Toward the end of the tour, he gave up control to a possible future riverboat pilot, perhaps with dreams of following the path of Mark Twain’s life. With Mom, Dad and brother in the background, you can barely see the small hands on the wheel.


Later, we toured the Rockcliffe Mansion.


It was built between 1898 and 1900 by lumber baron John J. Cruikshank, Jr. He lived there with his wife and four daughters until his death in 1924. The mansion was then abandoned for 43 years and was scheduled for demolition in 2 weeks (in 1967) when three local families decided to buy it and begin restoring it. Some of the porches and balconies, as seen in the picture below, were lost and many layers of grime had accumulated, but the house was remarkably well-built and withstood the test of time extremely well.


Most of the furnishings, wallpaper and decorations are original. Even these liquor bottles are the same as when the family lived here.


Many hand-carved details and hand-painted wallpapers are noticeable throughout the home.


Several large windows on the first floor raise into the walls above and become doorways to the outside. Of course, the loss of some of the porches prevents that access now. Notice the silk upholstery in this sitting room that hasn’t weathered the years well. (Sorry the picture is dark; I wasn’t allowed to use flash.)


Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) spoke from this grand staircase during his last visit to Hannibal in 1902.


The house next door was originally built on the site of this mansion, but Cruikshank moved it over so he could build on the choice site.


With this kind of view and the Mississippi River in the distance, I can see why he preferred this site.


The current owner, a single man from Cuba, conducted the tour and told some of his plans for ongoing restoration. He operates the house as a Bed & Breakfast, as did the immediate past owners, to help support the cost of upkeep.


This huge stained glass window at the first landing is from Tiffany, as are several of the lamps and chandeliers.


This door even has a Tiffany insert.


There’s a different view on the other side, and it’s not two layers of glass, just different sides.


Here are some of the 9 bedrooms and 7 baths. The family’s bedrooms are on the 2nd floor. First, Mrs. Cruikshank’s bed…


…and sitting area.


Her bathroom has a sitz bath, as well as tub, lavatory, toilet, etc.


One of the daughters’ beds, with original hand-made quilt.


Mr. Cruikshank’s bathroom was very large. I noticed that all of the toilets had the water tanks mounted high, so that gravity helped with flushing.


The bed in which Mr. Cruikshank passed away.


More bedrooms are on the second floor, some used by other daughters plus a guest room. Here are today’s bedrooms on the third floor, where servants would have lived. Large beds from the period barely fit in some of them with restricted ceiling heights.



There’s a sewing room.


A school room.


And a ballroom.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Illinois Capitol and the Lincoln Home

On our last day in Springfield, we visited the Illinois State Capitol and Abraham Lincoln’s home.

The Capitol building is undergoing some restoration, so parts of it were curtained off, but we had a very nice private tour, since we were the only people there at 11:00 am. This is the sixth capitol since the state was admitted into the U.S. in 1818. It was built over a 20-year period 1869-1889 at a total of $4.5 million. Some $6.00 was returned at the end, since the builders stayed within budget!


The building is 361 feet high, exceeding the height of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The dome is impressive inside.


However, when all the lights were gas-powered, a large amount of soot was deposited on the stained glass of the dome, so a major cleaning project was conducted in 1986 to return it to its original brilliance. Each of the 9,000 pieces of stained glass were removed, cleaned, and re-leaded.


All of the chandeliers, ceilings, walls, pillars and furniture are extremely impressive and ornate. Many of the chandeliers can be lowered for cleaning. All were originally gas-fueled and converted to electricity.




The Senate Chamber.


The House of Representatives Chamber.


Lots of statues of historically significant individuals can be seen throughout the building, including Abraham Lincoln, of course, who stood tall at 6’4” in this life-size statue.


And Stephen A. Douglas, at 5’4” nicknamed the “Little Giant” because of his forceful and dominant position in politics.


Next, we visited the only house owned by Abraham Lincoln, and where he and his family lived from 1844 to 1861 before he became President.


Many of the furnishings were original to the house, so we saw horsehair-upholstered chairs and sofas that Mr. Lincoln actually sat in, as well as a small desk where he conducted personal and political business, and probably wrote some of his speeches.



Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln expanded the second floor of the house and built a master suite consisting of “His” and “Hers” bedrooms. It was considered a luxury for husband and wife to have their own rooms. Sorry, my picture of his room is a bit out of focus, but you can see the doorway into her room.


Mrs. Lincoln’s room was shared for a while with her two youngest sons, who slept on a trundle bed stored under her bed. When the oldest son Robert left for college, the two younger boys, Willie and Tad, moved into Robert’s room across the hall. Note the wallpaper and carpet in these bedrooms; they are reproductions of the originals – makes me question the decorating taste of the Lincolns!


The boys’ room.


The hired girl’s room. She was paid $1.50 per week, plus room and board, and was not a slave. It was one of the ways that young women (usually aged 14-15) were allowed to earn money and learn how to care for a family of their own.


The kitchen, tucked underneath the rear stairway, with a very large (original) wood stove, also a mark of luxury. It was noted that the size of the kitchen is approximately the size of the one-room log cabin Abraham Lincoln had come from. And from this house, he moved to the White House.


Finally, the rear view of the house and the backyard where the Lincoln boys played.