VANDALIA, Ill. – A lot has changed in Illinois since it first became a state 200 years ago, including the location of the state capitol.
Springfield is a city that’s synonymous with Illinois politics and history, but 60 miles to the southeast there sits another city that was once front and center when it came to governing the Prairie State, beginning in 1819.
“A lot of the history before the capitol moved to Vandalia is ignored,” said Dale Timmermann, who is determined not to let that happen.
Timmermann loves to show off the Old State Capitol building, which housed the Illinois legislature beginning in 1831. In that time, a 6’4″ junior state representative was leaving his mark.
“There are not many places you can walk on the same boards that Abraham Lincoln walked on,” Timmermann said. “If you go upstairs to the House of Representatives room, you can walk on the same floorboards Lincoln walked on when he was here in the legislature.”
Visitors to the Old State Capitol are able to gain a unique perspective when it comes to Lincoln history, because in that very building Lincoln first held elected office and learned the fundamentals that would, decades later, lead him to the White House.
“When Lincoln was elected to office here, he was only 25 years old,” Timmermann said. “He was a young man, a poor man, learning the ropes in life, and politics.”
As the state’s population was growing and moving further north, so did the capitol, moving to Springfield in 1839.
“I would invite anyone who comes to Vandalia to stop in and visit the Old State Capitol. It’s a unique landmark here in Fayette County,” Timmermann said.
Vandalia was not the first capital of Illinois. One session of the legislature was held in Kaskaskia in 1818.
The Old State Capitol building in Vandalia is open for visitors, Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is free.