Thursday, November 1, 2007

Historic Springfield - the CTCC Fall Tour '07

The Fall Tour started on Friday, Oct 5th with 10 cars leaving from the I-355 and Butterfield Road meeting place, and two cars leaving from Indiana. An interesting note, though, Jim Wilson had developed a coil problem on Butterfield, so I was informed that the "Geek Patrol" (headed by Ken, Joel, and Len) was sent out, problem fixed, and our group left 30 minutes later. Of course, part of traveling in the T-Birds is rain, and both groups experienced heavy rain within the first hour. Thank goodness, the rest of the tour was sunny, but extremely hot!

photo caption: T-Birders pose at the Route 66 Hall Of Fame Museum in Pontiac, IL and at the Funk Prairie Home in Shirley, IL.

We all met in Pontiac, IL for our first stop - The Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum. The museum is located in the restored City Hall and Fire Station. Our tour guide, Jim Jones, greeted us as we entered the museum and explained some of the displays. There were Route 66 photos of local establishments, restaurant memorabilia, and lots of history and souvenirs of this famous route. On the second floor, the men enjoyed the war museum with military uniforms, weapons, and artifacts from World War I to present. Before leaving, Liz Werth took a picture of each T-Bird under a large Route 66 sign painted on the back of the building along with a group picture. We received the picture of our car, the group picture, and a group picture from the Funk Museum the next morning - thank you Liz.

Lunch was next on the agenda as we headed to Bloomington, IL and a stop at Culver's Restaurant. Of course, with temperatures in the 90's, ice cream was a welcome treat.

At 1:40 we were on our way to the next stop - The Funk Prairie Home/Gem and Mineral Museum in Shirley, Illinois. Our tour guides were waiting for us as we arrived. We were divided into two groups Emma Funk was our guide in the home, and Bill Case was our gem and mineral guide. Emma's husband, Larry, is a descendant of the Funk Maple Sirup (yes, it's spelled that way) side of the family.

The Funk Prairie Home is the restored 1864 residence of LaFayette and Elizabeth Funk. LaFayette was an Illinois State Senator, co-founder and director of Chicago's Union Stockyards, and cattle king of Illinois. He and Elizabeth had two sons: Eugene founded the Funk Brothers Seed Com Company, and Marquis who electrified the home and the entire farm in 1910 making it the first private farm in the world to be so extensively electrified. An interesting tidbit was the furniture in the home was from Montgomery Wards or Sears - all middle class furnishings.

On this same 27-acre site is the Gem and Mineral Museum This is the collection of LaFayette Funk II, grandson of LaFayette, and son of Eugene. The present building was built by LaFayette II in 1973 and comprises part of the largest one-man gem and mineral collections in the world. Precious stones are on display as well as fossils, Native American artifacts, buggies including a Studebaker buggy, sleighs, and a room of fluorescent minerals which glow under ultraviolet light. After leaving this museum, I was wondering what to write, and Liz Werth had the best advice. She said to describe it as having "lots and lots of rocks", and this was so true.

At 5:00 we arrived at the Drury Inn in Springfield. After checking in, the hotel offered a Manager's Cocktail Reception from 5:30 to 7 that we all enjoyed. After a full day of touring and driving, our group ordered pizzas and continued an evening of fellowship at the hotel.

Saturday turned out to be another hot, sunny day. Drury Inn made certain we started out with a good breakfast, which included Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, to name a few items. At our 8:30 scheduled time to leave, we headed to the Dream Car Museum in Williamsville, IL. The owners, Pat and Phil Hawley, have been collecting for over 50 years and have 1.5 million invested in their museum. As we entered the front door, a black 1957 Thunderbird was the first car. Their car collection includes some 50 to 60 cars with the oldest being a 1906 International Harvester Buggy Wagon and the newest a 1987 Chevy Monte Carlo SS. Also, included in the collection are 11 motorcycles. The museum was interesting with the office decorated in a Harley-Davidson theme; there was a Veteran's Wall with memorabilia from local veterans, many Elvis items, and numerous other collector items. Mr. and Mrs. Hawley and their son, Dan, had many interesting stories on their collection.

At 10 a.m. we headed to the Dana Thomas House in Springfield. Our tour guide, Richard, described how Frank Lloyd Write was commissioned by Susan Lawrence Dana to incorporate the 30-year old house built by Susan's father into the present house. This home was completed in 1904, and Susan lived in the house until 1928 when she moved into a more modest home across the street. In 1944 she sold the home to the Thomas family, and in 1981 the house was sold to the State of Illinois.

Our next destination was the Abraham Lincoln Museum. As Joe and I were walking from our car to the museum, we met Joel, Annie, Bill, Liz, Ken and Kathy. They had skipped the Dana Thomas tour, going directly to the Lincoln Museum. Since they were now hungry, Cozy Dog on Rt. 66 in Springfield was their destination. They explained this restaurant is the home of the original corn dog. The rest of our group toured the museum the rest of the afternoon.

The Lincoln Museum is absolutely worth the visit. As you first walk in, you enter "The Plaza" which provides access to all the other areas. In "The Plaza" on the left is a cabin representing Lincoln's early years, and on the right is the south portico of the White House. In front of the White House stand figures of the Lincoln family after their arrival in 1861. Of special interest was the temporary exhibit - "Marry Todd Lincoln: First Lady of Controversy". At the Union Theater in the museum, a story was told on Lincoln's life. During the presentation, the audience experiences special effects such as during a battle sequence, the floor shakes from artillery fire as cannon smoke shoots into the theater. This was really neat!

After our busy day, 7 p.m. was lift-off time for the Chesapeake Seafood House. The food, facilities, and staff were excellent. Although there seemed to be some logistical problem in the seating arrangement at the end of the dining room (just kidding)!!!

Back at the hotel, our group enjoyed fellowship for a short time; then proceeded to our rooms to get much needed rest.

On Sunday morning, after another excellent breakfast at the hotel, our group departed Springfield and headed to Bloomington, IL for a tour of the David Davis Mansion with Carolyn Ervin as our tour guide. Davis was a distinguished lawyer, judge, and businessman, and was good friends with Abraham Lincoln. In 1870, his wife, Sarah, wanted a modem house built. In this mansion there is a first floor master bedroom with a walk-in closet, which was very unusual in the older homes. This mansion was beautiful - very light and open. The home has the original furniture and accessories, as the family never threw anything away. Even the original copper hot water heater was found stored. Four generations of the Davis family lived in the house until 1959 when it was donated to the State of Illinois.

Leaving the mansion, we discovered the city of Bloomington has a complicated street pattern! On some streets you have to backtrack and go on a couple times, many V-turns, some right in the middle of the street (just kidding, Len and Irene)!!! Our bird flock finally reunited again on the ramp to I-55 to head north.

Our next stop was brunch at the Country Mansion in Dwight, IL. This historic landmark was built in 1891 and served many purposes until 1977. This was the year it was purchased, remodeled, and reopened by the Ohlendorf family as "The Country Mansion." After a filling and delicious meal, we said our goodbyes and headed home.

Thank you, Len and Irene Vinyard, for arranging this Fall Tour. You put in a lot of time and work planning a trip that was enjoyed by Jim Wilson and neighbor Dwight, Pete and Lisa Ekstrom, Joel Greenberg and Annie Luginbill, Bob and Helen Hoge, Larry Johnson, Pete and MaryLu Kramer, Ken and Kathy Smizinski, Bill and Bonnie Thelen, Dan Tinder and Susan DeSantis, Bill and Liz Werth, and Joe and Sandy Kraatz. The friendships developed on these tours, and the fellowship enjoyed by everyone, makes CTCC a very special group.

Written by: Joe and Sandy Kraatz

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