Lincoln-related tourist sites draw many visitors

Sunday, February 26, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- More than 140 years after David Davis helped make Abraham Lincoln famous, the state's new Lincoln museum is helping put the former home of a U.S Supreme Court justice on the map, too, tourism officials say.

Increasing attendance at the 19th-century Victorian mansion of a longtime friend of Lincoln's is part of an effort to draw visitors to Lincoln-related tourism sites around the state.

Today, visitors to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, which opened in April, are directed to Davis' home and dozens of other Lincoln-related sites around Illinois.

As a result, despite worries that the Lincoln museum would drain attendance, the Davis mansion drew 46,500 visitors last year -- or 5,500 more than 2004 and double the number of visitors in 2002, said Marcia Young, the mansion's site superintendent.

Other sites have seen more visitors, too. Last year, as attendance at Illinois historical sites dropped 2 percent from the previous year, sites with a connection to Lincoln rose as much as 25 percent, said Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

With the Lincoln museum's effort, the Davis mansion has reworked its tour script to stress what Young called the "huge" Lincoln-Davis connection.

Davis and Lincoln became friends when both practiced law in central Illinois. Lincoln appointed Davis to the Supreme Court in 1862. Davis later became a U.S. senator and had a failed presidential bid. Davis was also among the first to encourage Lincoln to run for president.

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