SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and other officials broke ground today on Union Square Park, the fifth and final element of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) complex. The complex also includes the Presidential Library, Museum, parking garage and Union Station. The park, which will feature an amphitheater, open lawn seating and a garden honoring the late Mrs. Lincoln, will serve as a gathering place for visitors. Since the Presidential Museum opened in April, nearly 350,000 people have visited it.
“A few months ago, on a beautiful April day, we dedicated the Museum that stands behind me, the home where Abraham Lincoln will live forever. Today, once again under a brilliant sky, we break ground for the park that will be the front yard of that home. Union Square Park is a key part of the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Complex, a place that will complement the library and museum that came before it. The park will be filled with flowers and trees, a bronze statue of Lincoln, an amphitheater, a gazebo, and a garden honoring Mary Todd Lincoln. It’s no small thing to say: this will be a place that Abraham Lincoln would’ve loved,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Major elements of Union Square Park’s design unveiled today include a large open-lawn amphitheater and a Victorian-style garden honoring Mary Todd Lincoln. Benches, arbors, plantings and sidewalks provide areas for reflection and relaxation. The park will provide green space in downtown Springfield and act as a staging area for events coordinated by the ALPLM.
“As innovative as the museum it complements, the new Union Square Park will provide Springfield with a front yard - an outdoor performance stage - and a handsome oasis in the middle of an increasingly busy downtown,” said ALPLM Director Richard Norton Smith. “It will integrate the ALPLM with the surrounding neighborhood, not just physically but programmatically as well. And it will go a long way toward realizing the full cultural, economic and aesthetic promise of this world class institution.”
"Nine months from now this space will be filled with trees and flowers - but most important of all--with people. People on their lunch hours, at musical performances, and taking part in outdoor educational programs. People will get married in the gazebo. They will take photos in Mary Todd Lincoln's rose garden. They will sit on a bench next to a bronze sculpture of Abraham Lincoln,” said Julie Cellini, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Board of Trustees Chair.
Union Square Park was designed by White & Borgognoni Architects and has a total budget of $2,650,000. BRH Builders of Springfield was awarded the contract for general construction and B&B Electric won the contract for electrical work.
“Once complete, the Lincoln complex will be a jewel in Springfield’s crown,” said Capital Development Board Acting Executive Director Janet Grimes. “With the beautiful and innovative concepts that went into the construction of the Abraham Lincoln President Library and Museum, added parking, the restoration of an historical landmark and now the construction of a wonderful, multi-purpose park, downtown Springfield exudes an air of growth and economic development.”
Union Square Park is scheduled to be complete next summer. Meanwhile, renovation of the historic Union Station built in 1898, adjacent to Union Square Park, began in May. Union Station will serve as a gateway to the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library Complex, as well as other historic sites in and around downtown Springfield. It will be home to a visitors’ center, as well as office and meeting space. Interior and exterior renovation of Union Station includes replacing the clay-tile roof, new windows, new plaster, painting, opening up the passenger platforms and replacing the 140-foot clock tower. Recreating the clock tower is the featured aspect of the project. When completed, it will have four working clock faces. The tower was an original element of the station, but was removed in 1946. Approximately 20 percent of the work at Union Station is done and the project is expected to be complete in winter 2007.
The Presidential Museum, which immerses visitors in Lincoln’s life and times and showcases the state’s world-renowned Lincoln Collection, opened April 19, 2005 and has since welcomed nearly 350,000 people. The Presidential Library, the state’s top historical and genealogical research facility, opened in October 2004.
“We have already seen what the ALPLM has meant for tourism at Springfield area historic sites,” said Robert Coomer, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. “With this new urban park and the Governor’s commitment to restore seven-day historic site operations, the economic impact of the Library and Museum will continue to be felt throughout central Illinois.”