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 The capitol complex

The present Illinois statehouse complex is the collective seat of the people's government and, after the Lincoln sites, the reason most Illinoisans ever visit Springfield. Over the years I wrote several columns about how this town-within-the-town was governed. Most of these pieces were disparaging, a few despairing.

It was personal with me. In the middle 1960s I lived for at time in the statehouse neighborhood, and over the ensuing decades watched the State of Illinois vandalize its own seat of government by neglecting maintenance and littering the environs with barren asphalt parking lots. The state has had a half-century to fix the mess it made then, but it hasn't. Today's capitol complex remains ill-planned, ugly, inconvenient to move about in, and lacking in amenities. 


Illinoisans who visit the equivalent places in Wisconsin or Indiana or Iowa return asking, Why can't we have nice things too? There were reasons, among them lack of imagination, habitual cheap-skating, and bureaucratic inertia. Reasons, then, but none of them good enough.

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Unbalanced Structure

Checking out the new Illinois State Library

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 11, 1990

The People’s Art Museum

Restoration makes the statehouse too grand for politics

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times September 12, 2013

Protecting the Protector

The case for restoring the old state armory

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 8, 2010

Cheese on a Plate

A bigger, not better, capitol complex

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 15, 1983

Cheeseparing in the  Capitol Complex
Will a new Stratton Building be a better one?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  June 10, 2010    

Old Arguments
Is the state spending too much to restore the statehouse?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  September 19, 2013

Refined, Delicate and Urban
Marking the Centennial Building’s centennial
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 1, 2016

Temple of the Law
The state is doing justice to the Supreme Court Building
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  June 20, 2013 

Silk Purses and Sow’s Ears

Converting the capitol into an office building

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 7, 1979

Plan Speaking

Is the state's new capitol complex plan good? Who can tell?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 5, 1977

A Complex Problem

Cars outvote everybody at the statehouse

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 5, 1979

God Lets Off Bob Ingersoll 
The legend of the statehouse cornerstone
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times January 16, 2014

A New Dawn at the Statehouse?  
What are the statues on the capitol lawn for?
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 23, 2014

Official Graffiti

The General Assembly tag the museum building

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times December 18, 2014

Temples in Ruins
The old Franklin Life complex did not get the owner it deserves
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  September 15, 2011

The Tourists’s State Capital

Visiting the statehouse complex in Springfield

See Illinois (unpublished) 2006

Bronze Trousers 

Public statuary on the Illinois statehouse grounds

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  undated  

Lyric Flights
Does John Prine belong on as well as in the state library?
Illinois Times  July 30, 2020

Faith, Hope and Statuary

Today's heroic public memorials trivialize heroism

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 5, 2012

Fallen Heroes
Don't remove offending Statehouse statues, just move them
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times August 20, 2020

Flattened Houses

State government makes Springfield safe for cars

"Forum"  Illinois Times  January 15, 1976


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John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum


The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 


Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.


Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 


Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

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