Caroline Weber

March 27, 2015

 

 

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In spite of their close friendship, Mr. Herndon could not understand it, when Lincoln one day darted up the office stairs, and said: “Herndon, should you like to be my partner?”
“Don’t laugh at me, Mr. Lincoln,” was the poor fellow’s sole response.
Persistent repetition of the question could hardly gain a hearing; but at last Mr. Herndon said: ‘Mr. Lincoln you know I am too young, and I have no standing and no money; but if you are in earnest, there is nothing in this world that would make me so happy.
Nothing more was said till the papers were brought to Herndon to sign. 

-An Excerpt from “Herndon’s Life of Lincoln”

 

The Lincoln-Herndon Law Office was built in 1840 and is located in downtown Springfield, Illinois.The office is in close proximity to the Lincoln Depot as well as the Lincoln Library. Lincoln pursued a law career spanning almost twenty-years, however the Lincoln-Herndon Law office is the only remaining building in which Lincoln used during his law career. From 1843 to 1852, Lincoln used the office, except during his term as a United States Congressman. During this time period, his associate William Herndon maintained the office and continued to practice law there.

Stephen T. Logan, Lincoln’s second associate in the firm was a cousin of Mary Lincoln, Abraham’s wife. The law office was located on the third floor of the building. Seth M. Tinsley, who constructed the building, was also responsible for renting out the floors as well. While Lincoln’s office was located on the third floor, there was a post office located on the first floor as well as a district courtroom and clerk’s office on the second floor. In this building, Lincoln met with Nathaniel Pope, the District Court Judge regarding seventy-two bankruptcy proceedings as well as forty regular cases.

Gibson Harris, a young man hired as a clerk, recalled his memories of the firm, “The furniture, somewhat dilapidated, consisted of one small desk and a table, a sofa or lounge with a raised head at one end, and a half-dozen plain wooden chairs. The floor was never scrubbed….Over the desk a few shelves had been enclosed; this was the office bookcase holding a set of Blackstone, Kent’s Commentaries, Chitty’s Pleadings, and a few other books. A fine law library was in the Capitol building across the street to which the attorneys of the place had access.” Today, tourists who visit the office will see it just as it looked when Lincoln and Herndon practiced there. Many of the items Gibson Harris refers to can still be seen inside the building today.

According to The State Journal Register, in 2014 there was a project considered to replace the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices with a dry goods store, in which visitors could learn more about commerce at the time in which he practiced law there.  Justin Blandford, superintendent of state historic sites in Springfield explained, “I think what we’d like to find a compelling approach to is to talk about the role of credit and commerce in Lincoln’s world through a reconstructed dry goods store…At that point in history, money was not in wide supply. Credit is extremely important.” According to Blandford, the idea for the project has been around since 2008. Illinois officials had been brainstorming ways to connect the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth with new projects in the Springfield area.

This project, estimated to cost around 1.16 million dollars, would include reproductions of merchandise from the time period as well as historic interpreters who could answer any questions visitors may have. According to The State Journal Register, “The project includes renovation of windows, signs on the building, upgrades to mechanical systems and renovations to make the facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Chris Wills, a spokesman for the state Historic Preservation Agency explained, “The idea was this is an important spot in downtown Springfield with a lot of foot traffic there…We want to make it more inviting and attractive so families will wander in.” If the project moves forward, it would take approximately fifteen months to complete. Renovating the Lincoln-Herndon office would be a smart move for the town of Springfield due to the fact, the city already attracts many visitors every year. During this time period, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices would be closed to visitors.

This museum helps link the past with the present. Because the law office is preserved to show what it would have looked like when Lincoln worked there, it transports visitors back to this time period. It serves as an example of official memory due to the fact it is displayed to the public to commemorate a specific thing. The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices helps us to remember the good Lincoln did for the Springfield community as well as the state of Illinois. His law career spanned many years, and was definitely a large part of most of his professional life.

References:

Herndon, William. “Herndon’s Life of Lincoln”. Wildside Press: Rockville, Maryland. 30 October 2008.

“Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices”. Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Web. 9 April 2015.

“Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices”. Abraham Lincoln Online. Web. 9 April 2015.

“Lincoln-Herndon Law Office”. Visit Springfield Illinois. Web. 9 April 2015.

“Changes could be coming to Lincoln-Herndon Law offices”. The State Journal-Register. Web. 9 April 2015.