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A nose for tourism
A nose for tourism

BLOOMINGTON - Marcia Young once worried the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield would compete with the David Davis Mansion for visitors.

"We were very, very wrong," said Young, the mansion's site superintendent. Attendance at the mansion is up by thousands because of the popular Lincoln site, which has drawn more than a half-million visitors since last April. Attendance also increased in 2005 at the Postville Courthouse State Historical Site in Lincoln.

The growth in tourism at Lincoln-related sites comes at a time when tourism at historic sites in general is down, said Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Overall, attendance at Illinois historical sites was down 2 percent last year, but attendance was up anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent last year at sites with a specific Lincoln connection, Blanchette said.

Some 46,500 people visited the Davis mansion in 2005, up from 41,000 the year before. Before that, 34,613 came through in 2003 and 21,786 in 2002, Young said.

Young attributes the 12 percent increase from 2004 mainly to the Springfield Lincoln site, which has spurred a new interest in Illinois' most famous son and connections to him. "We've had people tell us they are stopping on their way to or back from Springfield," she said.

Once visitors get to Springfield, they learn of other Lincoln sites from tour guides and pictures, Young said. The Looking for Lincoln Web site at www.lookingforlincoln also helps, she said.

Davis, a political confidant of Lincoln, lived in the 1870s-era mansion on East Monroe Drive and served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Davis mansion workers have beefed up the site's Lincoln-Davis connection by reworking its tour script. The three paid workers and a host of volunteers are ready for extra traffic.

"Before, we really didn't mention Lincoln at all," Young said, adding the connection between Lincoln and Davis is "huge."

The Postville Courthouse State Historical Site in Lincoln, where Lincoln practiced law, is a reproduction of the first Logan County Courthouse in use from 1840 to 1847.

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