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Springfield Honors Lincoln With Presidential Library

Sat March 02, 2002 - Midwest Edition
Cindy Ladage

Although central Illinois has produced many famous people, no one has been as revered and remembered as Abraham Lincoln. While there are numerous Lincoln sites throughout the area, there will soon be a new one that will serve as a central site, a starting point for tourists or scholars to learn more about our nation’s 16th president. The city of Springfield will be home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

This $115-million Presidential Library and Museum complex will consist of two buildings comprising 198,000 sq. ft. (18,395 sq m) of space. The completion date for the library is October 2002 and for the museum, 2004. Adjacent to the building is the existing Union Station that will be revised to serve as a starting point, a visitor’s center for the library and museum. Funding for the project comes from the city of Springfield, the state of Illinois and the federal government.

The Project Begins

The library is currently under construction. The lead architect for the project is Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc. (HOK) of St. Louis, MO. Dan Egler, deputy director of the state of Illinois Capital Development Board (CDB), which is overseeing this project, said that talk of the library and museum actually began about 10 years ago, but the ball really got rolling around 1997 and 1998. “In 1997, then Gov. Jim Edgar put the first planning money in the budget. Then in November 1998 we selected the architect, HOK. Gov. Ryan made the Library and Museum a reality with his commitment to the project and enough funding for construction of the complex through his Illinois First program.”

Egler said that HOK helped select the location of the site of the complex, which is the corner of Sixth and Jefferson. “The sight is a two-block area. The museum address is actually 212 [for Lincoln’s Feb. 12 birthday] N. Sixth St.”

Contractors Bid for the Library

In March 2001, bids were accepted for the library contract. The library contract included work for a three-story building. The building will have a lower level space for secure document storage. There will be a 250-seat multipurpose conference space; a Governor’s Conference Suite for programming; education classrooms for visiting school groups; and teachers’ training and forums. There also will be reading rooms including the cylindrical shaped Lincoln Reading Room, as well as conservation and photography labs, research carrels and audio/visual listening and viewing areas

The library contract has specific requirements for portions of the building to serve as a research facility and as home to many of Abraham Lincoln’s documents and archival material. One important collection that the library will house is the 46,000-item Henry Horner Lincoln Collection. This world-famous collection includes more than 1,500 documents written or signed by Lincoln, along with more than 1,000 photographs and many Lincoln family personal effects.

The library will consist of 99,800 sq. ft. (9,272 sq m) with stack storage of 22,000 sq. ft. (2,044 sq m). The fact sheet for the Presidential Library listed that the stack storage space would include, “6 mi. of compact book shelving, 27,584 cu. ft. of manuscript shelving, capacity for 258,000 reels of microfilm and 4,728 cu. ft. of audio visual cabinetry.”

Contractors Are Selected

Thirty-two bids were received. There were six contracts awarded and eight companies competed for the contracts. The general contractor selected for the library was Sicliano Inc. of Springfield, IL. The contract was awarded for more than $13 million. Egler of the CDB stated, “Sicliano is a good firm. They do a lot of historic work and know what they are doing and come up with realistic bids.”

Other firms awarded contracts for the Abraham Lincoln Library project include a plumbing contract to Henson Robinson Company of Springfield; a heating contract to Petersburg Plumbing & Heating Co. of Petersburg, IL; and a ventilation contract to T’nT Mechanical Contractors Inc. of Urbana IL. The electrical contract was awarded to Springfield-based Mansfield Electric Co. The sprinkler contract bid was given to Automatic Fire Sprinkler Co. of Bloomington, IL, and a temperature controls contract went to Technical Solutions & Services Inc. of Morton, IL.

Work Progresses

Progress on the library site is moving forward. The site work was the first portion of construction that had to be completed. Kevin Evans, one of Sicliano Inc.’s site supervisors said, “The architects dug before we got here. It was a mass excavation and they found old wells and cisterns. The Historic Preservation Agency dug it up and took care of it.”

Once the site work was completed, the building portion of the work began. Rick Lawrence of Sicliano Inc. said, “We are working on the basement. The foundation walls are nearing completion.”

When working on the basement, one of the specialized items that Sicliano used while pouring concrete were forms from F. Coe Forming. Lawrence said, “This allowed us to make larger single wall pours.”

Kevin Evans added, “At this point, we have all the basement walls poured except for a hole to drive the crane in and out of.”

The biggest challenge so far on this project, according to Evans, is the tight fit “The building takes up most of the site.”

This has not posed much of a problem, though, because the job is on schedule and the building framework is in progress. Lawrence said, “We are starting to set structural steel. The steel portion should be complete by early November. We have been using a 50-ton all-terrain picker to set the steel.”

Evans said that the structural steel is coming from Zalk Josephs of Wisconsin. The steel that Evans and Lawrence refer to is in part for the cylindrical skeleton of the Lincoln Reading Room. This is the first structural steel placement because this portion of the building is on the ground level, while most of the rest of the building is built over the basement level. The reading room will be a special place once completed. This room will have a wide expanse of windows that will face Sixth and Jefferson and will be where scholars go to study the original Lincoln material. Lawrence added, “The big round reading room will be the main focal point.”

In October, plumbing and electrical work began, as well as the placement of the masonry block walls. Lawrence said that at the time of the interview, crews were concentrating on enclosing the building before winter weather arrives.

Once spring comes, they will begin placing the exterior stone, which is called “Salena Gold.” This stone is specially imported from Italy. Lawrence said that the stone was one of the structural items that sets this building apart, along with the substantial millwork finishes and decorative glass.

Phase II — the Museum Construction

Bids were accepted for Phase II, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in January 2002. The complex architect again is Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc. The museum exhibit designer is Bob Rogers, of BRC imagination Arts of Burbank, CA.

Dan Egler of the CDB said that the museum is going to be the central place to learn about Abraham Lincoln. “If you have been around Springfield, there are a lot of good places — such as the Lincoln Sites — to visit, but there is no central place to learn about Lincoln the entire man. At the museum you can immerse yourself in Lincoln.”

The museum will include interactive exhibits. Egler explained, “The exhibits will not just be things in cases. You will walk through a series of displays. The museum will begin with a log cabin like Lincoln’s father built in Indiana, then to the right will be a replica of the White House as it was in Lincoln’s day.”

There also will be a rotating gallery called “A Treasures Gallery” which will include original items such as the Gettysburg Address, a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. The museum also will have a linear exhibit covering “The Journey” through Lincoln’s life. There also will be a special effects theater featuring, “I Knew Lincoln,” and an Ameritech Holavision theater featuring a show mixing a live actor and effects to highlight the museum collection.

The building for the museum will be approximately 100,000 sq. ft. (9,290 sq m) with 35,000 sq. ft. (3,252 sq m) dedicated to exhibit space and 17,000 sq. ft. (1,579 sq m) for the Grand Plaza. The building will be a multi-level building that will extend 75 ft. (23 m) above grade. Besides all the exhibits, the museum will include a children’s area, a restaurant gift shop and offices.

Also part of the second phase of the complex development is the rehabilitation of Springfield’s Union Station. The station will be reconstructed adding the 100-ft. (30.4 m) clock tower that was removed many years ago. The architect for this project is White and Borgognoni of Carbondale, IL.

Beam-Signing Ceremony

The city of Springfield celebrated the progress of the Abraham Lincoln Library on Sept. 21, 2001 with a beam-signing ceremony. Illinois Gov. George Ryan was on hand, along with First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan, to sign one of the structural steel beams being erected to enclose a segment of the library, the Lincoln Reading Room.

Springfield’s Mayor, Karen Hasara had a few opening remarks. Hasara thanked the governor for all his assistance in city renovations. “We will never forget how much you have done for us.”

Hasara added that the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum is “the ultimate, not just for Springfield, but the whole world for many generations to come.”

Gov. Ryan said that with all of the buildings dedicated to Lincoln that no one has ever attempted to build a library for President Lincoln. He specified the importance of the library and this event. “With the beam-signing ceremony, we make progress.”

Gov. Ryan pointed out the relevant timing of Lincoln’s term with the present. “He was a leader that brought our nation together at a very uncertain time,” he said.

He also pointed to the horror that our nation suffered under the devastating event that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 in which thousands of innocent Americans lost their lives. “Our nation changed forever that day. We can draw on lessons of the 16th president to be a source of strength for our 43rd president,” he said.

Gov. Ryan’s vision of the library is that it will be a place where scholars can come together to look over Lincoln’s works and learn about our country’s history. He praised those involved in the construction process. “People who pass by, know that this is built by hard working Americans who believe in our ideals and freedom.”

The Sicliano Inc. construction crew managed to mount an American flag on top of the cylindrical structural steel supports. Rick Lawrence of Sicliano spoke after Gov. Ryan and continued in the same vein as the governor. “This is a positive step for the city of Springfield. The terrorists did a despicable deed and underestimated the resolve of the work force. Construction is the back bone of our economy and this library will prove a resource for people.”

Both Gov. George Ryan and First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan signed the steel beam that will be eventually covered up, but remembered for a long time by those present for this event dedicating this building to a man that literally gave his life for our freedom.

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