A re-enacter in the Lincoln cabin replica.

Lincoln Log Cabin, But Not Abe Lincoln's

Field review by the editors.

Lerna, Illinois

The signs for this attraction call it "Lincoln Log Cabin," and its brochure promotes it with a picture of Abe and the tagline, "Lincoln Log Cabin, Where 1845 Comes Alive." But Abe Lincoln was born in 1809. Was America's 16th President still living in a log cabin when he was 36 years old?

Well, no.

This is actually Abe Lincoln's parents' log cabin, which they built and lived in for 14 years after Abe had left home to climb the political ladder in Springfield. And it's not even the real cabin, but a replica, built in the 1930s as a Depression make-work project. The real cabin was sold to a group of Chicago investors who wanted to display it at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. But Robert Todd Lincoln, Abe's son and a powerful Chicago lawyer at the time, killed the deal because he was embarrassed by the crude-looking house. The cabin was reduced to a pile of logs in a Chicago alley, and then it was thrown away.

Museum display.

This fake Lincoln Log Cabin certainly looks real enough, although photographs reveal that it's less undulating than Robert Lincoln's funhouse original. It's part of a larger site that recreates the entire Lincoln farm on its original land. Signs scattered around the property note that the Lincolns chose a "traditional independent lifestyle" over a house that would have made more sense by the mid-1800s, and add that "Abraham Lincoln visited frequently." The mood is enhanced by costumed, role-playing interpreters who roam the grounds and refuse to acknowledge that it's not 1845.

Get yer twig pencils here!

An accompanying Lincoln Log Cabin museum -- well done in our view -- has a display of Sarah Lincoln's broken dishes, an exhibit that shows that the role-players are actually normal people, and "The World of the 1845 Child" display, which asks "What are my snack foods?" The answers: radishes, rhubarb, curdled milk, artichoke roots, and headcheese. The mannequin scenes have button-activated audio voices, and there was nothing stopping us from pushing all the buttons at once and listening to the room fill with a cacophony, 1845-style.

The well-stocked gift shop sells Lincoln stovepipe hats and fake beards for less than those at the Lincoln Boyhood Home (another log cabin) in Indiana and the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. You can even buy tiny bricks here, chopped out of Lincoln's Springfield home. The opportunity to sell splinters from the log cabin has obviously been lost.

Roadside Presidents
Roadside Presidents App for iPhone. Find this attraction and more: museums, birthplaces, graves of the Chief Execs, first ladies, pets, assassins and wannabes. Prez bios and oddball trivia. Available on the App Store.

Lincoln Log Cabin, But Not Abe Lincoln's

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site

Address:
400 S. Lincoln Hwy Rd, Lerna, IL
Directions:
Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. I-57 exit 190-A (Mattoon/Charleston). Drive east on Hwy 16, then after a half-mile turn right onto CR-870E/Lerna Rd. After five miles the road bends left and becomes E. Lincoln Hwy Rd. Follow this another seven miles southeast to the Park.
Hours:
Summer daily 9-5; Th-Su off-season (Call to verify)
Phone:
217-345-6489
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

More Quirky Attractions in Illinois

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Illinois.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

October 23, 2014

My Sights

Create and Save Your Own Crazy Road Trip!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Illinois Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

San Francisco Dungeon, San Francisco, California (Oct 20-26, 2014)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Nearby Hotels and Motels, Lerna, Illinois

Nightly rates found:

Book Online Now