Etc 450Springfield’s Old State Capitol is finally getting the recognition it deserves. The National Park Service recently announced that the Old State Capitol has been accepted to the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The site, which is operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is one of 17 new listings from the 43rd round of applications, representing sites and programs in 13 states across the nation. The new listings, alongside more than 700 sites, facilities and programs already in the Network, provide insight into the diverse experiences of freedom seekers who bravely escaped slavery and allies who assisted them.

Built in 1837, is the Old State Capitol is noted for being the site of candidacy announcements by former Presidents of the United States Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. The Old State Capitol also served as the seat of the Illinois Supreme Court from 1841 to 1872. During this time, the Court heard several cases that effected freedom seekers and allies operating within Illinois’ Underground Railroad. At least two cases were heard condemning allies who assisted freedom seekers: Eells v. The People and Willard v. The People, both of which ended in court fining the “conductors”. The most iconic case during this time, known as “Thornton’s Case,” which was the result of a Black man named Thornton who argued that a local constable wrongfully arrested him and that he should be freed. Since the local constable could not provide evidence to prove otherwise, the Illinois Supreme Court was forced to drop the charges against Thornton and release him from custody.

The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom is designed to honor, preserve and promote the history of resistance to enslavement through escape and flight. Currently the Network represents more than 700 locations in 39 states. Through its mission, the Network to Freedom helps advance the idea that all human beings embrace the right to self-determination and freedom from oppression. To be able to link this historical site to the Underground Railroad, gives deeper insight into the rich history the city of Springfield possesses and its fight to ensure the safety of the African American residents.

The Old State Capitol is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more or plan a visit, please visit