Ground was broken Wednesday for the
$2.65 million Union Square Park to complement the
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The park, which will take up the entire block between
Fifth, Sixth, Jefferson and Madison streets, is
scheduled to be completed by June.
It is the second park to occupy the site. The first
was completed in the 1990s and had a popular ice skating
rink in the winter and a farmers' market in the summer.
It also became a haven for vagrants and homeless people
who sometimes used rain-filled reflecting pools to wash
clothes or themselves.
This time, officials hope the park will serve as a
kind of front porch for the city and the Lincoln
complex. The adjacent Union Station, a former railroad
station and shopping complex that is being converted to
a visitors' center, offices and meeting space, will be
finished in 2007.
Julie Cellini, chairwoman of the Illinois Historic
Preservation Agency's board, told about 40 people
gathered for Wednesday's ground-breaking that she hoped
to create beauty "in an area of Springfield that was
Gov. Rod Blagojevich - whose scheduling required the
event to be moved up about an hour - compared the park's
importance to that of Millennium Park on the banks of
Lake Michigan in Chicago, which hosts free concerts and
has an amphitheater, just as Union Square Park will.
"I believe Union Square Park can be to Springfield
what Millennium Park is to Chicago," Blagojevich said.
He noted that almost 350,000 people have visited the
presidential museum since it opened in April.
"When we finish this park, I suspect more and more
people will want to come here," the governor said. "It
will be a place all of us will think about when we think
Besides the large, open-lawn amphitheater and a
Victorian-style garden honoring Mary Todd Lincoln, Union
Square Park will have benches, arbors, plantings and
sidewalks to provide places where people can sit and
"Nine months from now, this space will be filled with
trees and flowers, but most important of all, with
people," Cellini said. "People will get married in the
gazebo. They will take photos in Mary Todd Lincoln's
rose garden. They will sit on a bench next to a bronze
sculpture of Abraham Lincoln."
White and Borgognoni Architects of Carbondale
designed the park. BRH Builders of Springfield will be
in charge of construction. B&B Electric of
Springfield will do the electrical work.
The renovation of Union Station includes the
re-creation of a 140-foot clock tower that has four
working faces. The tower was an original element of the
station but was removed in 1946. About 20 percent of the
work on the station has been completed.
Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523 or