I have lived in Springfield, Illinois for the past 35 years and, for all its warts, I love it and plan on staying.
Aesthetically, however, it has its problems – not the least of which is the area surrounding the Illinois State Capitol Building. I am not the only one to recognize the visual shortcomings there as well as some adjacent downtown areas. In the mid-1970’s Springfield’s downtown area went through the same convulsions and dislocations that most all cities experienced when developers started building indoor shopping malls.
Recognizing the ills that had fallen on central Springfield, there have been an increasing number of merchants, civic leaders, and local governmental people who have made great inroads in revitalizing the heart and soul of downtown. Their work has not been easy, nor has it necessarily been rewarded. Nevertheless, a lot of dedicated and stubborn individuals keep trying. A not-for-profit organization, Downtown Springfield, Incorporated, has also been vitally instrumental in focusing on the central business district of Springfield as the most essential core of our community. I commend them for their efforts.
Springfield, as the capital city of Illinois, also plays host to much of the State’s government. As such, the government’s architecture, officials, and employees play an essential part in the day-to-day activities and life of the city. Its downtown presence and importance cannot be understated. It is always there, always looming.
The center and seat of State government revolves, of course, around the Capitol Building. Its stature dwarfs its surroundings, but not overly so. It represents what it is supposed to represent – the power of the people and their State government. No problem with that. Other problems have developed though.
Over time, much of Illinois’ governmental operations have, for political reasons, been shifted away from Springfield. Much of the work of State government has been transferred to regional offices throughout the State. Even more work has been permanently relocated to Chicago. The effect of this decentralization of State government has left much of the infrastructure of the city looking like, in fact being, an abandoned carcass. This has left the remaindermen of Springfield to clean up the mess. It’s a pitiful state of affairs, but this is where we are and what we are left with.
I decided to take a half-dozen photographs of the State Capitol Building today to give a sense of what we, as residents, see everyday. We may not always notice it, or may just overlook it, but there is some big-time ugly surrounding that big-domed building.
I did not try to get artsy with the photos, nor did I try to go overboard to show the worst of things (such as standing aside a dilapidated building or a dumpster and then framing the Capitol building). However, I have taken the liberty of adding some commentary. Enjoy!
This picture is from the perspective of the revitalized (?) Capitol promenade, so to speak. While it may be visually unappealing because of the overhead railroad structure, it is precisely this overhead track which returns so much affection; it is the only place downtown which enables one to avoid the long waits of Amtrak and other trains rambling through city center. This underpass is much beloved.
Recently the owner of this track, Union Pacific Railroad, proposed more than doubling the daily number of freight trains rambling through the city to 45 or so. It seems that Union Pacific, which is the largest landholder west of the Mississippi River and second largest landholder in the United States (the largest is the United States itself), did not want to be inconvenienced to use its resources to buy new right-of-way landholdings outside of the central city. Currently, their plan has been shelved while another route through the city is being reviewed by officialdom.
Even Le Corbusier could not have built an uglier building than the adjacent Stratton Office Building (on right), nicknamed the SOB – the building that is, not the former governor who was nicknamed “Billy the Kid.”
. . . and the wheels of progress just keeping on spinning.