Museums in Metamora, Bloomington expected to remain open despite budget impasse

Jack McCarthy
The view from the judge's perch at the Old Metamora Courthouse. The court room contains seating and decor from the time when Abraham Lincoln worked there and much of the flooring is original. (Peoria County Chronicle photo)

The view from the judge’s perch at the Old Metamora Courthouse. The court room contains seating and decor from the time when Abraham Lincoln worked there and much of the flooring is original. (Peoria County Chronicle photo)

Two regional buildings with ties to Abraham Lincoln will apparently remain open despite the current state budget impasse in Springfield.

The old Metamora Courthouse — where Lincoln argued more than 80 Woodford County cases between 1840-58 — and Bloomington’s David Davis mansion are expected to maintain normal hours for visitors.

A Davis Mansion representative said the museum would remain open at least through last week regardless of budget deliberations. The Old Metamora Courthouse faced a more worrisome possibility of indefinite closure if there was no state budget resolution last week.

There’s still no budget, but an official with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency — which oversees and operates state historic sites — had good news for both.

“There are no plans at present to close state historic sites — as Governor (Bruce) Rauner said,” a spokesman for the agency told Chronicle Media last week. “Except for certain administrative steps announced by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, most state services should continue.”

The state of Illinois remained without a budget heading into last weekend after the fiscal year ended last Tuesday and Republican Gov. Rauner vetoed most of a deficit budget blueprint for the new year passed by Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly.

“For too long, the State of Illinois has made spending promises that exceed available revenues, relied on accounting gimmicks to make budgets appear balanced, used borrowing and cost deferral strategies to push costs into the future, and delayed payments to vendors,” Rauner said in his veto message.

As politicians wrangle, visitors to the Old Metamora Courthouse will still savor the unique experience of walking the same courtroom floor as did Lincoln while he was a practicing attorney working Illinois’ historic Eighth Judicial circuit.

Located at 113 E. Partridge on the Village Town Square, the two-story Metamora courthouse lacks the majesty and ornate decor of later area courthouses — including its successor built after the county seat moved to nearby Eureka in 1896.

But history and Lincoln connections give Metamora an importance far beyond its modest size.

Built in 1845 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the Old Metamora Courthouse is one of just three remaining — including a log courthouse in Macon County and a courthouse in Mt. Pulaski — where Lincoln practiced law.

The Metamora Courthouse is open from 1-5 p.m. from Tuesday thru Saturday through October and from noon to 4 p.m. from November through February.

The first floor contains space used as a community museum. It recently hosted an exhibition of Lincoln images, commercial products and memorabilia loaned by community members.

The second floor includes the onetime courtroom and two smaller chambers featuring period furnishings plus and mostly original flooring. Visitors can take guided tours or explore on their own.

The elegant David Davis Mansion, located at 1000 Monroe Drive in Bloomington, was once home to the Lincoln friend and onetime U.S. Supreme Court justice and his family.

The three-story, yellow brick Victorian home features a barn and stable, privies and other outer structures. The 36-room main house was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Guided 50-minute tours are scheduled every half-hour from the visitor center. The mansion is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Suggested donation is $4 for adults, $2 for children.

Information on the David Davis Mansion is available by calling (309) 828-1084 or visiting

More information on the Old Metamora Courthouse is available by calling (309) 367-4470 or visiting