Alaska's flag

The Big Dipper and the North Star

Benny Benson memorial site, the designer of  Alaska's flag.
Alaska's flag displaying the Big Dipper  and the North Star
on a blue field is shown on the memorial stone.  
In 1927, Alaska (not yet a state at that time) organized a competition for children to design a flag for Alaska territory. Since the US purchased Alaska from Russia, there was no official flag for that territory. From over 700 submitted designs, the blue field with the Big Dipper and the North Star submitted by Benny Benson, was original enough to win the competition.

Most of the other designs featured bears, northern lights or gold rush artifacts for the future Alaska's flag. First level of the Alaska's flag competition was a local school contest. Ten best local designs were submitted to the central competition in Juneau. Benny's design was chosen as the best and became the official flag of Alaska by decision of Alaska Territorial Legislature in May, 1927.

The winning design was not the only one prepared by Benny Benson. The original design has been modified by removing year 1867 from below the Big Dipper. 

Benny Benson design for the Alaska's flag was submitted for the competition with the following description:
The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear—symbolizing strength.

Benny Benson and Seward, Alaska

Alaska's flag on a Kenai Fjords tour boat in Seward, Alaska
Benny Benson at the time of the Alaska's flag competition was a 13 year old boy living in the Jesse Lee Mission Home, an orphanage in Seward, Alaska. Benny was a native Alaskan and was born in 1913 to Russian-Aleut mother and Swedish father.

For the design of the Alaska's flag Benny was awarded a gold watch with his design engraved and $1000. The watch has been donated by him to Alaska State Museum in 1963.

Benny Benson spent most of his adult life in Kodiak, Alaska. Benson died in 1972. Seward celebrated his contribution to Alaska by setting his memorial site in the town. 

See also:
Worlds most amazing hotels
Honeymoon in Alaska - Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Springfield in one day

State Capitol building Old State Capitol building Sundial at the back of the State Capitol

First impression

We spent a winter weekend in Springfield and the town seemed to be deserted. One could see only few people on the streets. However, most of the museums and restaurants had people visiting them. Downtown of Springfield is nice and relatively small. All major attractions are available within a walking distance. If you decide to stay in a hotel in the downtown area you will not need a car. Taking train to Springfield and staying in downtown area seems also like a good idea. Although the town seemed deserted, museums and restaurants were all open. Downtown does not have many shops and most of the interesting things in Springfield can be seen in one day.

Old State Capitol

Old State Capitol is very well preserved and all open rooms are equipped with furnitures from the middle of XIX century. One can follow a tour or walk around without a guide. Walking around the Old State Capitol you will see how compact and well organized was the Capitol more than 160 years ago. You will notice there equivalents of all major modern state institutions.

Old State Capitol, Springfield, Illinois.  
From the information placed at the Old Capitol:
Old State Capitol

The Old State Capitol was the fifth State House in Illinois history. The building served as capitol from 1839 to 1876. Its cornerstone was laid during ceremonies held July 4. 1837.

During the 1840s and 1850s the building dominated Springfield's square and became a center of public life. Benefit dinners and other civic affairs took place in its rooms. The legislative chambers were the scene of frequent political meetings. Cultural programs often accompanied legislative sessions, which attracted citizens from throughout Illinois to the capitol city.

Abraham Lincoln frequented the building from 1839 until he departed in 1861 to assume the presidency. As a lawyer he often practiced before the Illinois Supreme Court. Lincoln delivered several important speeches, including the 1858 "House divided" address. In representatives' hall the governor's room served as his informal headquarters during the 1960 presidential campaign. In 1965 citizens paid their last respects to the assassinated president in representatives' hall before burial at Oak Ridge cemetery.

In 1876, a new State House replaced the Old State Capitol, which became the Sangamon County Courthouse. Legislation passed in 1961 led to the state's purchase and reconstruction of the building to its Lincoln-era appearance. The three-year project was completed in 1969.

Erected by The Illinois State Historical Society
and The Illinois Department of Transportation, 1991

Inside of the Old State Capitol

State Capitol

New State Capitol contrary to the Old State Capitol is not very inviting. We were trying to get there twice, both times with no success. Building is very impressive from outside but just after you enter the building, security informs you that "one can not walk around by yourself" and that one has to wait for guided tour. In front of the Capitol there is a large statue of Abraham Lincoln and on the back a very nice sundial (on the picture above).  The current Capitol building is the sixth Capitol in the history of Illinois and the second one in Springfield. First Capitol was built in Springfield after Abraham Lincoln and his colleges advocated for moving the capitol of Illinois from Vandalia to Springfield. Old Capitol has been turned into a museum. 

Springfield, State Capitol

Lincoln's Museum

Springfield has quite many museums for its size. One that is definitely worth visiting is the Abraham Lincoln Museum connected to the Presidential Library. Museum is very modern and extremely  multimedial. It pictures life of Abraham Lincoln from his childhood, through first jobs, his time in Springfield and work as a lawyer to his presidency and assassination. Museum collected an impressive number of items related to Abraham Lincoln. It takes more than an hour to walk through the whole museum. At the end, one should definitely stay for the impressive multimedial presentation of the museum and the presidential library.

Lincoln's Museum from outside Abraham Lincoln with family Lincoln's wife

Lincoln's House

Old part of Springfield including whole neighborhood of Lincoln's House has been turned into a museum. Guided tours are available for visiting Lincoln's House and the Old Downtown.

Abraham Lincoln's House in Springfield

Lincoln's Tomb

Visiting Springfield one cannot miss the Lincolns Tomb. It is located in Oak Ridge Cemetery and it is a very impressive monument. The Tomb is closed during the winter. However, outside of the Tomb is also very interesting. The Oak Ridge Cemetery has more interesting graves and tombs. The cemetery is quite large and at its very end one will find war memorials.  

Lincoln's Tomb

Springfield by night

After a whole day of sightseeing you may want to relax over a nice dinner or a drink. The downtown area is full of nice restaurants. Most of them offer American food and it may be harder to quickly find an oriental kitchen. Although there is a lot of bars around, the most fun seems to be the top of the Hilton hotel. Hilton on its 30th floor has a bar and a restaurant. Both of them have stunning views over the panorama of Springfield with nicely illuminated Capitols. 

View from the bar on the top of Hilton hotel State Capitol

Other attractions

Springfield Museums center including 
  • Michele & Donald D'amour Museum of Fine Arts 
  • Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History 
  • George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum
  • Springfield Science Museum 
  • Connecticut Valley Historical Museum 
List of all historic sites in Springfield: Historic Sites Commission of Springfield, IL
Frank Lloyd Wright designed Dana-Thomas House [Official site]
 Oak Ridge Cemetery
 Museum of Funeral Customs (closed in 2009)

See also:
Frank Lloyd Wright House in Springfield
Hot air ballons show in Indiana
Frank Lloyd Wright House in Chicago
Honeymoon in Alaska - Part 1
The largest earthquake and tsunami in North America
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