BRC Imagination Arts
Museum seems to be boosting all attractions.
July 21 , 2005
TIM LANDIS and NATALIE MORRIS STAFF WRITERS
The gift shop at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum hit $1 million in sales after a little less than three months in business.
Apparently, that´s not the only place attracting visitors.
The presidential museum is getting much of the credit for an increase in attendance at major Lincoln sites through the first six months of 2005, a period when attendance at historic sites in general was down statewide.
"Obviously, a large part of it is people visiting the museum, but just how much exactly, we don´t know. You can say overall site attendance is up," said David Blanchette, spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Figures tracked by the agency show state-run Lincoln attractions - Lincoln´s New Salem, Lincoln´s Tomb, the Old State Capitol and the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office - are all on track for their best years since state budget cuts forced reduced hours at many historic sites in 2002.
"Ever since then, it´s been kind of flat. This is the first noticeable increase in attendance," Blanchette said.
Even the Dana-Thomas House and the Vachel Lindsay Home - two non-Lincoln sites in Springfield where attendance is down for the year - have experienced increased foot traffic since the museum opening in April.
"Give that a couple of more months, and we might see yearly figures go up as well" at those sites, Blanchette said.
Statewide attendance at historic sites run by the agency totaled 1,233,805 from January through June, down from 1,284,905 during the first six months of last year.
The local trend also reached two Lincoln sites not operated by the state - the Lincoln Home and the Lincoln Depot. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site closed in on 213,000 visitors for the year at the end of June, ahead of the 200,829 at the same time last year.
"There was something of a downward trend the last three years, and, frankly, there seems to be no other explanation (for the increase) than the opening of the presidential museum," said Kathy DeHart, chief of operations for the Lincoln Home.
Attendance was actually running behind 2004 until the museum opened, she said. The figures have been up every month since.
The Lincoln Depot at 10th and Monroe streets had 7,782 visitors from April through June, compared to 5,668 last year and just short of the 8,077 total for the 2004 season. The depot, which is open from April through August, is where Lincoln gave his farewell speech on Feb. 11, 1861, before leaving Springfield to be inaugurated as the 16th president.
The property is owned by The State Journal-Register and managed by the National Park Service.
A Bloomington resident became the 200,000th visitor to the presidential museum earlier this week - just a day short of three months since its dedication April 19. Museum officials said the 200,000 milestone was reached faster than at any other presidential museum.
"Everything is performing better than we anticipated," said Susan Mogerman, chief operating officer of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. "The store is always packed. Even the cafe just ordered more chairs for the patio, because it´s full all the time.
"We are nothing but pleased. Pleased and grateful."
The foundation is the nonprofit fund-raising arm of the presidential library and museum.
The on-site gift store hit a milestone of its own last week, ringing up $1 million in sales.
Event Network operates the gift store, but part of the proceeds go to the foundation to fund special events.
"The draw from this museum is just amazing," store director Amy Miller said. "People keep asking me, ´When are we going to plateau?´ We don´t know. There are just no signs of it."
Tourists plunking down their money aren´t just buying coffee mugs and key chains.
Selling leads (1)