State Journal-Register

April 16, 2001

State's heritage mapped out in nation's capital 
    Historian documents 41 sites linked to Illinois 


WASHINGTON - Most tourists come here and hit the highlights.

The Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument. Arlington Cemetery.

However, there is an alternative for Illinois visitors seeking a more original tour - one guaranteed to cause you to swell up with home-state pride.

Pick up an Illinois Heritage Map, highlighting 41 Illinois-related
sites in the Washington area. It includes some of the well-known
sites. But it also points the way to others that often are overlooked.

The Grant Memorial, for example, "is one of the most thrilling
pieces of sculpture in all of Washington," said historian Rod Ross,
who researched the sites for the Illinois State Society, which
produced the map.

Yet visitors often turn their backs on the memorial in order to
train their cameras on the Capitol dome.

Flanking a statue of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on horseback are life-size sculptures of cavalry and artillery units charging into battle. In the cavalry scene, one of the soldiers has fallen off his horse.

"There's a look of horror on another's face because he knows this fellow is about to get trampled," said Ross. "This is just tremendously moving."

For Lincoln buffs who already have seen the Lincoln Memorial and Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln was shot, the map's self-guided tour includes a visit to Anderson Cottage, known as Lincoln's "summer White House;" Lincoln's favorite church in town; and the city's first public monument to the slain president. The Emancipation Monument, depicting Lincoln and a kneeling slave, was built with funds contributed by former slaves.

But the map pays homage to a wide range of individuals who had varying relationships with Illinois - from Woman's Christian Temperance Union president Frances Willard to western explorer John Wesley Powell.

It also highlights Illinois architects' impact on the nation's capital. The subway system was designed by Harry Weese and Reagan Washington National Airport's main terminal by University of Illinois graduate Cesar Pelli.

Two of the six congressional office buildings are named for Illinois lawmakers, and the International Trade Center is named for Ronald Reagan, who was born in Tampico.

"One of the objectives of the map is to show that Washington is more than just museums, the Smithsonian, the White House, with a jog to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery," said Ross.

He calls the Mexican Cultural Institute "one of the little known treasures of Washington."

The institute is located in the early 20th century home of Franklin MacVeagh, a wholesale grocer and banker from Illinois who became President William Howard Taft's treasury secretary. In 1923, MacVeagh sold the home and its furnishings to the Mexican government, which used it as its embassy until turning it into a museum to showcase art shows and other cultural exhibits.

The idea for the map was conceived by John Maxson, a former president of the Illinois State Society who is a Commonwealth Edison lobbyist in Washington.

But it was brought to fruition by Ross, who grew up in Batavia, a western suburb of Chicago, graduated from Knox College in Galesburg and obtained a doctorate in American history from the University of Chicago. He is an archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration.

The map's designer, Janice Sterling, is a fourth-generation artist whose ancestral home is in Morrison.

After working on the map, "my view of Washington has never been the same," Sterling said. "I drive down the street and say, "Oh, that was designed by an architect from Illinois."'

Maps are available at no charge from members of the Illinois congressional delegation, from the Illinois State Society at 703-461-3610, or via the society's Web site,