At noon on December 4 municipalities across Illinois conducted flag raising ceremonies to mark the beginning of the state’s bicentennial year. What better place to witness the beginning of the state’s 200th anniversary year than in the state capital? So we hopped in the car and made the two-and-a-half hour drive to Springfield, where the Illinois Bicentennial flag was to be raised atop the Old State Capitol.
The bronze sculpture of a woman standing in the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol welcomed us with open arms. She stands directly beneath a beautiful stained-glass dome that tops the building where Illinois law is proposed, debated and put to legislative vote. Taking a look around the Italian Renaissance Revival building, statues, paintings and ornate walls and ceilings surrounded us. To learn more about the art, architecture and what goes on in the capitol, we took the free half-hour tour.
I was told that Café Moxo in downtown Springfield was a popular lunch spot and is known for soups and pot pie, appealing on a chilly day. Its popularity was substantiated when we went in for lunch on a Saturday, when most state workers are not downtown, and it was full of diners.
Café Moxo offers counter service, and although several customers were in line ahead of us, the line moved quickly, too quickly in fact, for me. Deciding what I wanted wasn’t easy because besides soup and pot pie, the menu includes flatbread pizzas, salads, and twenty different quirky named sandwiches, many with unusual but delicious sounding ingredient combinations, like the Goudas it Gets with turkey, cucumbers, spring mix, tomato, Gouda and dill crema on a baguette. Add combos to the list of possibilities (salad or soup and a half sandwich with drink and cookie) and the decision is not an easy one to make.
In the end we went with the popular chicken pot pie and chicken noodle soup. The soup had the thickest noodles I have ever tasted, handmade in the restaurant, I was told. And the flaky, herb-seasoned crust on the large portioned pot pie opened to steaming cream sauce chock full of thick chicken chunks and vegetables.
Open for breakfast, too, Café Moxo serves, among other items, made-to-order breakfast sandwiches with your choice of meats, cheeses and breads, as well as a full menu of specialty coffee and café drinks.
Café Moxo, located at 411 E Adams, Springfield, Illinois, is open Monday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Check the web site to view the full menu.
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The year was 1902. Susan Dana had inherited $3 million and wanted to renovate the Renaissance Italianate home she grew up in. She heard of an up-and-coming architect named Frank Lloyd Wright and hired him to “renovate” the house. What she ended up with two years later was one room left from the original structure within 12,000 square feet of a brand new Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style home, a home with elements unheard of at the time, a home that everyone wanted to be entertained in. Today the home is owned by the State of Illinois, open to the public for tours, and guests are still awestruck by the architectural genius of this mansion.
Wright’s signature traits are all over the house: horizontal lines; a lot of open space and windows, inviting nature into the home and the home into nature; and art glass everywhere—in doors, windows, light fixtures, even in ceiling panels. The one Wright trait that is missing is an entry door hidden from plain view. Susan Dana loved to entertain, and she insisted on a grand entrance for guests. And grand it is.
As you walk through the home, from one area to another, you’ll feel the various moods that Wright meant to evoke. A low ceiling on one side of a room creates a comfortable alcove. Move over a few feet, to where the ceiling is much higher, and you’ll feel the space open, a perfect party space. A long dining table, when expanded to its full length could seat up to 40. A little beyond, a small table in a nook could be curtained off for an intimate family meal.
Landings between levels become balconies, perfect spots from which musicians could entertain. It seems everywhere you turn there are more architectural surprises, including three barrel vaulted ceilings and an extensive use of butterflies, a favorite of Ms. Dana. The butterflies aren’t obvious, but you can detect them in some of the art glass and in the shape of the lamps. Surprises even extend to the lower-level library, where Ms. Dana often entertained children on Saturday mornings. A guest touring the home once said that as a child he had his first ice cream cone here and pointed out the spot of a secret cooler that kept the ice cream cold. The lower level includes a duck pin bowling lane and a billiards room, too.
No photographs are allowed to be taken inside, so you’ll have to take the tour yourself to see the house, the Wright-designed furniture and original sculptures. No doubt, you’ll be awestruck, too, as you walk through the Dana-Thomas House’s 12,000 square feet of phenomenal.
The Dana-Thomas House is located at 301 E. Lawrence Avenue in Springfield, Illinois. Tours are conducted Wednesdays through Sundays. Visit the web site for further details.
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