Presidential Connections in Bloomington, Illinois
Vrooman Mansion has always been a place where people connect. It still is. What you might not know are the presidential connections linked to Vrooman Mansion and the broader Bloomington-Normal, IL community. This President’s Day start making plans to explore more on your own, and consider central Illinois as your next historic road trip. Route 66 is waiting!
Presidential Connections with the Vroomans and Scotts
Did you know…
- Julia Scott, the original owner of the mansion and the mother of Julia Vrooman, is a descendent of President George Washington.
- Julia Scott’s sister Letitia (that’s where the purple suite in the mansion gets its name), married Adlai E. Stevenson I before he became Vice President to Grover Cleveland. He also walked Julia Vrooman down the aisle on her wedding day.
- Carl Vrooman was the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture to President Woodrow Wilson. Through this relationship he got to know President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor who became friends with Julia Vrooman. One of the best spots in the house to learn more about Carl is in the Safe Room on the 1st floor which houses many items from Carl’s time as a government official. (Or you can stay in the suite named after Carl which has an additional sitting room, antique desk and an ensuite bathroom with a clawfoot tub!)
- There is also an unconfirmed rumor that once John F. Kennedy sat at the dining room table in the mansion with Julia Vrooman as he was traveling across Illinois to raise funds for his presidential campaign.
The Lincoln Oak & Franklin Park in Bloomington, Illinois
There is a small plot of land next to the Vrooman Mansion Carriage House where today you’ll find a commemorative plaque. This is the original home of the Lincoln Oak where Abraham Lincoln and his opponent Frederick Douglas gave several speeches. Lincoln was against slavery and spoke often about it passionately as he was seeking Douglas’ Senate seat.
What you may not know is that Julia Scott Vrooman donated this little infamous plot of land from the Vrooman Mansion estate to the city of Bloomington in 1966 so that it could be experienced by anyone in the community. Though the original Lincoln Oak died, it was replaced by another tree in the 1970s.
And not too far from Vrooman Mansion, you’ll find historic Franklin Park. Near Illinois Wesleyan University, this is a place where many prominent figures delivered speeches on the square including William Jennings Bryan (also a friend to the Vroomans), Ulysses S. Grant, Roger Ingersoll, Carl Sandburg, Clarence Darrow, and Theodore Roosevelt (who as we mentioned dined at the Vrooman Mansion dining room table with Eleanor).
Presidential Visitors in McLean County
Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant never stepped foot in the mansion… until November 2021. You read that right. Back in November we were thrilled to have two nationally recognized historic interpreters, Mr. Dennis Boggs as Abraham Lincoln, and Dr. Curt Fields as Ulysses S. Grant stay at Vrooman Mansion. They were in the area in support of the Illinois Association of County Officials Fall Conference, which was held in McLean County for the first time.
Mr. Boggs and Dr. Fields shared their stories of Lincoln and Grant who rose to become American Icons. And we were lucky enough to have a photoshoot with them recreating famous photographs at various spots within and outside the mansion including at the spot of the Lincoln Oak.
Explore More about Lincoln & Grant
There is so much more to learn and explore about Lincoln and Grant, and their relationship. Grant was the Commander of the US Army under Lincoln’s presidency and the two men shared a profound respect and admiration for one another. In fact, Grant was supposed to accompany Lincoln to Ford’s Theater, but had a family change of plans at the last minute that prevented him from attending. According to an account captured in the book Grant by Jean Smith, at Lincoln’s funeral on April 19th Grant stood alone and wept openly; he later said Lincoln was “the greatest man I have ever known”.
Choose to Stay at a Piece of History
Most individuals think of Springfield, Illinois when they think of Abraham Lincoln, but they’d be missing important parts of his journey to the presidency if they left out Bloomington-Normal, IL.
We highly recommend you take a trip down Route 66 to the Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center at the McLean County Museum in downtown Bloomington where you can learn all about Lincoln and his impact on the community, the law profession, and the country. Be sure to ask about Lincoln’s Lost Speech given on May 29, 1856 at the Bloomington Convention and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 to learn more about the relationship between Lincoln and Douglas and why their speeches and debates were so infamous.
Whether you’ve been looking for a homeschool field trip idea or you just love history and want to continue to learn from it, let us be your destination. Book the overnight guest room that best fits your personality, and in the morning walk out to the Lincoln Oak memorial with a fresh cup of coffee.
Choose to stay in a mansion, and come make history.
A special thank you to Dr. Fields and Mr. Boggs for giving us permission to photograph and use their images on our website.