Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to Ottawa and LaSalle County. He tried court cases in the community, was mustered out of the militia during the Blackhawk War, travelled on the Illinois & Michigan Canal and also served as a I&M Canal Commissioner. His most notable visit to Ottawa and LaSalle County took place on August 21, 1858. The first of seven Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debates was held in Ottawa’s historic Washington Square. It was estimated that 20,000 spectators gathered to witness this famous debate. Today, the site is now marked by a boulder and plaque, and a fountain topped by bronze statues of the "Railsplitter" and "The Little Giant" forms the centerpiece of the beautifully landscaped square. Retrace Lincoln’s footsteps in Ottawa and LaSalle County.
For more information:
- 8th Judicial Circuit
- Friends of Lincoln
- Good for Kids
- Guided/Self-Guided Tours
- Historic House
- Historic Site
- Lincoln-Douglas Debate
- Passport Site
- Top Destination
- Underground Railroad
- Visitor Information
- Wayside Exhibit
Ottawa Visitor Center
1028 La Salle St. Ottawa, Illinois 61350
The Ottawa Visitors Center was established to serve the traveling public with information on lodging, attractions, events and tourism amenities.
The Ottawa Visitors Center provides the opportunity for many historical tours. On our mural tour you will see locations as well as hear stories about Abraham Lincoln during his many visits to Ottawa. Contact us to learn more!
Ottawa Historical and Scouting Heritage Museum
1100 Canal St. Ottawa, Illinois 61350
The Ottawa portion of the museum features collections of memorabilia relating to Ottawa’s historic past. Located on the Illinois-Michigan Canal, Ottawa was a booming canal town in the 1800s, with industry all along the lateral canal. The museum exhibits artifacts from the past, including a carriage manufactured by the Gay Buggy Company, pianos from the Weaver Piano Factory, an organ from the Western Cottage Organ, marbles from the Peltier Marble Factory, farm equipment from Porter Manufacturing and King and Hamilton, photographic exhibits from some of our local mansions, a dress worn by a local woman during the first Lincoln-Douglas Debates, held in Ottawa in 1858, and other exhibits.
100 W. Lafayette St. Ottawa, Illinois 61350
Built before the Civil War, this ornate 50-foot-tall Italianate mansion was constructed by William Reddick, a leading philanthropist, businessman, LaSalle County Sheriff, and Illinois State Senator. Standing on the corner of Columbus and Lafayette streets in Ottawa, Illinois, the magnificent structure anchors the Washington Square national Historic District and remains as a tribute to the architecture, times, and people of a bygone era.
Commissioned in 1855 and completed in 1858 in time to witness the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate across the street in Washington Square, the splendid mansion was the home of the Reddick family for nearly 30 years. The twenty-two-room building was designed by two prominent mid-western architects: William B. Olmsted and Peter A. Nicholson.
I&M Canal Toll House
1221 Columbus St. Ottawa, Illinois 61350
The only I&M Canal toll house in existence, The Ottawa Office offers a unique glimpse of what life was like in the 1800’s. As only one of four stops for the collection of tolls, these houses once stood in LaSalle, Lockport and Chicago with the LaSalle office closing in 1876.
Lincoln Douglas Debate Site
Washington Sq. Park 101 E. Lafayette St. Ottawa, Illinois 61350
The first Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debate was held in Ottawa’s historic Washington Square on August 21, 1858. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas stood in this beautiful park to deliver the first of seven senatorial debates. It was estimated that 20,000 spectators gathered to witness this famous debate. The site of the debate is marked by a boulder and plaque, and a fountain topped by bronze statues of the “Railsplitter” and “The Little Giant” forms the centerpiece of the beautifully landscaped square.