Hotel H&R
The Pike County Courthouse in Pittsfield is reflected, at right, in the window of the historic Watson Hotel on the south side of the square.
THERESA CHURCHILL, FOR THE HERALD & REVIEW

Retirement has made me a more frequent, but strategic, resale shopper.

While I find something useful to buy almost everywhere I go, I tend to take home no more than one or two great “finds” at a time and like keeping an eye out for items my friends and family are looking for. I also prefer going with someone else and enjoying the social aspect of the hunt.

I'm trying to downsize the number of possessions I already have, after all.

Stepping inside Barry Thrift Shop in Western Illinois, however, threatened to send all those good intentions out the window.

It's one of those resale stores you hope you find when you still have the energy to explore every nook and cranny; large but well-organized, with multiple items in almost every category of merchandise you can think of.

Fortunately, Barry was our first stop of the day as we neared Pittsfield, the seat of scenic Pike County, where we planned to spend the weekend.

I left the thrift shop with a sleek pair of New York & Co. dress slacks with tags on ($4), a plastic sandwich bag full of barrettes for 50 cents and a fall-themed vinyl tablecloth still in the package for a couple bucks. My husband Andy, meanwhile, bought a vintage gun cleaner (made of wood) and an auger bit for less than $10.

The store also carries furniture and consignments. Go to barrythriftshop.com for more or pay them a visit on Facebook.

While I had a blast finding some nice costume jewelry at Pike County Collectibles on the square in Pittsfield, the rest of our weekend was devoted to experiencing the rich history of that city and some mighty fine dining.

The city's biggest claim to fame, if you didn't know, is being the hometown of John Nicolay, a former newspaperman who went to Washington, D.C., to serve as Abraham Lincoln's private secretary and who persuaded the president to also bring on his school chum John Hay to help with the work.

The pair went on to collaborate on a 10-volume biography of Lincoln published in 1890, and the two are immortalized with their former boss in busts stationed at the southwest corner of the Pittsfield square.

We stayed across the street at the historic Watson Hotel, built in 1838 by first settler William Watson and where Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were among the attorneys who would gather in the lobby during court sessions.

The hostess kindly upgraded our queen room on the third floor to the king suite next door at no additional charge and helped us up the stairs with our bags. The room was comfortable, featuring original brick walls and a pair of doors for headboards, and offered a spectacular view of the Pike County Courthouse, an elaborate structure completed in 1894.

If only it had been open while we were there so we could have seen what it looks like on the inside, but we arrived on a Saturday and left on a Sunday.

Also on or near the square are at least two great places to eat.

One is Nucci's Bar & Restaurant, which offers Italian cuisine. My choice for lunch was a delightful green pasta salad that allowed me to savor some penne, not to mention black olives, roasted red peppers and a slightly sweet savory dressing, while pacing myself for a more indulgent dinner later on.

We found just such a meal at an American restaurant called the Dome on Madison, where chef Michael Taylor stopped by to see how I liked the halibut cheeks, a delicacy served with pasta and tossed with garlic and crab meat. It's not something he offers among the specials often, he explained, because he waits for the market to make halibut available at an affordable price.

It was awesome, as was our entire dining experience.

We finished up the next morning with a generous helping of history provided by the Abe Lincoln Talking House Tour of homes Abraham Lincoln visited, viewing them from our car and listening to the story of each one by tuning in the appropriate FM radio channel. The tour is free and available anytime during your visit.

Then we explored the Pike County Historical Society Museum on the first floor of the former East School, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I especially enjoyed the exhibits about Lincoln, Nicolay and Hay but also learned some fascinating local history.

Thank you, Becky Ridgeway Kuizinas of Decatur, for suggesting Pittsfield. We'll have to go back, and while we're at it, re-visit Quincy, which is less than an hour away to the northwest.

Directly west, Hannibal, MO, is even closer.

Theresa Churchill is a retired senior writer for the Herald & Review. Suggest people, places and topics for her by emailing theresandy85@gmail.com.

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