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Book offers a pictorial look at Springfield's history

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SPRINGFIELD - Was it fun? A husband and wife working together to get a book ready for publication in just six months?

Yes, both Carl and Roberta Volkmann of Springfield responded about gathering information and photographs for their "Springfield's Sculptures, Monuments and Plaques."

"Our marriage survived it," said Roberta Volkmann.

Carl Volkmann was the book's photographer; Roberta Volkmann was the book's primary word person. They credit about 50 others with information, ideas and discoveries.

Carl Volkmann is a retired teacher and also the retired director of Lincoln Library, Springfield's public library. Roberta Volkmann is a retired music educator who served as educational consultant in fine arts for the Illinois State Board of Education and is now an arts education consultant.

"I've been an (Abraham) Lincoln buff all my life," said Carl Volkmann. "When I moved to Springfield in 1960, it was like Lincoln heaven."

To continue his love of Lincoln lore and history, Carl Volkmann joined the Abraham Lincoln Association, founded 100 years ago to celebrate the anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

Q: The spark for this book started with Lincoln, didn't it?

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About two years ago, Carl Volkmann decided to traverse Illinois and visit various Lincoln statues to photograph them. He went to 20 different cities and wound up getting his work in print through "Illinois Heritage," a publication of the Illinois State Historical Society.

In doing research in Chicago, he recalled, he discovered a book similar to the one they just published about the sculptures and monuments in that city. The idea for the Springfield was presented at a conference which the publisher was attending and, within a couple of weeks, the Volkmanns signed a six-page contract to create the book.

Q: And about the book's contents?

"It's called a 'cookie cutter' book," said Roberta Volkmann, as the book's design dictates even the number of words permitted to be published with the photographs.

"In most instances, we have more material than we were able to use," said Roberta Volkmann, since words are limited to about 80.

They've talked about setting up a Web site to include all of the additional information which they acquired. And they are also tossing around the idea of another book.

Along the way, they found things they didn't know existed. Take the well-kept grave on busy Chatham Road, marking the burial of a Revolutionary War soldier and kept manicured by an ex-military man who lives close by. Or the 10-foot steel sculpture by Michael Dunbar, of national acclaim, in a quiet neighborhood.

Q: Are there any Decatur connections?

Actually, two.

Native son Preston Jackson has a sculpture on the grounds of the Illinois State Fair, dedicated in 1981. Despite its large size, said Roberta Volkmann, they really had to search for it. It's at building 29, a home economics structure.

And noted Lincoln sculptor, John McClarey of Decatur, has a work in Union Square Park, the fifth and final element of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Incidentally, Jackson has been commissioned to create a sculpture depicting the Springfield race riot to be installed in that same park, Roberta Volkmann added.

Arlene Mannlein can be reached at or 421-6976.

About the book

TITLE: "Springfield's Sculptures, Monuments and Plaques" by Carl Volkmann and Roberta Volkmann

TYPE: paperback, 128 pages

ISBN-10: 0738551651

ISBN-13: 978-0738551654

PUBLISHER: Arcadia Publishing, Feb. 4, 2008

LIST PRICE: $19.99

AVAILABLE: Sumac Shop, Springfield;;;;

The Volkmanns will sign their book starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at Barnes & Noble, Springfield, and again between 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, April 5, in the Sumac Shop, Springfield.


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