Officials who oversee the Tazewell County Courthouse have some redecorating decisions looming.

The edifice, historic in its own right, already holds an array of portraits, photographs and other artifacts captured from the county’s, state’s and nation’s past as far back as the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln is prominently displayed among them.

Soon the courthouse will receive an iconic portrait of the president who practiced law in Tazewell and central Illinois. So will every other of the state’s 102 county courthouses.

To mark the state’s bicentennial year in 2018, the Illinois State Historical Society will give each a framed 30-by-40-inch canvas portrait of the 16th president taken in June 1860, five months before his election.

“It is the one which he said he believed depicted the best likeness of him,” said ISHS Executive Director William Furry.

The portraits are a gift from the Jerome Mirza Foundation, a Bloomington-based not-for-profit organization founded by Mirza, a prominent attorney who died in 2007.

The Historical Society has already delivered portraits to 25 counties, including Woodford and McLean last week. Still, word of the gift came as a surprise Monday in Tazewell and Peoria counties.

“I had no idea,” said Courtney Eeten, Tazewell’s court administrator. “I called Peoria; they didn’t know about it either.”

Eeten hopes to learn soon when to expect the Lincoln portrait. By then, she hopes to also know where it will go.

While decisions will be made with the County Board’s Property Committee and Tazewell Circuit Judge Michael Risinger, Eeten said it likely will be displayed in the courthouse’s first-floor lobby.

The lobby is already filled, however, with some of the building’s historical material, including wall-covering cases displaying the names of Tazewell men who served in World Wars I and II – and a portrait of Stephen Douglas, the Illinois senator whom Lincoln defeated for president.

Adding to those items and the Lincoln portrait, the county still plans a display case featuring memorabilia from a time capsule installed in the building’s cornerstone when its construction began in 1914.

The capsule was removed and its contents displayed briefly to the public when the building’s 100th anniversary was celebrated in June 2016. Since then, plans for the display case have moved slowly.

“We’re still deciding what to display (from the capsule) and where” on the first floor, Eeten said. “At the moment, we’re looking into the type of glass” for the display case that will protect its aging contents from damaging light.

The Lincoln portrait was taken by famed Chicago photographer Alexander Hesler in what is now the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph contributed to this article.
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