Springfield is located on a flat plain near the center of Illinois and is home to over 116,482 residents (2006). Settled in the early 1800s, the land was once occupied by several Northern Plains tribes of American Indians. During the expansion of the United States these communities were relocated further northwest to make room for people seeking their fortunes from the eastern states. The city was originally known as Calhoun, after Vice President John C. Calhoun. However, as his popularity diminished the citizens of the city changed the name to Springfield. Abraham Lincoln is one of the city's most important and prominent past residents. He moved to the area in 1831 and lived in Springfield itself from 1837 until 1861. Former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant also lived briefly in Springfield in 1861.
When the American Civil War erupted in 1861, it came as a mixed blessing to the city of Springfield; even though the war took many to battle, new industries, businesses, and railroads were constructed in the city to help support the war effort. Ulysses S. Grant began his Civil War career in the city, marching out of Springfield at the head of a militia on July 3, 1861. In the years following the war, Springfield became a major hub in the Illinois railroad system and besides politics and farming, coal mining was a major industry for Springfield by 1900.
Today, Springfield is known for its food. The corn dog on a stick was invented in the city under the name “cozy dog,” although there is some debate as to the actual origin of the popular snack. The alleged first U.S. drive-through window is still in operation in Springfield at the Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop. The city is also known for its chili, or “chilli”, as it is known in many chili shops throughout Sangamon County. The unique spelling is said to have begun with the founder of the Den Chilli Parlor in 1909, due to a spelling error in the chili parlor’s sign. Another interpretation is that the misspelling represented the “Ill” in the word Illinois. In 1993 the Illinois state legislature adopted a resolution proclaiming Springfield the “Chilli Capital of the Civilized World.”
The city is also home to such performing arts as ballet, jazz and a carillon festival, which happens annually. Common tourist attractions include a multitude of historic sites affiliated with Abraham Lincoln. These include the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, a National Historical Park that includes the preserved neighborhood surrounding the Lincoln Home, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site, the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, the Old State Capitol State Historic Site, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Near the village of Petersburg is New Salem State Park, a restored hamlet of log cabins recreating the town where Lincoln lived as a young man. The Springfield Park District operates more than 30 parks throughout the city. The two best-known are Carpenter Park, an Illinois Nature Preserve on the banks of the Sangamon River, and Washington Park and Botanical Garden on the city's southwest side.