Much of the city's early history is inextricably bound to its most famous resident, Abraham Lincoln, who lived in Springfield from 1837 until he left for the White House in 1861. He helped make it the state capital (Illinois's third) in 1839. When a local race riot led to the lynching of two African Americans in 1908, black leaders noted that it occurred in Lincoln's old city, weakening their faith in the Republican Party and causing them to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Things have been a little quieter since that time. Even the great recession has so far failed to make a huge dent in Springfield's economy, which relies heavily on state government spending and payroll. Those steady jobs, in turn, have helped the housing market. The median price of a local single-family home barely dipped when the housing bubble burst and has now climbed to $123,600, up 13 percent from its prerecession peak, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Springfield is the only one of the six post-bubble cities with median household income above the national average: $53,408 vs. $52,029. But it also faces the biggest economic challenge, because Illinois is struggling with its worst budget in history (more than $12 billion) and the largest of any state this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
If state government jobs start getting cut, the effect could spill over into the housing market.