Posted in Illinois
September 24, 2022
Illinois became a state on Dec. 3, 1818, offering many historic towns to visit with remnants of the past intact. Its exciting past includes from 10,000 BC when the Paleo Indians roamed the lands, to 1673 when
French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to reach Illinois country to its designation as the 21st state in 1818. And throughout the 20th century and up to now, Illinois has thrived in uncountable areas, such as agriculture, the arts, architecture , medicine and science, transportation, and the military. With such a vast array of impressive accomplishments, any city you choose to visit will prove worthwhile. Here are four of the most historic Illinois towns for your consideration.
Organized in 1833, this charming city is located in Champaign County with a population of about 38,000. Part of this area’s history is The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which opened on March 2, 1868. Established as one of 37 public land-grant institutions, it wears the crown as the second-oldest public university in the state. Notice the architectural details and the inspiring attention to artistic expression.
Built in 1892, the Natural History Building is a historic building on the campus, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Natural History Building, 1301 W Green St, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
Urbana, IL, USA
Architect Nathan Clifford Ricker designed the High Victorian Gothic building, which originally housed the university’s departments of zoology, botany, geology, and a natural history museum. In 2019, it earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold status for its renovation process.
Any season is a good time to visit Lorado Taft’s “Lincoln the Lawyer” at Carle Park, Urbana, Illinois. The piece is located near the walkway that links the park with Urbana High School to the east.
Carle Avenue, Carle Ave, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
Established in 1909, Carle Park is named after Margaret Carle Morris, who donated the land in memory of her late husband Albert G. Carle. Today, the historic landmark has a practice soccer field and playground. It is also home to the award-winning Hickman Tree Walk which features the largest English Oak in Illinois.
You’ll find that the sunset over downtown Urbana, Illinois, highlights a lot of the original architecture.
Alton, Illinois, which sits in Madison County with a population of about 265,000, was developed as a river town in January 1818. While there are many bridges in The Prairie State, the Clark Bridge is a fascinating eye feast. The cable-stayed bridge crosses the Mississippi River between West Alton, Missouri, and Alton, Illinois.
A walk down this street is like going back in time.
You’ll find the vintage architecture on Broadway in Alton, reminiscent of the good ol’ days.
And to celebrate old cars against the historical backdrop, Alton Main Street and Time Machines Unlimited Car Club organize the annual All-Wheels Drive-In Car Show.
The historical Alton Prison wall is another must-see attraction located at William and Broadway streets. The outer corner of one wall is the only remnant of the prison. It is a testament to both history and the Civil War.
The Illinois State Penitentiary opened in 1833, which included a hospital and other buildings. After it closed in July 1860, it was reopened two years later due to the demand for confederate prisoners of war left by the Union victory at Fort Donelson, Tennessee. It closed for good on July 7, 1865.
Established in April 1835, Elgin is located in Cook and Kane counties near Chicago along the Fox River. With a population of about 115,000, it is the seventh-largest city in Illinois.
Old house lovers and historians will love the Gifford Park Association’s Historic Elgin House Tour.
Elgin Historic District, Elgin, IL 60120, USA
Each year a different number of houses are featured in the tour. Flexible tickets allow you to spread out the tour over the two-day event.
The detailed Pioneer Memorial Statue, located near the Fox River at the Kimball Street Bridge, was designed by local sculptor Trygve Rovelstad in the 1930s to honor the 100th anniversary of the settlement of Elgin. It took about 70 years from conception to completion.
The beautiful statue represents a pioneer family led by a scout, moving across the Illinois prairie to settle the new frontier.
This amazing 1930s Works Progress Administration project Walton Island, located just south of the Elgin Dam on the Fox River, is a 4.5-acre space offering fishing, walking paths, and a pavilion shelter commonly used for weddings and other special events.
Walton Island Park, Fox River Trail (Algonquin to Aurora), Elgin, IL 60120, USA
This Cook County village has a population of about 12,000 and is one of the wealthiest places in the nation with the highest household income. The first houses were built here in 1836.
Constructed about a year later, the Schmidt-Burnham Log House is the oldest log structure in Cook County, Illinois. It is named for the Schmidt family, who lived in the house from 1841 to 1870, and the Burnham family who lived there from 1917 to 2001.
Schmidt-Burnham Log House, 1140 Willow Rd, Winnetka, IL 60093, USA
Winnetka, IL, USA
When the house was given to the Winnetka Historical Society in 2001, the house was the longest-occupied home in northern Illinois. In 2003 the historical society moved the house to Crow Island Woods, where you can see it today.
Another historical relic rests at Winnetka Village Green in memoriam.
Winnetka Village Hall, 510 Green Bay Rd, Winnetka, IL 60093, USA
Part of the plaque reads, “This gun was mounted on the Defenses of Cavite Arsenal (at Fort San Filipe in Manila) which surrendered to Commodore George Dewey May 1898.” A decision to turn it into scrap was changed to keep the valuable piece of history and to share it with all who pass.
Today, the town boasts ample opportunities for shopping and dining out. When you visit, be sure to pay particular attention to the architecture.
Are you planning to visit one of these 4 historic towns in Illinois? The state’s history is as varied as its cities. Have you visited any other historic towns in Illinois? Please let us know about your experience in the comments below.
Address: Winnetka Village Hall, 510 Green Bay Rd, Winnetka, IL 60093, USA
Address: Elgin Historic District, Elgin, IL 60120, USA
Address: Walton Island Park, Fox River Trail (Algonquin to Aurora), Elgin, IL 60120, USA
Address: Carle Avenue, Carle Ave, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
Address: Alton, IL, USA
Address: Natural History Building, 1301 W Green St, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
Address: Urbana, IL, USA
Address: Schmidt-Burnham Log House, 1140 Willow Rd, Winnetka, IL 60093, USA
Address: Winnetka, IL, USA