Mushroom Hunting

The rain that came in from the tropical depression this weekend has invigorated  the local mushroom population.  I hate eating them, but it is fun to trapes around the rural areas of Illinois and uncover patches among the lush undergrowth.

When walking in the forest around the Lake Evergreen hiking trails, I saw several a few puff balls.  These are neat since when they are dry and mature that they release huge amounts spores when prodded.  I normal see these in the grassland of the Merwin Nature Preserve.

 

 

Around Sugar Grove there were several large patches in the muddy areas and attached to dead trees scattered throughout the natural preserve.

These mushrooms are bulbous with a black top and grow on older dead trees.  They seem airy and collapse if pressure is placed on the cap.

 

 

There are large groups of these white mushrooms.  They are found in open and muddy areas and can heavily populate trails loam parts of trails.

 

 

There is a lot of growth (white) that contrast with their more mature brown black fungi.

 

 

Some disconcerting slimy new growth.  These seem to grow on both live and dead trees within older forest growth.  I don’t see this type very often.  It usually grows after spring rains.

Going Home–Courthouses of Northwest Illinois

These seven counties are the last stretch I needed to complete all of the 102 county courthouses.  In that time I have visited nearly every town that had over 20,000 people and got to see some amazing landscapes and spoke with many people. 

I waited to do these last since they include my hometown and many places that I haunted when I was a child.

Yes, going through the area I had a bit a nostalgia.  However, several decades after leaving,  I don’t feel the need to return.  Other than the beautiful areas surrounding Galena, most towns are typical of the Rust Belt.  Both Freeport and the west side of Rockford being some of the worst areas I have seen in my travels in Illinois.

 

Ogle County – Oregon

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Driving west from I-39 towards Oregon the land changes from rolling plains of Central Illinois to hilly and  forested land of the Driftless Area.  While not as forested as the Shawnee National Forest part of the Little Egypt in southern part of the state, it still contain pretty drives, especially along the Rock and Mississippi Rivers.

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The courthouse is a fairly typical 1890’s structure with deep red façade with a base of limestone.  The grounds and it’s upkeep where above average given the small population of the county.

It sits on the confluence of two very busy routes through the area giving it block around it a somewhat vibrant feel .

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Like many towns in western and northern rural areas, the county decided to just keep adding structures.  To the south lay the ugly jail and police station.

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Monument of wars fought from the Spanish-American War on.

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One of the stark contrasts of the Little Egypt area and Northwestern Illinois is the enthusiasm to remember the Civil War.   During this time, this area of Illinois very a strong supporter of the Union and Lincoln.

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This highly detailed monument was on the court grounds along with several Civil War era cannon visible in front of the entry of the courthouse.

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Old school water fountain.  These were built in the early 20th Century as the Temperance Movement took off.   The idea was to give people somewhere to drink without having to go to a saloon for a beer.  However, this model is very unhygienic.  There is a great 99% Invisible podcast about them.

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The square around the grounds has a few open stores catering to local needs.  However, like most other small towns, many buildings are vacant. 

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The city seems to have kept most of the early 20th Century buildings from the decay happening in central and southern Illinois.  It helps that there is so much local traffic that drives the town to keep up appearances.

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Off the courthouse square is historic Conover Square Mall.  It doesn’t look like much, but I love the old water tower stand in the back.

Lee County – Dixon

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Dixon is a typical rust belt time that saw its peak in the 1960.  Since then, it has suffered a slow decline as manufacturing moved from the area and rail became less important. 

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The New Lee County Courthouse is a typical bland 1980-90s structure standing on the edge of the downtown on a busy north-south road.

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There isn’t much to like about the structure. 

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On the west side an old police sign hangs outside the old police station.

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Unlike many towns, Dixon kept its old 1900s era courthouse.  It is impressive neoclassical structure dominating a hill overlooking the downtown.

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The front has some neat pillars and give it an almost gaudy presence of governmental power.

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One the grounds, there are several plaques about famous people from past era.  Unlike many towns, they are tasteful remembrances of the past.

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To the south and east is residential areas with several grand churches and large historical homes.

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An old church on the square.  It needs a little TLC.

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Traveling towards the river, we see some of the historical legacy of Ronald Regan.  Here is a part (or recreation) of the Belin Wall.

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Some paintings remembering Reagon’s Tear Down This Wall speech.

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Dixon’s downtown caters to local tastes with a hint of tourism mixed in.  Like most towns, many of the storefronts are vacant.

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Walgreen started his first store in Dixon.  He is remembered along the river walk.

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The Rock river park walk.  Here is Regan riding a horse straight out of western film.

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Unlike many of the other former president’s birth sites, Regan’s birth place is in an unassuming middle class area with many of the local homes in the area still inhabited by locals.

Whiteside County – Morrison

Since Morrison is a small town in the middle of nowhere, I have never stopped in Morrison before today.  The only times I have been in the area is to go somewhere else like Iowa.

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The Whiteside County Courthouse is a thoroughly modern structure that is out of place in the older residential area is sits in.

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The front reminds me of the county courthouse in Springfield.  It is very unitarian like something built in Minecraft.

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It does have some interesting topological features as several of the floors are built into the hill. 

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Several block south of courthouse hill is the downtown area situated near the rail line running through town.

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Most of the business are small local mom and pop shops with most of the larger buildings vacant.  The town is trying to keep up appearances, but most it looks like most people shop in the larger communities such as Sterling-Rock Falls.

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The veterans memorial sits in the local cemetery.  It contained one of the few Vietnam era howitzers. 

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Just outside of town near Morrison-Rockwood State Park, there is wooden covered bridge that can be driven across.  I used to country cruise to this spot on occasion in my youth.

Carrol County – Mt. Carrol

Mt. Carrol is the smallest county seat in this drive.  It was originally a mill town and seminary school, although both have long since closed.

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The courthouse is of 1850s neoclassical which as been added to at least three times since.  The entrance sport several large pillars in much the style of older courthouses found in the west central areas along the Illinois River.

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Because it has been added to so often, the design is a mishmash of different eras.  Oddly, it looks like much of the downtown area that expanded in a similar way. This makes it look normal and not out of place with the environment.

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The town sports an nice monument to the fallen.

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It is only the second courthouse that houses a jail.  Notice the penned in area where those incarcerated can get some sunshine. 

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Like other towns in the area, the grounds sport a large Civil War monument.  Rather impressive given the population of the county.

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The town still uses its Carnage Library to store books.  It is in good condition given the many abandoned building in the surrounding area. 

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The downtown area was quiet when I went through.  People in the area were a mix of locals and tourists.

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Shimer College had once had their campus in the town.  It closed and moved in the 1950s leaving many of the buildings unused.  In the 1980s, my dad took me to a festival on the grounds and I got to sneak around in some of these buildings.

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The buildings have slowly deteriorated over time.  This is unfortunate as some still show their beautiful designs in the quiet quad.

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Former residence hall.  I was the only person on the grounds making the area feel like a nature preserve dotted by buildings.

Jo Daviess County – Galena

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The river road from Mt Carrol to Galena is some of the most beautiful areas in Illinois.  The hilly and scape is a mix of forest dotted by pastures and the occasional corn farm.

I didn’t spend much time as I would have liked in Galena.  It is the premiere tourist town in Illinois so there is a lot to see and do.  The downtown was packed with visitors from Chicago taking in the beauty of the area.

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The courthouse is on a hill over looking the town.  Built in the 1840s, it isn’t much to look at compared to the splendor of the rest of the town.  It is a common red brick affair with a limestone foundation.

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Like most other rural areas on this trip, the county decided to add on three or four times since it was first built.  They didn’t even bother color matching the additions with limestone making up the next section and  yellow brick on the third part.

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The real entrance to the building is tucked in the back.  The stone looks like typical WPA era construction.

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Former President Grant’s home sits on a hill overlooking the town.   It is fairly modest given many other historical home in the area.

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He and his wife had a splendid view of the town.

Stephenson County – Freeport

Coming into my hometown, was interesting to say the least.  The town has fallen on hard times since I left as the manufacturing base has dwindled.  The street I grew up on now sports several abandoned houses and even vacant lots where homes that I used to play in sat.  Even a apartment building behind my boyhood home was falling in on itself. 

It was a sad site.  Fortunately a family still lives in the home I grew up in.

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I used to think the Stephenson County Courthouse was an oppressive structure until I visited the others in Illinois.  Now its just another example of ugly 1970s era architecture.

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The utilitarian façade shows its age and lack of upkeep.  The only change of note since I last saw it was the addition of ‘In God We Trust’ in the front.  Several years ago, the town decided to add the staying to all its buildings, with mixed success.

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Like others, the grounds sports a large Civil War monument. 


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The downtown was much like I remembered.  If they survived the last few decades, many of the shops still inhabit the same places.  The town has done a decent job of removing the badly maintained buildings.  The apartment that I lived in on the edge of the downtown is now a parking lot for Rubbermaid employees.

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The town once had an impressive town hall built in the early part of the 20th century.  It is now condemned and looking for a buyer.

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Fortunately, the town decided to fix up the Carnage Library.  I spent many hours hiding in the musty book shelves and it good to see the town putting it to use, even if it is no longer a library.

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The Library sits next to a wonderful old church.

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One addition to the town is in Read Park.  The city decided to build a mini Wrigley Field.  It is one of the more interesting little league diamonds I have seen.

Winnebago County – Rockford

Driving from Freeport to Rockford on US-20 was surreal.  On approaching the city from the west, one can really see the blight that Rockford holds.  In the 1980s, US Business 20 used to have many houses and commercial buildings.  Most are gone now with long streets of nothing as nature reclaims the land.

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The courthouse is of typical late 1960s design.  Because of the size of the city, it is one of the largest outside the Chicagoland area.

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It sits mostly in an area with other local government facilities so one the weekend it was rather quiet.  There is a park on the grounds that goes over the history of Lincoln’s time in the area in exhaustive detail.

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Bust of Lincoln next to what looks like the older 1900s era courthouse, which is still in use.

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Courthouse hidden behind some trees to hide the pedestrian outside wall.

Locations

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Rock Island Trip

The only time I visited Rock Island before this weekend was a long summer country cruise in my teens.  Along with one of my friends, we started late one night going through Iowa and rural parts of Illinois finally ending in the Quad Cities as the sun was rising.

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The Mississippi was the defining feature of the cities grounding them along its wide flood plain and bluffs.  I remember the town itself as bit rundown like Rockford and other towns in Northwest Illinois. 

This was one of the longer trips.  I went to at least a dozen towns in eight counties.

Knox County – Galesburg

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The Knox County Courthouse in Galesburg is a fairly typical design found through out the middle of Illinois.  Like many lightly populated counties, the building built in 1887 is still in use.  It has been maintained fairly well over the years sitting on a very large plot of land buttressing an auberdem to the west and Knox College to the south.

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The clock tower is well integrated and fits the decorum of the buildings Romanesque design.   The windows give it a church like feel.  The town has many buildings built around this time in similar design.  This  suggests that its height of growth was in the years following the Civil War.

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On the grounds was this interesting Civil War monument that commemorates Mother Brickerdyke that offered her soldier to the Union’s fighting men in many battles.  There are several other dedications in her honor throughout the town.

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With a short walk, I made it to the quad of Knox College.  This is one of the many decent sized private liberal arts college found through out Northwest Illinois.  The campus itself is large and airy.  It gives the feeling of being in a the large fields found throughout the flatlands of Illinois.

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The building and grounds are modest but nicely curated.

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Galesburg is was built on railroads.  A large number of tracks crisscross the town.  Near the Amtrak station is a railroad museum dedicated to the Burlington Line that owned the tracks in the Gilded Age.

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Carl Sandburg’s home, a poet famous in the 20th century.  While I am not much for poetry, I have read a bit of his work since my middle school was named after him.

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A statue of Sandburg on the town square.  If I knew, I’d gotten a picture of the old courthouse that is on the square.  The overall downtown is rundown.  Most of the stores cater to local tastes and the students attending college.  Fortunately, it does have a decent coffee house.

Warren County – Monmouth

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The Warren County Courthouse is built in a similar fashion to the one in Galesburg only built later.  It is missing its clock tower, that was removed for structural reasons.  The grounds are surrounded by a low wall, which do a fine job of bounding the plainly kept grounds. 

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The missing clock gives the side of the building a jail like appearance.

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The downtown has seen its better days.  Much of the storefront lie fallow.  There were some interesting period architecture that is slowly rusting away.

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Monmouth College is a private liberal arts college in one of the more established middle class neighborhoods in town.  The college is most impressive given its remoteness to large population centers.

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The rolling grounds and building are maintained very well.  When walking around the open quad, there are many cubbies, statues, and art installations that give the grounds a peaceful and contemplative vibe.  

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Birth home of the colorful sheriff Wyatt Earp.  There is no much to see on this side of town, so it is likely skipped by most travelers to the town.

Henderson County – Oquawka

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In the remote river town of Oquawka stands Henderson County Courthouse.  The modest building built in the 1840s looks typical for the period made out of red brick and white painted wood.  There isn’t much on the ground other than a howitzer and a grindstone from an old mill.

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The side profile shows at least 3 additions throughout the years.  Most are fairly well integrated.

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A few block south sits the downtown area with its large center street and mostly abandoned buildings.  Given the remoteness of the town and its tiny size, it isn’t a surprise that the downtown is dead.

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Monument dedicated to the Lincoln first utterance of the House Divided speech by Lincoln.

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Maybe this is why Barack Obama gave a speech in town when his was running for Senator.

Mercer County – Aledo

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The Mercer County courthouse is built in an almost identical design to the one in Galesburg with a integrated clock tower and tan limestone façade.  The east side entrance has a cool dungeon door.

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The grounds are wooded with a large park across the highway.  There is a statue of Teddy Roosevelt that commemorates his accomplishments and an academy that was once trained cadets.

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A Lincoln visited here a few days in his life plaque.   Every place in Illinois that Lincoln slept must have a plaque of some sort.

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A few block north, the downtown has a bit of life for the local population or tiquers but not much else.  This cool abandoned service station is a blast from our automotive past.

Rock Island County – Rock Island

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The most unpleasant courthouse I have seen is the one in Rock Island.  It is on a busy street connection Rock Island to Davenport Iowa via a bridge.  This makes the area loud and tiring to traverse.

The building itself is similar national design found in mid-sizes towns such as Pekin.

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The Gettysburg Address that needs a bit of cleaning, but like the rest of the town. 

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This is a ventilator of the USS Maine, which was sunk in the Havana harbor and directly then lead to the Spanish-American war.  It seems like a monument to fake news given what actually happened to the ship.

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This box like structure is the new law and justice center that is scheduled to open soon.

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The area around the courthouse is run down with closed office, residential and church buildings.  This adds to the unpleasantness of the area.

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The downtown is mostly geared towards night life.  There are few retail shops and only the occasional eatery. 

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The Mississippi River front is a nice area with a long bike path and several areas for families and boating.  Across the river is Davenport Iowa, the biggest town of the Quad Cities.

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The largest religious private liberal arts school in the area is Augustana College.  It has a wonderful quad, if your up for stairclimbing.  The trees around the ground do a wonderful job of giving that rural feeling.  Visitor can feel lost for a while until a building pops into view.

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One of the many religious buildings scatters though this large campus.

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Moline’s downtown is much better than the one Rock Island.  It helps that it has the headquarters of John Deere to keep the local economy vibrant. 

Moline has an abandoned Carnage Library.  I hope someone will turn into something interesting, like Freeport did when it became city hall. 

Overall Moline and East Moline are much more affluent compared to the county seat.  They are home to many retails shops.

Henry County – Cambridge

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The Henry County Courthouse is the most impressive ones of the trip.  Its large windows give the building impressive height reminiscent of mansions built in the Gilded Age.

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However, the back of the building is marred by a connection to the jail.  The institutional feel makes the back of the building not worth seeing.

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A bell commemorating the Columbian Exposition (e.g. Chicago’s World Fair.)  Not sure why it was in the park near the courthouse since it doesn’t seem to have any correlation to the fair. 

Other than this, there isn’t much to see in this quiet town.  The downtown just isn’t really a part of the town anymore.

Bureau County – Princeton

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Bureau County County Courthouse is built in the pre-WWII boring institutional style like other  structures built with WPA funds.  Fortunately, the courthouse abuts the downtown and a park, which make the surrounding area interesting.

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The back of the structure is somewhat better with a bit more flair in the outside walls so long as the communications tower isn’t in the picture.

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Because Princeton is on the town is on I-80 so is likely draws people from the surrounding counties as well as the occasional Chicago tourist.  It is a nice well kept downtown that was very busy on a Sunday afternoon.

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War memorial across the street from the courthouse.  It is quite impressive for such a small town.

Putnam County – Hennepin

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Putnam County is the smallest and one of the least populated counties in Illinois.  Its courthouse reflects this.  It is one of the smallest I have seen and is the oldest courthouse still in use in Illinois.

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Like the Henry county, the courthouse has been added two over the years.  There are at least four additions, each in a different style.  This make the back look more like a warehouse.

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John Wesley Powell memorial.  It would have been cooler if it was a statue of him going down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.

Quincy Travels

Over the 4th of July Weekend, I traveled towards Quincy to see how the changes to city since I last haunted during my youth.  One the way, As usual, I scoped several of county courthouses and downtowns along the way.

Schuyler County – Rushville

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The Schuyler Country Courthouse is an older but well maintained brick and stone structure built along the southwest corner of Rushville’s downtown square.  Built in the 1880s it shows the typical archway entrance of many of its kind.

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Like many others, the clock tower is out of character with the rest of the building.  I have a suspicion that this deliberate to people find the time piece before many people where able to put one on their arm in their pocket.

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A Civil  War memorial near the entrance.  The grounds in the front and north sides are well maintained, with a iron fence bounding the entrance. This gives the grounds a little flair not present in other courthouses.

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The downtown square was busier than most despite the town’s small size and remoteness from other population centers.  An unusual feature is that the town kept its brick roads, which seemed to improve the area’s rural atmosphere.

Brown County – Mt. Sterling

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The Brown County Courthouse sits the small rural town of Mt. Sterling.  Like the town itself, it somewhat run down nestled in the furthest part of the down town area.

Unique to the grounds is a park and playground directly behind the building. 

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The front of this brick structure has several large pillars that give it at least a little character.  From the looks of it, the build has been added on at least two times in its history.  Unfortunately, the bricks and windows differ in size and quality so detract from it beauty from in the side and back of the building.

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Down the street is a new  memorial with the names of the fallen throughout the park.  It would have been more scenic if the buildings adjacent where in better repair.

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The town itself has no real square with a mix of local businesses catering to the people in the area.  The former bank building pictured is one of the more architecturally attractive buildings in an otherwise bland area.

Pike County – Pittsfield

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The Pike County Courthouse is an imposing limestone structure built near the turn of the 20th century.  Built like a European estate or castle it has many architectural flairs not seen in most built around the same time.

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The parade grounds are well maintained and spacious giving the town square and open airy feel. 

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Again the clock tower is out of place compared to the rest of the building.  It looks like there is a church growing out of the middle of the courthouse.

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The memorial to the fallen sits outside the entrance.


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Lincoln and two of his Presidential Secretaries that once called the area home.

Unfortunately, Pittsfield’s downtown has seen its better days with many vacant storefronts and few people about unlike Rushville.   It might be too close to Quincy, which would pull people to its somewhat vibrant west side shopping district.

Adams County – Quincy

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This ugly building is the Adam Count Courthouse.  Built in 1950, from all sides, it look warn down and became somewhat neglected as the Midwest rusted out.  There are many buildings in town that were built in similar fashion.  It is likely that at the time of construction, Quincy was in on the go after WWII.

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The side and back are not much better.  Sheesh the architecture of the post war is ugly.

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While not near the park, there are many sighting of Lincoln in the Washington Park town square.  It is a rather nice park situated on a hill near the Mississippi.

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The first settler in Quincy.  Love the beard on the statue.

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Edgewater Park was one of the few places I remember walking around.  Wedged between the US 24 and train bridge, it offers a place to get away with several bike trails following the river.

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The place I spend most of my time when I was a teen was near the Quincy College campus.  Nestled in the nice middle class neighborhood it is quite a sight once you find it as it doesn’t look like there would be college in the area.

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Like many other college campuses I have been to in mid-south Illinois, not much seems change now.  The outside the main campus building the buildings are range from understated to ugly with the nicest buildings reserved for the churches dotted around the area.

After leaving Quincy, I realized why I don’t really remember the area well.  In my youth I was traveling from one Rust Belt town to another.  Outside the river, there wasn’t much different about it town and where I grew up.

Hancock County – Carthage

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The Hancock Count Courthouse in Cartage is many of similar features to the others built around the turn of the 20th Century in Central Illinois.  The deco is white marble with an out of place clock tower popping out the top.

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At least the white of the tower is better than most.  It somewhat matches the rest of the building.  Perhaps it is the red roof domes squaring the building the aid this view.  Like others in the area, the central square grounds is larger than most, which actually makes this structure pop out because differences in coloration from foliage surrounding the building.

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Stone stating the Lincoln came here.  The citizens of Carthage are more low-keyed than most about the 16th president.

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Like many towns way out in the rural Illinois landscape, the downtown had seen its better day.  Even nearing the end of the working day, there were few people about.

McDonough County – Macomb

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While needing a bit of TLC in places, the McDonough County Courthouse was the highlight of this trip.  Set in the middle of the Macomb town square it lights up the area with it red on white design. 

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The building much longer than it is wide.  This space gave the architect room to add unique character too each entrance.

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The clock in the tower doesn’t fully work, but it is well integrated. 

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Bloomington has its painted corn statues while Macomb has its bulldogs, the mascot of IWU.  The downtown businesses are an interesting mix.  There are many local stores for residents along with those catering to  students such as bars and game stores.

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Just off the the town square is a second square/park with many statures.  This one is usual for the area since it depicts heroes of the women’s rights movement.

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Unlike ISU, U of I, and EIU, I found the IWU campus unusually far away from the center of town.  This gives it a rural feel.

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Like EIU, it campus has seen its better days.  Most of the structures where built in the ugly structure period between WWII and 1980. 

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Despite my dislike of the buildings surrounding it, I like the quad.  It is sprawling, forested and has many terrain features uncommon to the flat farming areas typically found in the area.

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While walking around, I scared up a doe, rural indeed.

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Hmm, our future leaders need a art class or two.

Ford County

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The trip through the South-Central Illinois took two days because of how long it took to travel about the backroads.  Therefore, I took a special trip to Ford County to get the last courthouse on the trip.

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Ford County – Paxton

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The Ford County Courthouse is like many in the area rebuild in the early ‘00 of the 20th century out of red brick and concrete.  The copper dome is understated in the building and actually fits the structure better than most.

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The square is a mix of residential and government structures.  Unfortunately the grounds are marred by a large communications tower and ugly jail built directly behind the building.  The town itself is an non-descript rural railroad community that didn’t seem have anything of note.

Rantoul

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Rantoul is another mid-sized town in Ford.  It features and nearly abandoned Air Force base that is open to the public for urban exploration.

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Unlike the grounds, the hangars are in decent shape and are home to private aircraft as well as storage.

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In the center of the air base houses a small commons area with a monument to the flyers that were once stationed here.

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Unusual statue made of wood and stone.

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There is an air museum located at the base, but it was closed when I toured the area.

Central Illinois Travels

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I took a short trip around central Illinois to track down four more county courthouses.  The area of South-Central Illinois is flat and rather boring.  The main features are the U of I, corn, more corn, and some soybeans. 

Piatt County – Monticello

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The turn of the 20th century court house of Piatt County is a nicely maintained brick and concrete structure in the middle of Monticello’s town square.  For a courthouse, it is understated with minor near the roof and several fake columns above the building entrances.

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The grounds the courthouse sits one is lifted about a foot or two off the square and nicely lined with trees and well maintained lawn.

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Plain entrance spiffied with a few potted plants.

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The near ubiquitous plaque of Lincoln in that pops up in Central Illinois.

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The downtown geared towards the areas upscale residents and has stores for the occasional tourist.  Even the few vacant buildings are well maintained.

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Steeple Gallery is a coffee house/gallery off the square in a converted church.

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Monticello likes converting its local churches.  This is Monarch Brewing Company.

The town seems to be a bedroom community for Champaign-Urbana given how upscale and well kept the town seemed to be.

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A random horse head statue.  Like the rain stain the marble the metal.

 

Bement

Bement is a small town south of Monticello.  I stopped because the entire town was out in force celebrating the Old Glory Festival.

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When milling through the festivities, I notice the Bryant College Historic Site where Lincoln and Doulas discussed how to run their debates in 1858.  Such a tiny abode for even well off residents in rural 1850s America.

Moultrie County – Sullivan

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The Moultrie County courthouse was built around the same time the Piatt County one above with its brick and stone features.  It uses better materials with the façade a rich yellow marble likely taken from quarries closer to the Illinois River.

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The dome is a bit out of place compared to the rest of the building.  It is sided in metal with several working clocks at the top.

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The grounds feature several war monuments and this fountain.

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Keeping it real.

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An impressive Civil War Statue.


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The square is contains many and vacant buildings that haven’t been updated recently.  The bank has to neat walk up teller.  I love the font of the signage.

Amish

Once outside of town, I saw several Amish and Mennonites through out the backroads.

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A Hippy Memorial in Arcola.  Very unique considering that the area is somewhat conservative.

Douglas County – Tuscola

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The Tuscola County Courthouse sits in a residential area of town.  This was unique in my travels because the usual placement of government buildings are either in the town square or someplace just of the main road through town.


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It is built more or less like a US Post Office.  It screams that there are government institutions herein.  The west entrance as a cool glass windows above and written about the building in a Greek lettering font.

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The town felt more run down than most.  My guess is that the residents relocated towards the I-57 interchange.  Across the street is an abandoned church.

Champaign County – Urbana

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The Urbana County Courthouse is a mix of old and new.  The section containing the clock tower was built of red stone around 1901.   It looks like it should be a part of U of I just down the road.

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The newer section is a ugly attempt at keeping the decorum.  The plaza in front of the northern section is non-descript and plain.

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The bell from the old courthouse sits unloved behind the parking garage on the west side of the building.

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The town center is a mix a upscale eateries and boutiques and run down buildings.  This is a picture of abandoned Urbana Hotel and Conference Center attached to the dying Lincoln Square Mall.

Trip to the Mouth of the Illinois River

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On a stormy morning in June, I took off to see the counties following the Illinois River and to see where it stops at the great Mississippi.

Menard County – Petersburg

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The town of Petersburg is nestled near the Sangamon River.  This river valley gives the area a sense of height and beauty with the hills hiding the full size of the town in the beautiful forest. 

The Menard County Courthouse is a few blocks away from the river sitting in the middle of the town square.  The landscaping is rather pretty, it is one of the few that grows native flowers and trees.

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Built around the turn of the 20th century, it is rather imposing brick and concrete structure compared to the smaller commercial structures lining the square.

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The square is a mix of dying  establishments catering local tastes and a few small tourist shops that are only open during the weekend.  The later businesses seem to survive because Lincoln’s New Salem State Park is just down the South IL-123.

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An old school converted to residential and mixed use.  The wording on the central building was so faded that I couldn’t tell what the name was.  It was one of a number of closed school structures near the downtown signifying the slow decline in population in the area.

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Former home of Edgar Lee Masters, a poet and writer famous in the late 19th and early 20th century.

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The town of Petersburg doesn’t have a statue of Lincoln.  This is not surprising as just down the road, visitors can get their fill of his life at the state park noted above.  In the park there are many depictions of the man.  Boy do artists seem to revere him.  The statue above makes him look like Adonis.  True man’s man in frontier Illinois.  He is famous in the area as a surveyor before becoming a lawyer and president.

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The park is a reenactment of live around the time of settlement in Illinois.  Not being of interest to me as this area doesn’t have wifi, I took a quick look and moved on to the next town.

Cass County – Virginia

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The Cass County Courthouse is in the small town of Virginia.  Built in 1875, the locals couldn’t keep well enough alone with poorly added addition over the next 100 years.  The wings mar the interesting main section of the building.  The structure reminds me of a what you’d see on a southern plantations built around the same time. 

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On the side of the entrance shows the Ten Commandments.  I saw similar plaques in Carrolton and Carlinville.  These were all added around the same time in efforts to solidify the conservative nature of the area, although I am not sure when it happened.

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The square is a bit run down with many commercial buildings constructed around the same time as the courthouse.   The businesses that were left seemed busy unlike other towns I visited.  Given its remoteness in the wilds of corn and soybean plots, Virginia is likely a hub of activity for the rural residents.

Morgan County – Jacksonville

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The Morgan County Courthouse in Jacksonville is an impressive stone structure.   Built in 1868 of large limestone blocks, it looks like a cross between an Italian villa and a older catholic church. 

Oddly, it is a block away from one of the larger town squares I have seen that looks like the read center of the towns summer activities.   The plaques on the square says that after the second courthouse burned down, they decided to relocate it further west.

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The clock tower on the southeast side of the building.

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In place of the old courthouse, and impressive roman inspired statue to that solutes the end of slavery.  I actually found this a bit ironic since one of the major employers in the area is the Jacksonville Correctional Center.

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The Constitution and Bill of Rights in the town square.  The square is very well kept, with a stage and other park equipment.  The businesses around look like they cater to the local population.  Most of the buildings in the area seemed well kept even if they were vacant.

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Jacksonville is home to two small colleges and several specialized schools.  MacMurray College is a small private liberal arts college that was once women only.  Now it is the bright spot in an otherwise run down area of town.  It is not as bad as the barbed wire and high steel fences surrounding Knox College, but the area is more neglected than most college campuses I visit.

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Illinois College is the larger college in town.  This liberal arts college is nestled in an older well kept area of town.  The college quad reminds me of Illinois Wesleyan College in Bloomington but with a more southern flare in the architecture.

Scott County – Winchester

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Scott County Courthouse looks like the model southern Illinois courthouse.  Built in the late 19th century of brick surrounded by tin painted in a pretty pearl color.

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While the clock was added later, it still was broken.  Must has been because of the 1.21 gigawatt lightening strike it received is the past.

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When driving south of Springfield, Lincoln is not revered as much.  Instead, Stephen A Douglas becomes more of a historical figure.   On this spot in Winchester is where Lincoln got into politics after a debate about legalizing slavery in Illinois, which would go against the Missouri Compromise.  This argue culminated in the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

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The abandoned Winchester Hotel on the southeast side of the square is indicative of the state of the town.   Given its remoteness to larger communities, there is not much here to keep the youth from migrating away.

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On the way to Hardin, one needs a boat ride.  This is one of the two farriers that Illinois operates.

The drive down from Winchester to Hardin is one of the most beautiful in Illinois.  Their are many large farms surrounded by forested bluffs.  The farm land changes when moving south from Central Illinois.  The soil becomes sandier and there is more irrigation piping.  Since it is warmer, the crops are much further along.

Calhoun County – Hardin

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Calhoun is the least populated county in Illinois.  As such, their county courthouse looks more like a small church or elementary school.   From the outside, it looks new, but it is actually older than most.  The center section was built in 1848 and slowly expanded over time.

Hardin is a surprise after the rolling valleys north of it. The town is up against hills and looks more like it should be on the Mississippi River.

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After Hardin, it was off to the mouth of the Illinois River near Grafton Illinois.

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Where the Illinois meets the mighty Mississippi is much like any other location in Mississippi with bluffs surrounding wide flood plans.


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Look the lawnmower of my dreams!  This swag is just what I expect in a tourist trap.  Grafton is a tourist town, albeit a dying one.  I’d wager this is because it is hard to find since it is not on an Interstate and the fact there are so many nicer places to take vacations in the 21st century.  The area is ideal for fishing and hiking, but the town doesn’t offer much to those with kids.  Most of the vacationers around town were older married people without kids in tow.

Jersey County – Jerseyville

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The Jersey County Courthouse is an impressive limestone mansion married by its central tower.   The central tower looks like a mushroom sprouting up over the roof.  It is oddly colored and doesn’t match the decorum of either the rest of the structure or the other buildings surrounding the courthouse square.

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The counties closer to St Louis features Back the Blue signage,  This is a movement that shows support for the police that started after the problems in Ferguson.  Jerseyville showed the most support but it is likely there is strong support throughout the counties bordering St Louis where I haven’t gone yet.

Greene County – Carrollton

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Green County Courthouse sits in a large busy square in the center of town.  Like many others in the area, it is impressively built from the local limestone.  While traveling in the rural parts of Greene and Morgan counties, the bluffs in the area seemed extensively mined.  Many of the older buildings in the small towns in the area have similar construction.

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Scales of justice.


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Founder of the town, Thomas Carlin, a Democratic Governor of Illinois back in the 19th century.  The statue makes him look like a magician.   Other than this statue, their wasn’t much around town displaying his accomplishments.

Macoupin County – Carlinville

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Macoupin County Courthouse is built in true federal style using the local limestone instead of traditional granite.  The cast iron dome is a little worse for wear but it doesn’t detract from its grandeur.  Surrounding the buildings grounds are large blocks of limestone that used to house a iron fence that was dismantled  some time in the past.  I bet when the fence was up it made the place seem more like a castle grounds for a Duke than a place for judges.

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The veteran memorial is one of the better ones.  Focused around a brick walk way, it displays the name of all the fallen in all wars from 1812 through the present day.

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The old jail just to the south of the courthouse.  The entrance leaves no doubt for what it was originally used for.

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Just to the west is the Carlinville’s town square.  The buildings are mostly in tact with a mix of local watering houses and some touristy shops.  Some of the buildings maintain the limestone facades so common in the older commercial building found throughout the area.

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The town is home to Blackburn College, a small liberal art university.  Its moto Learn. Work. Earn. is very utilitarian though it has a Game Design major.  While on campus, there were many students milling about giving the place more life than the others I visited during the trip.

Sangamon County – Springfield

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Unlike the State of Illinois buildings in the area, the Sangamon County Courthouse looks stale and utilitarian.  Built in similar ways to modern courthouses such as Urbana, Lincoln, and Pontiac, its red brink and glass features make it unremarkable.  To make matters worse, the areas around the building are either vacant lots or run down commercial plots. 

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The front looks like some sort of sun capturing device.

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The Illinois Supreme Court building is built in typical federal style with long marble pillars set throughout its face.  Its is far less impressive than the capital building across the street.

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The seal statues in front on the north side are neat.

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The entrance on the west side of the building.

March County Courthouse Travel

In March, I started taking pictures of Illinois county courthouses.  The boring aim was to visit every county in Illinois.  Because most counties don’t have few interesting things in them outside another corn farm, the courthouses seemed like an interesting stopping point in each. 

Outside the few urban areas in Illinois, most courthouses are in the largest communities in the area and are the economic powerhouse of each (such as it is in a broke state.)

Outside Chicago area, which houses 2/3rds of the population, most counties have a low population density.  At least 1 in 3 have fewer than 25,000 souls.

DeWitt County – Clinton

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Clinton is home to the DeWitt County Courthouse.  Built in 1986, it is totally utilitarian.  It reminds me of my middle school, Carl Sandburg.

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It is not much to look at and is fairly depressing to look at.  I wouldn’t want to enter it to fight a traffic ticket.

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Unlike some other counties, they demolished their old building.  The square now houses a amphitheater, monument…and…

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Lincoln!

Overall, Clinton is a decently prosperous town.  The reason lay in the fact that it is home to the Clinton Nuclear Power Plant.  There is talk of it closing, so if this tax base closes, it could cause the town to dry up like so many out of the way places.

Macon County – Decatur

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If I was going to shoot a new 1984 or Brazil, this is where I’d go. The Macon County Courthouse is an imposing structure on the southeast part of the downtown.

Built in the 1940, it looks like a typical WPA structure being solid wall of concrete.  Given the size and shape of the windows, I bet the inside is is dark and dreary.

The clock on the building wasn’t working when I was their.  Kinda indicative of Decatur.  The town is a show piece of a run down Rest Belt city.  There are many abandoned and blighted building scattered throughout town.

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On the south side are the jail and a building that looks like a gym.

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Walking north from the courthouse, there is decent historic shopping district, with a statue of Illinois’s favorite man.

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A park in the downtown with a statue of our fallen heroes.

Christian County – Taylorville

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The Christian County Courthouse in Taylorville is a well maintained structure build about the turn of the 20th century.  It is one of the more common versions I’ve seen in Illinois as well as other states with a neat clock tower and large cathedral like windows on its top story.

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Unlike the Macon courthouse, the clock on the tower was working.

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It was still March when I visited but the grounds look well tended.

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The square was about 2/3rds full of shops.  It was not the most vibrant that I have seen.  There were few people on the street even being around noon on a Friday.  The establishments were aimed mostly towards local interests.

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The overall appearance of the building was decent.

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Of course Lincoln is here.

Montgomery County – Hillsboro

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Hillsboro was the first town where it felt like the south.  The buildings of the area have a southern flair similar to what I have seen in Kentucky or Virginia.  The old courthouse still stands in the town center.  Situated at the top of a hill, it and the grounds are well maintained.

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The new Montgomery County Courthouse is situated a little farther north of the historical version next to a cool church.

 

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Built in 1993, it looks more like a fire or police station.

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It is not much to look at.  It would be a building that I wouldn’t give a second thought to when exploring a town if Google Maps didn’t point it out.

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Hello Lincoln.

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The downtown is fairly vibrant.  This is likely because it is the largest town in the area.  The area is scenic meaning it is likely magnet for sportsman tourists.

Bond County – Greenville

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The Bond County Courthouse in Greenville was built in 1884.  It is smaller than many, looking more like a Gilded Age mansion rather than a courthouse.

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Situated on a rise, it towers over than builds surrounding the square.


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Fallen hero monument

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Picture of the post office on the southwest side of the square.  It looks like it was built around the same time.  The building of the square are well maintained with most of them built from 1880 to about 1925.

This trip was cut short.  I could only capture 5 counties.

County Courthouse Hunting in May

In early May, my friend Mike and I headed towards the Illinois River after a series of torrential spring rains to see the aftermath.

We ended up hiking around Chautaugua National Wildlife Refuge near Havana, IL about an hour south of Peoria.  The river in the area was flooded but walkable if you kept to the flood berms.

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The forest that was underwater closest to the main flow of the Illinois River.

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There was lots of wildlife sunning themselves around the area from snakes to this critter.