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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The building and grounds are modest but nicely curated.
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.
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.
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
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.
The missing clock gives the side of the building a jail like appearance.
The downtown has seen its better days. Much of the storefront lie fallow. There were some interesting period architecture that is slowly rusting away.
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.
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.
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
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.
The side profile shows at least 3 additions throughout the years. Most are fairly well integrated.
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.
Monument dedicated to the Lincoln first utterance of the House Divided speech by Lincoln.
Maybe this is why Barack Obama gave a speech in town when his was running for Senator.
Mercer County – Aledo
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Gettysburg Address that needs a bit of cleaning, but like the rest of the town.
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.
This box like structure is the new law and justice center that is scheduled to open soon.
The area around the courthouse is run down with closed office, residential and church buildings. This adds to the unpleasantness of the area.
The downtown is mostly geared towards night life. There are few retail shops and only the occasional eatery.
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.
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.
One of the many religious buildings scatters though this large campus.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
War memorial across the street from the courthouse. It is quite impressive for such a small town.
Putnam County – Hennepin
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.
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.
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.