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.

After the hike, I decided to check out a few courthouses to check off a few counties.

Mason County – Havana

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The original part of the courthouse was built around 1851 but when walking around the grounds, it was hard to see the old sections as it was updated sometime in the later half of the 20th century.  It looks more like a elementary school than a courthouse.


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The square grounds are large and open, a nice place to stroll.


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Given the grounds are so large, the war monuments are spread throughout the southern and eastern sides.

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The flag was at half mast since one a soldier died recently in Afghanistan.

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Another memorial to the fallen.

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Havana’s downtown is a typical run down river town.  About half of the buildings are empty.  The city hall is in an old century old bank building.  There was a eclectic  general store selling saltwater taffy.

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Next door to city hall was a run down theater so common in the small towns of Illinois.  I wonder if they were playing pro wrestling or actually had a troupe in town.

Fulton County – Lewistown

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The thing that separates the Fulton County Courthouse is the cool dome of some unknown metal.  I figured it was made of lead mixture since there were a lot of plaques about being stop along the lead road that was mined in the Galena and moved south.

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Built in 1897, it was in good repair built of impress slabs of stone.

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Close up of the dome. The clocks still work.

Illinois County Courthouses–June 2017

Early June saw my 3rd drive to capture picture of all 102 Illinois county courthouses.  It was an unusually bright and warm day, perfect for sightseeing.

Trip 3 Map

 

Logan County – Lincoln

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Built in 1905, the people of Lincoln still use their county courthouse set in the middle of the downtown square.  Unlike many of the courthouses in Central Illinois, it doesn’t look like it has been modified much from when it was originally constructed.  The plaza was originally home of a smaller courthouse that Lincoln seems to have used when he was a lawyer.

Overall, the site is in decent condition, even the four clocks at the top were still working.

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Picture of the west side.

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There is a bronze statue of its namesake.  As any Route 66 traveler can tell you, the town loves Lincoln.  This is one of the many portrayals of the man scattered throughout the town.

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The site features one of the better Civil War memorials I’ve seen.  Plain and distinct.

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Overall, like most of the small towns I have visited so far in Illinois, the square around the courthouse has seen its better days.  The buildings where about 2/3rds full, with mostly local establishments and some local artist areas.

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Neat little arcade style building on the south side of the square facing the courthouse.

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This is the Postville Courthouse that was originally in Mount Pulaski and moved to the town before after Lincoln become the county seat.  The original name of Lincoln was Postville, before it was renamed in the 1850s.  The building is a state historic site.  Like many others in Illinois, it needs a little TLC. 

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The world’s largest covered wagon.  Of course the top-hated man needs to be riding it.

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The town is trying to be a Route 66 tourist attraction, so of course there would be tacky historic buildings scattered throughout the town.

Tazewell County – Pekin

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On my way to Pekin, I passed an old high school in the dying town of Harness.  The town has seen its better days.  They didn’t even have the population to turn the building into a community center as more prosperous towns do on occasion.

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The Tazewell County Courthouse is an imposing structure built in 1916.  Like most of the public building of the era, it attempts to look like something from Greece. 

As a kid, I used to be impressed by this type of building.  Build solid and impregnable, it looks out of place among the run down side streets of the surrounding commercial district.

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Nothing says welcome like several artillery piece surrounding the building.

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The building sides have these impressive looking arches leading toward the side entrances.

 

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The grounds are well kept and rather beautiful.

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The front of the courthouse has many run down looking buildings.  Many are empty and have label scars of previous tenants.

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Given the size of the town, there was no one around.

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Wow, this must be the last pay phone in town.  It even still worked.

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Masonic temple on the south side of the court house. 

Peoria County – Peoria

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As suspected, I found the Peoria County Courthouse is the largest one I’ve seen so far.  Built in that 1960s brutalist architecture that people found so enlightening at that time it gives the area a lost in time feel. 

It is not only this building.  Much of Peoria’s downtown area looks this way, from the Busey Bank building to Caterpillar’s headquarters.  You can really tell that the cities height of growth was in the 1950 through the 1970s.  Now the city looks like many so many other Rust Belt cities.

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I am not sure if Lincoln ever practiced in town, but that doesn’t stop him from popping up in bronze.

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The employee entrance on the north side.

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The bell from the original courthouse that was on site from 1876 until 1962.  Too bad they didn’t keep the building.

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The WWII memorial on the south side.  In the background you can see  Caterpillar Headquarters.

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The overall building is nicely kept up to date.  The grounds is a little lackluster though.

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Large Civil War memorial built in the 1910s (I think.)  I is quite impressive, but needs a little up keep.

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Stark County – Toulon

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I was surprised that the Stark County Courthouse was so old, and still in use.  Built pre-Civil War Era around 1856, it is one of the older building that I have come access in my travels that is still in use.

Toulon itself is very small for a county seat.  Overall, Stark county has less than 6,000 people, so I assume there is no need for a larger structure.

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To the west side of the building, their is some sort of annex.  It looks like it was once the jail house but was repurposed for office use.

Like many other rural seats, the grounds was impressive and well kept.

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The building is in decent shape.  It looks like the county has tried to modernize it over time here are their, but it still has that quant feel.

 

Marshall County – Lacon

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The Marshall County Courthouse is a mix of old and new.  Built in 1853, it has been heavily renovated and looks like a much newer structure.  The grounds are larger than most with many trees and a few walking paths.

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The renovations make the structure look a bit curious and utilitarian.

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At some point in the 20th century the build was enlarged with one of the ugliest and out of place annexes that I have ever seen.  This addition makes the north and east side unpleasant to walk around.

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The grounds shown from the southeast side of the building.

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The tank on the southwest side is one of the cooler things found of the grounds of Illinois courthouses.

Woodford County – Eureka

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The Woodford County Courthouse is rather imposing.  Build just before the turn of the 20th Century, it a tall three plus story building that seems to dwarf the rest of the buildings surrounding the semi square.  Both the grounds and building itself are well kept up, at least on the west and south sides.

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The building is built on top of a rise.

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Facing the south side of the building.

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The east side is less impressive with a large parking lot detracting the the grandeur of the entrant.  The north side holds the police station an jail.

Urbanization in the US

Playing with Tableau, I created the video below of how the US Mainland slowly become more urbanized over its founding.

 

Data gathered from Wikipedia and the US Census.

It is neat to watch Manifest Destiny in action.  We were predominately rural until about 1920.  First we moved west until the 1870s.  With no more land to take from France, the Indians, and Mexico, we started moving towards cities as we became a more industrialized society.  In the 1910s most Americans we in cities as they moved off the farm and into factories.

 

US Urbanization by Region

 

While the largest in area, the Western States are the most urbanized.  This is because there are relatively fewer farms and most people live in a narrow strip by the Pacific Ocean.  The South and Midwest are the least urbanized by are slowly catching the other areas.  People move into the cities of the South and people leave farming towns of the Midwest for better economic opportunities.

 

Median Age by County 2016

This migration has lead younger people away from rural areas.  This as caused the median age of many rural areas to increase.

Integrating Tableau Workbooks in Tableau Server

This post explains ways to pass information a web page to a Tableau Workbook on the server.  This web page can be anywhere.

 

Use cases

  • There are visuals in two separate dashboards that users want in one place,
  • A web page passes variables to Tableau Server, and
  • A visibility control mechanism that allows certain visuals for select people.

Note:  This is for Tableau and Tableau Server/Public 10.0 and above.

Embedding a Dashboard Within a Dashboard

 

Sometimes areas want to reuse visuals from one dashboard on another.  Usually this mean making a copy of the visuals and data.  The problem with this is that the visuals will slowly diverge as creators apply updates.  It may even come to the point where they will give different answers, even if both dashboard use the same data source.

To get around this problem, embed the dashboard.  This keeps the source the single version of the truth.

1. In IE 11, Chrome, or Firefox go to the dashboard you wish to embed

 

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2. Click Share > Link

3. Copy the URL link

Note: At this point, web site designers can use this link to embed a visual into a web page if they wish to place the visualization in a Iframe.  However, a better idea would be to use the embed code for best presentation and more control.  This is useful on Microsoft SharePoint, Yammer, and blogs such as WordPress.

 

This is what it looks like when a Tableau Public dashboard is embeded into WordPress.  Sizing is a bit off with this view.  Full version

 

4. In Tableau Desktop, create a Dashboard page

 

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5. Under Objects, select Web Page

6. Drag it to the canvas

7. In the Edit URL popup, paste the link (CTRL+V)

 

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8. Click OK

 

 

Optional – Sizing

If the linked dashboard linked is larger than the source dashboard it might not fit the view.  To fix this you need to have Tableau adjust the size of the screen. 

Under Size > Fixed Size, choose Automatic  (easiest to use but developers should play with the fixed sized settings for best fit.)

 

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Optional 2 – Look an Feel

Developers can also control the look and feel depending on the options sent via the URL.

 

https://tableau.test.com/views/TestDashboard/TestDashboardPage?:embed=y&:showShareOptions=true&:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no

 

Each of the colored items are options.  You can append as many as you need.

  • :embed=y  —– Turns off Tableau server header and only shows the dashboard
  • :tabs=no   —– Turns off tabs and only shows the linked page of the workbook
  • :toolbar=  —– Turns on and off download and edit toolbar at the bottom of the page
    • Yes
    • No
    • Top
  • :tooltip=no  —– Turns off tooltips
  • :showShareOptions=false  —– Stops people from being able to share the view
  • :format=png  —– Will turn the secondary dashboard to a picture.  Useful to prevent people from downloading the data. It also can be copied into presentations.

More Info: https://onlinehelp.tableau.com/current/server/en-us/embed_list.htm 

Note: These options only work with Tableau Server not Tableau Public.

 

Optional 3 – Filtering

Using Parameters

Developers can pass parameters from one dashboard to another through the URL.  This allows the main dashboard to filter items on the secondary dashboard.

 

https://tableau.test.com/views/TestDashboard/TestDashboardPage?Districts=<Parameters.Districts>&:embed=y&:showShareOptions=true&:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no

 

In this example, the link in the main dashboard contains a parameter that passes along the agency to the secondary dashboard.  Since the test dashboard has a field or parameter called ‘Districts’, this filters the embedded dashboard.  The URL can contain multiple filter-parameters.

The parameter in the main dashboard does not need to have the same name as the field in the secondary dashboard, but it may help with passing variables

See this in action: Link

 

Hard Coding Parameters

https://public.tableau.com/profile/steve.rubendall6256#!/vizhome/SuperstoreSub-WorkbookExample/Overview?State=Iowa

Developers can also hardcode the filters.  This is useful when users need to see only a subset of the data.  In this example will display the state of Alaska.   Some developers will be able to use dashboard actions to finely control what is sent to the secondary dashboard.

See this in action: Link

Note:  This can be used as to filter data based on people’s ID or name.  For instance, a page a user ID via the URL to a dashboard embedded on an intranet site.  This provides good visibility protection for those non-technical users, but should not be on the public internet.

 

Multi-Filter Parameters

Developers can also pass more than one filter in the URL.

 

https://public.tableau.com/profile/steve.rubendall6256#!/vizhome/SuperstoreSub-WorkbookExample/Overview?State=Iowa,Illinois&Category=Furniture

 

Here, there are multiple filter values with State using multiple values.  This displays only career reps in both Alaska and Tennessee.

See it in Action: Link

Other Notes

  • Spaces in filters and valid values need to be changed to %20 (ex: Carol Stream –> Carol%20Stream) for them to work on the web.  Other escape characters may also need to be altered to fit in a URL.

 

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Update #1: In checking with Tableau, it looks like embedded reports do not print to PDF.  This is by design as a security and visibility feature.   This also goes for graphics and web pages that are embedded.

Workarounds

    1. Add a toolbar to embedded dashboard to download it as a separate report.  In the URL string use toolbar=top or toolbar=yes.
    2. Take a screen shot (I use a program called Greenshot for picture perfect capture.)
    3. Make it an online only report and point people to it.  Developers can subscribe users to updates so they always get the latest version of the report when available through a periodic email.

Bloomington-Normal Job Locations

I stumbled on the Where Are the Job? website, that places all of the jobs in the US on the map. 

2016-12-21 09_54_30-Where Are The Jobs_ - Pale Moon

It is from 2014, so in Bloomington-Normal it is pre-Mitsubishi closing.  The clustering in is interesting.  People looking for manufacturing or logistics jobs should be on the western, southern, and northern outskirts along the Interstates.  Professional services jobs are clustered around COUNTRY Financial and State Farm along Veteran’s Parkway. 

Service sectors jobs are in the thin line following Veteran’s Parkway while much of the government, medical, and education jobs follow Main St (US 51.)

Clustering of jobs isn’t surprising.  Small companies of similar types grow up near larger institutions.  It also help workers since working in proximity to others in the same field help spread ideas and talent.  It also shortens travel time during work hours.

Milwaukee NOFX Concert

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Last weekend, I had a chance to go up to Milwaukee for some good food and a music.  I try not to pass up a chance to go to Wisconsin since there are so many cool places all throughout the state.  As for the states largest city, it had been over two decades.  The last time I was in the city for GenCon before it moved to Indy.

 

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Arriving relatively early, we stopped first at the Pabst Brewery.  The building was very well kept in an area in the mist of revitalization.  It being Sunday, we missed the last tour.

 

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Going with out any plan in mind expect taking the tour.  We drove around a bit and decided to eat at the Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery siting besides the Milwaukee River.  This small chain is known for brewing their own beers on site.  I tried their excellent malty Octoberfest that went down smooth despite the high ABV.  I paired it we Wisconsin Cheese balls that were similar to what the Pub II in Normal offers, but these were much larger with a higher quality of cheese.  This was a great pairing because the cheeseballs we some of the best I have ever eaten.

 

imagePhoto taken by cb_aus-re

After eating, to kill some time before the concert, we headed the Old German Beer Hall, which is a close rendition of a beer hall in Munich.  It was an interesting experience.  For one, they only served Hofbräu.  Fortunately, there were at least a dozen version on tap including Root Beer of one of the best German beers around.  Their lightly carbonated Oktoberfest went down too smoothly.   I could see getting lost in a stein of this brew.

The Rave/Eagle Club

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The was my first time going to The Rave and it is a place that I will not soon forget.  Built in the 1920s in a more prosperous era, it contains at least four stages on five floors.  The concert itself was on the lowest level and each time you went up a floor, there was another stage with the upper floor being an open air lounge.

 

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This loft which contained a bar full of microbrews such as those from the decent New Glarus Brewing Company.  The lounge itself was heated by large columns of fire offered and offered a decent view of the north side of the city as well as the night’s “Super Moon.”   Being a decent, if cold night, the area was well populated by people waiting for the main act to start.  I sort of felt sorry for the smokers who had to climb 5 flights of steps to light up.

 

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Upon entry to the venue, everyone received this PSA.  Really…In a punk rock concert?  It took about two songs from Useless ID before the mass of people near the stage started throwing themselves at one another.  It was sort of an odd sight.  Unlike Bassnectar I attended earlier, the crowd was much older.  There were a lot of younger Gen Xers and older Gen Y people in the crowd.  This shows that even people in their 30s and 40s can get thrashing (and then pay for it for the next week.)

Useless ID

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I never of heard of Useless ID before tonight.  The group is a standard punk band hailing from Israel.  Overall, their music was fast, loose, and very polished.  Given how long they have been around, it was little surprise they played a quality set.  I’ll be use to add them to my Spotify list to check out some more of their music. 

PEARS

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The PEARS, well they sucked.  The lead singer came out wearing little more than shorts.  Channeling his inner Scott Weiland, he bounced around the stage like ADD child off his meds.  There music was speed punk that was loud and boisterous but rather boing.  While the moshers seemed the like it, after listening to a few songs, I headed for the roof to wait out the band.

Nofx

Nofx is a acquired taste.  On stage, they are known for their variability of the shows they put on.  Because they are on their own label, the band members do pretty much what they want both in the studio and during shows.  You’ll never know if you’ll get a sober set or some lousy drunken attempt at music.

While technically punk, they dabble in SKA and have a habit of bantering with each other and the crowd between songs.  Some of this can be heard on their excellent first live album, I Heard the Suck Live.  During this show, the audience cursed and shouted out songs they wanted to hear as well as threw drinks and articles of clothing at the band.  They retorted and seemed to change up their songs according to the mood of the night.

Initially, I didn’t like their newest album, First Ditch Effort.  It is a dark and moody album that explores middle age problems such as razing children, going sober, and dealing with ex-wives.  After the concert I gave it a relisten.  It is better than my initial assessment once you get past the odd intros to the longs and long, awkward pauses.  However, it is still nothing like the awesome albums Coaster, Wolves in Wolves Clothing, or Punk in Drublic.

When they took to the stage, I sort of understand why their music has been weak recently.  They didn’t have a focus on their anger for the last few years.  Upon coming on stage via a karaoke cover song, they started blaming the crowd for losing the presidential election (Wisconsin went for THE Trump.) 

Fat Mike went on a tirade about how he wanted to kill him and complained bitterly about having him has our soon to be president.  This fired up the crowd and once they started to play the pit went wild.  Beer and bodies flying everywhere.  Even being three rows from the mayhem was no protection against hyped up punk rockers and flying boozy projectiles.

 

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The intro song Six Years on Dope from their newest album and they went on to play a mixture of protest songs from the Bush era like The Man I Killed and Franko Un-American.  During the middle, they change to playing songs off their newest album.  It didn’t fit the mood and the somber music left me feeling cold.

 

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Fortunately, because this is punk with most song lasting between one and three minutes, it was only a matter of time before they switch it up again when they started playing Seeing Double at the Triple Rock and Bob.  As the show progressed, the band member started switched instruments with each other, playing trumpets, trombones, and finally the accordion, which closed out the show.

Overall, it was a great concert with lots of energy in one of coolest venues around.

Southern Illinois Trip

I awoke early Sunday to my cat standing on my chest.  He did some passive-aggressive purring for kibble an hour earlier than normal.  Ah, daylight savings ended.  Lousy farmers.  Instead of trying to go back to sleep, I instead headed south of Illinois’s Mason-Dixon Line, I-70.

 

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Like the last month, the area again had great autumn weather to make this an enjoyable trip.  The morning was colder than the previous few weeks.  There was a large amount of low hanging fog making the trip south feel serene.

 

Lake Shelbyville

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Lake Shelbyville is one of the larger artificial lakes in the state located northeast of the small tourist town of  Shelbyville.  It is a sparsely built up and home to at least a half a dozen county and state parks.  Given the location it would be great place to camp or hunt.

 

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I walked along the dam on the southern tip of the lake in the early morning.  The size and relative remoteness gives the area a feeling like it is here all for yourself. 

Shelbyville

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First stop in town was Forest Park.  I was rather surprised at the beauty of the park.  It has a rather non-descript entrance with the typical playground and ball parks scattered around.  Getting ready of the Christmas, the town has set up lights along the roadways.  Driving past this gaudy façade, at the back of the park there is a pretty flower garden with running spring.  It was also the start of 5 miles or so of decent hiking trails that follow the lake. 

 

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The residential districts close to the downtown have brick streets thick with trees.  Among the leaves were various party signage in the run up the elections.

 

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The downtown strip was actually fairly lively.  Most of the storefront were full with knickknack stores for tourists, gun shops for hunters and several shops and eating/drinking establishments for locals.  There is actually an active single screen theater still in operation where the larger towns of Mattoon, Charleston, and Pana were boarded up when I went through.    

 

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An actual book store.  I can’t stay much for the reading material though.

 

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Ah, there is blight in the city.  I was getting worried as most small towns in rural Illinois like Shelbyville are usually chocked full of it.  The government does a good job of keeping the town clean. 

 

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The county courthouse is still in good shape for being constructed in the 1880s.

 

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One of the many spots for the Lincoln-Douglas debates.   Lincoln’s statue looks a bit like a giraffe trying to crane above his adversary.

 

Gays, Illinois

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The only reason I went to this hamlet was to gawk at the two-story outhouse built in the latter part of the 19th century.  I guess I was expecting a bit more.  I wonder how you get to the second floor?

 

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Otherwise, there ain’t much to do except to drive away.

 

Eastern Illinois University

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I have been to all other public universities in the state except EIU and I couldn’t wait for to walk around the quad.   Since it was about noon on a Sunday, there were few students walking around. 

 

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The whole vibe of the school is something that time passed it by.  Much of the architecture features builds from the late 1930s to about 1980.   Nothing was crumbling, but unlike ISU that has several new constructions, it was a little depressing.

 

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This is an awesome entrance to the science building.

 

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Like ISU, the college has a castle, which abutted the northern point of the quad.  It looks like the oldest building on campus.

 

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Advertising for EIU stating that most classes are under 40 student and it contributes a lot of revenue for the town of Charleston.  This puts a fine point to the fact that the school is going broke.  Its enrollment is on the decline.  There are fewer young people in the area as families move to more prosperous areas.

Throughout the city there were a lot of signs supporting the university but it sounds like they actually don’t want to pay for it.  There was a lot of ‘no’ signage for a local tax referendum that has been vote down twice before.    

 

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Charleston

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The town of Charleston reminds me more of Tennessee than the flat land of Central Illinois.  The terrain is hillier and more wooded than McLean County.  The downtown square has the huge county courthouse and one of the largest I have ever seen in the state. 

The square had a decent amount of things a nerd like me has to offer.  A good bookstore that has a decent collection of Sci-Fi, a comic/bookshop for college student, as well as a game store.  The university, really gives the city a boost as compared to other towns of similar size in the rural Illinois.

Moore Home/Lincoln Log Cabin

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The Moore Home was the last place that Lincoln stopped in Coles County.  Rather non-descript but the structure seems fairly typical of the middle-upper class rural area in the 1850s.  We come a long way.

 

IMAG1341Lincoln was here

 

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According the guide the original Lincoln log house was taken to Chicago and lost (maybe used as firewood.)  Later I learned the Abe never lived here as he was an adult before his family moved here.   

 

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Hard living.  It was cool that the had live animals in the pens to give the area some flavor.

 

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Because the site is of marginal historical value, offered many other B-rate attractions such as quilts, painted of Illinois, and dioramas.   This one is of the Kun Brewery.  I’d like to use in a gaming campaign.

 

IMAG1367Ye olde Barbie home

 

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Along the drive, I noticed dozens of working oil wells.  Most of the wells are from the 1940-50s and produce 1 to 2 barrels a day.  I guess they are still profitable given the costs have long been paid.

Lake Mattoon

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Like most lakes in Illinois, Lake Mattoon was built to supply water to the surrounding counties.  For the most part, the lake is unremarkable except for a long road that bisects the lake that allows for a wonderful drive and a good place to fish.

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This was the hinterland for Sprint and T-Mobile.  No service for tens of miles in every direction.  Relying on cached Google Maps in rural areas can lead you into grass paths of bogs.

 

Hidden Springs State Forest

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Hidden Springs This park is fairly deep in the boonies.  One of the odder state parks, it has at least a dozen non-contiguous plots between small corn and bean plots.   Given the remoteness, it would be easier bike around than drive. 

In generally, the forest has many more conifers than more northern parks.  The paths are well-marked and moderately difficult.  It was fun to whisk through the fall leaves with the conifer clippings giving the ground a spongey feel.

 

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The springs are really hidden.  They aren’t much of an attraction.

 

Thompson Mill Covered Bridge

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This bridge was one of the first crossings along the Kaskaskia River.  Built in 1868, it is narrowest of the 5 covered bridges in Illinois.  I could almost touch the sides when walking through.

 

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Williamsburg Hill Cemetery

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Lost in around the bluffs north of Cowden, I came across this hidden gem of a cemetery.  set top of a set of large hills, the tombstone blend is well the trees.  It is really peaceful place to rest.

Someone came by while I was there.  This was surprising as last 10 to 15 miles, I saw no traffic on the roads and few farms.  I struck up a conversion with the elderly lady to learn more about who was buried here and who recently vandalized some of the graves.

 

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A long road home.

 

Pana

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Being at least a half an hour from anywhere, Pana is an abject lesson why it sucks to live in a small town.  Many of the businesses in the town are boarded up relics.  Any manufacturing along the railroad is long since dried up.  The town itself offered little of interest except the cool link St. Patrick’s church just south of the dreary downtown area.

Using Business Objects 4.x to Create Tableau Reports

Tableau Workshops - miso -While Tableau has a great visualization capabilities, getting data into it from other databases is a chore unless the schema is simple.  Joining tables is easily through the GUI, but if the request requires complex filters it soon requires custom SQL. 

When this happens, Tableau is no help making it easy to code the SQL.  There are no hints or prefills like modern code programs have.  Therefore, I leverage the work of my Business Objects Universe authors.  They took the time to create the correct database joins needed to build visualization fast.  While Business Objects doesn’t produce the cleanest SQL, it will nearly always work in Tableau.

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1. In BOXI (Business Object web version,) create the query

2. On the Query Panel control bar, click View Script

 

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3. In the Query Script viewer, click Use custom query script

4. Highlight the SQL

5. Right-click > Copy (CTRL + C)

 

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6. In Tableau, connect to a New Data Source

I have tested this and it works for DB2, SQL Server, and Oracle.  While it can work for Access so long as their is no spaces in table and field names, though there are ways to get around it by switching the [] brackets with double quotes.

 

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7. Enter your database server information and ID/password.

For this to work, you will need at least Read Only access to the database in question.

 

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8. If necessary, choose the correct Schema.

Most complex databases will have this, but products such as Access will not.

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9. At the bottom of the Table section, double-click New Custom SQL

 

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10. In the Edit Custom SQL popup, right-click > Paste (CTRL + V)

 

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The SQL should be displayed.  Now the SQL should be cleaned a bit before clicking OK. 

  • Remove anything after the WHERE or GROUP BY clauses such as FOR READ ONLY.  Most databases don’t like it.
  • If there is custom field formatting in the SELECT clause such as Date formatting remove it.  That is what Tableau is for.  If the SQL will be used in lots of workbooks, I like to give them a standard name.  This makes it easier to keep naming structures constant.
  • CASE as well as Min/Max statements work fine. 
  • If you want, clean the SQL to make it a bit more readable.  Things such as adding friendly field name helps when error checking is necessary.

11. Click OK

Hopefully there are no errors.

 

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If there is an error click Show Details in the error box to see the problem (this examples show a missing comma after one of the variables.)  Unfortunately, Tableau only show the first error it encounters.

Illinois River Fall Viewing

Last weekend, I took a trip to look around the lesser known parks on the Tazewell side of the Illinois River in order to take in the fall colors.  This year the color was weaker than in the previous few.  Most tree simply turned pale yellow and sheading their foliage quickly.  Only the sugar maples seem not to notice the unusually warm fall weather in the area.

John T McNaughton Park

This park is one of the larger ones around Pekin named after an advisor in the federal government of whom I never heard of before now but was a local boy.  The park itself is rolling grass and forest covered hills with the lowest points in the park containing several small lakes/mosquito breeding pits.

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The main attractions are a rather large 18-hole Frisbee golf course and equestrian center near its northern end.  The course looked like it would be quite challenging given the hilly terrain.

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It the rolling grassland provided a pleasant stroll but the hiking trails are better served on horseback.  There were too many ruts and mud pit to make for an enjoyable time.

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The park itself had few amenities.  The most interesting ones were the teepee style campfire rings that dotted the area that are for the Boy Scouts who set up camp in the park.

Independence Park

Independence Park is located in Marquette Heights.  It is a well designed park with a fair number of play ground areas, ball diamonds, and paved biking trail.  In the local area, it is also known for having decent mountain bike trails.

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These trails follow most along the upper edges of hollows with some changes in elevation here and there to give a ride some variability.  It reminds me somewhat of Evergreen Park park biking trails with many tree roots to give people bumpy rides.

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Overall it is a nice and well maintained park.  The only problem is you never feel like you are in a rural landscape.  The park abuts I-474, so nature lovers get to hear both bird songs and semis.

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Pekin Lake/Park

I was reluctant to visit Pekin given few people have said good things about it, so I passed up going to both the town and this park for years.  Laying on the Illinois River the park part reminded me other old river towns such as Quincy and the Quad Cities.  Off have tried tried to spruce the riverfront up.  Unfortunately, the nice new park amenities clash with the old industrial theme of the local area.

IMAG0937Picturesque

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There wasn’t much to see in the park itself except bogs and trash.  I was more interested in the industrial areas surround it.

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Totally makes me want to reinstall Fallout and go ruin exploring in a power suit.

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Veterans Park

Veterans Park is a typical park set in East Peoria.  It sits on hills over looking the Peoria downtown cityscape.  The amenities such as the baseball diamond and playground equipment are very well maintained and look almost new.  The walking path lets a person take in the hilly terrain and enjoy the nearly perfect Illinois fall weather.

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Fondulac Park West

This park sits right across the street from Veterans Park.  However, the city does not make it easy to walk to it and place fences between the park and Springfield Road.  To make matters worse, there are no sidewalks in the area in order to even get to the park safely without driving.

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I liked this park for its single feature, it sits on a large steep hill.   Only the brave would sled down it because of the line of trees at the bottom.

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Hmm, doesn’t look as impressive on camera. My maybe the hike up the hill wasn’t as tiring as I thought.

IMAG1005Weird colored fungi growing in the area

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Bassnectar Concert

imageOn Halloween, I arrived in Downtown Peoria about half hour before my first dj concert.  It was odd to see such a large town so empty at 6 pm on a Monday.  No eateries opened except bars.  Peoria is really dead at times.  Fortunately it made the walk to the Civic Center a breeze.

Upon entering the arena, a woman in the security line yell out “No glow-sticks.”  Seriously?  Later I passed a stand near the entrance to purchase them (ah…monopolies.)  However, for many in the security line, it didn’t seem to matter.  They had other ways to amuse themselves such as lighted hula-hoops and glowing juggling balls. 

While standing in the line to get patted down, I immediately noticed two things.  The first was that I was a decade older than the average concert goer. 

Beavis and Butthead

The next was that I was too plainly dressed.  About half of the people where in costume.  There was a wide gamut.  Some looked like they used their girlfriend eyeliner and drew some odd patterns over their face.  Others had clothing that might have been illegal in some southern jurisdictions.  Still others had costumes so well made few that they would have been right at home at ComicCon.

High Fidelity: "Mouthful of Cavities" - Blind MelonPicture of a typical party goer.

Overall, security was intense.  I think I had to go through more security here than when I last flew.  Of course, it was just for show.  During the concert an hour or so later a couple in front where happily smoking a metal bowl.  Yea security theater.

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TekLife

(DJ Spinn & Taso) from Teklife opened the venue.  Their music was a mix of hip-hop and electronica, which the duo played rather conservatively.  The vanilla beats wouldn’t win any awards for being novel, but I generally enjoyed their show. 

One odd thing about the set was that about a half dozen or so people would come out in front of the stage and dance.  Well dance is a bit of a strong word for it.  More like hop around out of step with the music.  It made the whole thing seem like a high school talent contest. 

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At this point I initially thought that the concert would only be sparsely attended, with the floor only about half full at this point.

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As to was general admission, the taught was to stay away from the hard core revealers and get a good spot in the second bowl section.  Not that I wouldn’t mind getting closer for the rest of the show, but there is a tendency at this type of concert to both get hot and and have a drunk spill beer on you.

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G Jones

At first this dude came up and started jamming on his laptop with no introduction.  I didn’t even know who he was until I Googled it out the next day.  The artist, G Jones, had a much more technical trance and beat set.  While he was good at the art, he couldn’t get the crowd into what he played.  There was too much futzing around with the music every 10-20 seconds or so.  He would get a good grove going and the switch the beat.  You could see the crowd having a hard time adjusting with it as they would start to sway and then bam, a different tempo. 

It must have not matter to the musician though.  He was quite animated throughout the set dancing and rocking out to his own music.   The set reminded me of someone singing in the shower.  Personally, it was OK with the tunes played.  There were some great rifts here and there but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to his stuff. 

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At the end of his set, the audience grew rapidly, with a full floor and the bowl about half filled.  Soon my seat 2/3rds of the way up was in the middle of the crowd.

 

IMAG1053Intermission

Bassnectar

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I stumbled on Bassnectar while listening to dubstep radio stations on Spotify a few years back.  After listing to his catalog, I purchased the excellent album Vava Voom.   I like his earlier stuff more than what he produces now as it is a bit more trance and less bouncing rhythms.

https://i2.wp.com/www.bassnectar.net/wp-content/gallery/family-photos/Bassnectar-FamilyPhoto-20161031-Peoria-aLIVECoverage.jpg?resize=840%2C560Crowd picture from the start of the set.

However, the opening was nothing I’ve seen in years.  The show started with such a wave of sonic intensity that it rivaled hard rock acts like Pantera and industrial icon Ministry.  It was LOUD with the bass to intense that you could feel it in your teeth.

 

IMAG1067So many lights that the shots of the stage sucked.

With this the crowd went wild.  Even siting high up, there were people were dancing everywhere, in their seats, along the pathways, and in the stairwells.  It was like a ground well of humanity as thousands of attendees partying wildly.  Simply amazing.

 

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The banning of glow sticks was of little consequence now.  Their pale glow was only visible through the fog and light show within a few paces.  Many concert goers had LED lighting attached to their clothing.  I have seen lighted clothing at conventions, but never figured they would be interesting to wear until now.

On the floor, there was a person decked out as jellyfish with the tendrils encased in moving led lights.  A young lady sitting to my left was dressed up as an anime magic girl.  Her attire and wand had various light sewn in that sparkled.  Here and their people played with all sorts of glowing objects from balloons to flash settings on their phones.

There were slow spots to give the crowd a rest, but the music never really stopped.  Instead of a traditional set in a song-stop-banter-song rhythm that traditional artists employ, songs flowed into one another.  Actually, it was clips of songs that transitioned and sometimes an earlier song would make a return.  I got to sample from all of his ten albums along with one of the two I came to hear Ping Pong.  The other called Pennywise Tribute was skipped for other remixes.

IMAG1079Is it mana from heaven?

It was later in the show when Bassnectar started playing remixes of other artists.  Snoop Dog and White Zombie featured strongly while I got to hear the hardest version of Frank Sinatra ever.

Overall, the convert experience was above average.  The venue has decent acoustics and its shape fit rather well to the light show.  It will likely be my first and last dj concert, and I think of few better ways to spend Hallo’s Eve than rocking out in great band.

Businesses and Integrating Social Media

imageA year or so ago, I wrote this to help managers in mid-sized companies  understand the best ways to train employees on how to use social media to interact with customers.  Clearly, I suck at the subject so take it as a outsiders view point. 

Before using social media, most employees generally want training on how to engage customers, especially if they grew up pre-internet or don’t use it personally.  The most preferred way individual training.  Unfortunately, in most companies this scales poorly.  There is so much turnover that it is expensive to keep everyone up to date with newest networks, let alone how to use Facebook or Instagram.  It also limits the learner to established practices.  This limits their options and discourages them from exploring new ways to communicate with customers.

Many companies fallback to webinar training, but this is usually a terrible medium for learning complex ideas.  This type of training often take the worst aspects of traditional classroom learning such as being a passive listener and having to attend at a fixed time.  Add to that a student needs to stare at PowerPoint slides on a tiny 17” screen while listening through tinny speakers it a wonder that anyone would attend unless forced. 

There is still a place individualized training and webinars but other options work better.  Some of the best idea come from podcasters and YouTube video bloggers.  Many are entrepreneurs with their livelihoods at stake.  Therefore, most tend to be focused on increasing attendance.  Here is what they many successful ones do:

1. Keep the message short and focused. 

People find the best training sessions are up to 5 minutes long.  Studies show that people on phones watch training sessions for about 3 minutes and tablets/computers for 5 minutes. 

Short lengths help keep people’s attention.  More short content offers increases the likelihood of covering something people need simply by chance. 

Serialization provides more excuses to publicize content.  This is similar to how tweets aren’t often about the content.  They are about keeping the message in the front of the consumer.

The problem is that short content is often harder to do.  Instructors spend more working a 3-minute speech than an hour-long one.  This increases quality.

Percentage of video watchedviewingpercentageSource: Wistia.com

  1. Make highlight reels.

Take snippets the important ideas from long-form content and post it on the content intranet.  This is common in the public policy sphere.  A creator will make an hour-long video, take snippets out, and post the best parts as short form content.  Some will even create separate short pieces and condense the material still further (sort of like an ad or highlight reel.)  

  1. Practice just-in-time learning.

Because most businesses are cyclical, create and publicize content when learners need it, during peak times of the year.  For instance, at a bank, more employees will want to give savings advice during tax season.  

  1. Ask questions before producing content.

Participation is higher in session where employees know it will cover something they are interested in learning.  In a hour+ long training, few people ask questions.  Sessions cause mental fatigue, especially those in remote locations when the temptation to answer emails or play solitaire is strong.

Gathering feedback before production gives the trainer an idea of what people want to know.  It also gives time for people to think about what they want to learn.

  1. Market it.

Content is worthless if no one knows it exists, market it.  Ideally, there should be multiple posts per week about how to do things cycled on the intranet.  Even if it is a repeat, post it.  Few employees will know that it is a repeat and even if they do, there is no harm with a little refresh. 

  1. Build a community.

If the company is really serious about using the internet to communicate with customers, build a internal community.  Make it a one stop shop.  Start by adding all available training and links to corporate social media presences.  Next, have employees write about personal experiences.  Make this a user listening post.  Use forums, surveys, Q&A, and anything to keep interest.  This will also help trainers and experts by giving a single place for research.

  1. Be passionate.

Nothing is more boring than listening someone reading a script or going through the motions.  If it is boring to the poster, imagine what it like for others.  Training should be interesting to the trainer firstly.  Otherwise, it is not worth doing.

  1. Use multiple mediums.

People learn in different ways, so it is important to mix up training by using multiple mediums such as live training, audio, webinars, videos, blog post, LinkedIn requests, etc.  Together with many short pieces, this has several benefits:

  • Helps to track what works for the audience.
  • Risk of failure is lower, so it allows trainers more freedom to experiment. 
  • Allow for creation of meta-training.  This means creating categories of training based ideas and not on the content type.  Some of the better MOOCs do this.

Use video and live feeds and examples to liven the presentation.  When using video, produce audio and text versions of content.  Despite MTV mantra, video didn’t kill the radio star.  The great aspect of audio is learners can multitask (think audio books.)  Short posts are great to drive traffic to existing content and offer bite sized training to boot.  Post snippets from live training sessions can help reinforce ideas.

9.  Test your audience.

Short quizzes or surveys after the content can reinforce content.  Even if the content is short, ask questions after it to reinforce the material and to gather feedback on how well the content was conveyed.

10.  Be Committed

The weakest part of an social media strategy is management.  Most C-level executive want to engage customers online, but don’t put resources into help employee do it.  The results is lackluster with many employees jumping in at the start and two months in the effort is forgot about, to the detriment of the customer base. 

Nor do many engagement their employees or customers to provide an example.  Without this engagement, interest will wane.

2016 ISU Professor/Administrator Pay Breakdown

Illinois State University - FIREI was doing a little research on teacher pay and came across the Illinois Board of Higher Education site, which lists the compensation of all professors and many administrators.  With is in hand, I through it into Tableau and profiled Illinois State University (ISU.)

 

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ISU is top heavy.  It pays the administrators and unit directors more than other institutions.  They also tend to pay their professors and adjuncts less than most other institutions. 

 

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ISU also uses many more atypical (likely adjunct) teachers.  There are almost twice as many part time instructors than other public universities.  This is likely because it is a teaching college as well as having a vocational/technical bent.  Bringing in people with real world experience can improve learning.  It is also why the pay for instructors/lecturers’ pay is low. 

 

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Excluding the lower paid people, the mix is fairly typical with a few more associate professors on average.  With instructors removed, the median salary is $80,700 vs other universities $83,400. 

 

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When looking at a Pareto chart of compensation, there is a budge of low paid instructors with compensation in the $10 to $30K range.  There is another bulge around $80 to 120K.

Overall, the administrators and high positioned people at ISU are well paid compared to other universities.  It also relies on part-time and adjuncts more than others.

Want to play with the data and compare it to other schools?  Go here: 2016 ISU Professor Pay Visualization.

Walking Around Peoria

Saturday was the first time this fall that the their was patchy frost on the ground.  Hopefully, this will bring out the colors in the trees.

 

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It frost soon burned off as I walked around Miller Park.  It turned out to be a nice day for color hunting.  Good day for traveling around Central Illinois, so to Peoria.  I choose the locations mostly because I never be to them.

 

Luthy Botanical Garden

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At the side entrance to the Luthy Botanical Garden,  there is a statue of R.G. Le Tourneau.  Inscribed underneath is “Mover of Mountains”  likely because he operated several large machinery operations in the early 20th century.   This piece of art would totally be at home in Rapture.