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.

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.

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.

 

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The gardens are small and tucked away behind the Peoria Zoo.  Not as grand as U of I’s Allerton Park and large as Rockford’s Sinnissippi Garden, none the less it is nice to see cities trying to build places that have natural beauty.  Few people must come to visit because even though it was a nice day, there were only a half dozen other people on the grounds.

 

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Picture from behind the green houses.  The greenhouses themselves look like they have seen better days. 

 

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Bet this looks awesome in the spring with the flowers blooming.

 

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The garden themselves have many sculptures and other works.  Not sure what this represents, but it looked neat.

 

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Lemons as large as a softball.  Wish I could get ones this large at the store.

 

Springdale Cemetery

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Outside of Civil War burial sites and other national burial site, Springdale Cemetery is one of the largest cemetery’s I have ever walked in.  Hilly and heavily forested it is quite picturesque.  This is at the top of South Center.  The cemetery is in the process of turning the area back to prairie.

 

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This is near Orchard Hill.

 

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The Glen.  Because of the hilly terrain, many of the gravestones have shifted because of rain run off.  At night, this should give the area a creepy appearance of an old cemetery.

 

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There is a pet cemetery called Whispering Woods that allows special pet a comfortable resting place instead of being buried behind the garage or in landfill.  There were cat, dogs, and pair of bears. 

 

Donovan Park

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This park was once a golf course.  The conversion must have happen in the last few years because many of the greens and sand traps are still visible through the overgrowth.  Neat feature was that the 60s style golf signage is still in place that gives the park a unique feel.  On the grounds is Northmoor Observatory.   I wonder how good the view is given the light pollution around Peoria.