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.


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

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

Knox County – Galesburg


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


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


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


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


The building and grounds are modest but nicely curated.


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


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


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

Warren County – Monmouth


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


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


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


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


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


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

Henderson County – Oquawka


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


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


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


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


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

Mercer County – Aledo


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


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


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


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

Rock Island County – Rock Island


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Henry County – Cambridge


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


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


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

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

Bureau County – Princeton


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


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


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


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

Putnam County – Hennepin


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


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


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

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


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.


Picture of the west side.


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.


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



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.


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


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. 


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


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


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.


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.


Nothing says welcome like several artillery piece surrounding the building.


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



The grounds are well kept and rather beautiful.


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


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


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


Masonic temple on the south side of the court house. 

Peoria County – Peoria


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.


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


The employee entrance on the north side.


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


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


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


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


Stark County – Toulon


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


The grounds shown from the southeast side of the building.


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

Woodford County – Eureka


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.


The building is built on top of a rise.


Facing the south side of the building.


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.