Chamber Overview

The Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce is an independent, not-for-profit corporation chartered in 1919. It is a voluntary organization of business and professional people working and planning together to promote business, assist area development, and further community progress. Chamber members join together to accomplish collectively what they cannot do alone. The Chamber is made up of people like you acting as a group rather than individually. This unity is at the heart of the Chamber’s work and is essential to its efforts to move Charleston and the Charleston area forward as we face a challenging and exciting new century.

The Chamber’s mission is to be the principal representative of area business to ensure a favorable business climate and to promote economic development, tourism and a better quality of life in the Charleston area. To carry out its mission the Chamber provides several benefits and services to its members. The Chamber is a clearinghouse for information about Charleston business and industry as well as about community activities sponsored by various clubs, agencies and organizations. Through such activities as the monthly Fourth Friday Luncheons, the Annual Dinner and Business After Hours social mixers it provides an opportunity for networking and increased business contacts for members. And, as new technologies connect our local businesses more closely to the global economy of the 21st century, the Chamber serves as an important link for our community to state, national and world economic and business developments through its access to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the National Federation of Independent Business and the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Community Introduction

Whether you enter Charleston through its attractive corridor to the west, from the wooded hills and sparkling beauty of Lake Charleston to the south, past the clean and modern industrial enterprises on the north or through the fertile and productive farms which lie to its east, you will be immediately captivated by a thriving, progressive city which is proud of its friendliness and community spirit.

Founded nearly two centuries ago, our city is a place with a proud past and an exciting future. Charleston has served since the 1830s as the social, economic and political center for the surrounding area. The city has a population of 20,780. It is the county seat of Coles county, the home of Eastern Illinois University, the site of manufacturing or shipping facilities for several major national corporations and of many successful, prosperous small businesses. Charleston has a dynamic spirit–a spirit which can be seen in its numerous service clubs and their community assistance activities, in the volunteer work which makes possible the annual Fourth of July Red, White and Blue Days, and in several social and athletic activities for its youth. Religious activities and opportunities for worship are important in Charleston, and churches of many denominations are located here.

A forward looking community with a bright future, Charleston also has a rich historical tradition. Abraham Lincoln visited Charleston often, on his way to spend time with his father and step mother, who lived south of the city. Charleston was the site of one of the debates between Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas as the two politicians addressed serious national issues in 1858. And, in the 1850s when the railroads were built across Illinois, Charleston was connected more closely to the rest of the state and nation–a connection maintained today by modern telecommunications, highway and air links.


Situated in the rich, black-earth farmland of east-central Illinois, Charleston is located 165 miles south of Chicago, 115 miles northeast of St. Louis and 120 miles west of Indianapolis. The city is served by rail, air and motor freight services. The Coles County Memorial Airport is located just four miles west of Charleston and provides connections to other regional airports as well as to Chicago. Interstate Route 57, a major north-south artery in the Midwestern transportation grid, is just five miles west of Charleston and is easily accessed by Illinois Route 16, a four lane highway which connects Charleston and Mattoon, nine miles to the west. Interstate 70, the nation’s prime east-west highway, is only 30 miles south of the I-57/Illinois Route 16 interchange and is accessible by I-57.

Business and Industry

Business and industry are well represented in Charleston. From small crafts and specialty shops to large manufacturing and shipping facilities, business thrives in the community. Eleven major entities employ between 1,800 and forty-four individuals while dozens of smaller shops and stores employ hundreds more. Business is welcome here. And, with nearly 183,000 people residing within a thirty-five mile radius of Charleston, a capable and willing workforce is readily available for business and industrial firms located here. Charleston is a city where the work ethic remains strong and the spirit of community support is high.


Homes in Charleston range from newly constructed houses in spacious and well planned developments to genteel, 150 year old two-story residences located along shady, tree-lined streets; from compact and cozy ranches in friendly subdivisions to multi-bedroom executive homes in exclusive neighborhoods and to many varieties in between. Apartments and other rental properties, some designed for senior citizens are also available in Charleston. Realtors from major reality companies are prepared to assist in the location and purchase or rental of a home suitable for nearly anyone’s needs. For visitors requiring short term residence, several motels offer a variety of accommodations.


Charleston offers convenient shopping for city residents. Small shops as well as large discount stores provide a good range of shopping facilities for consumers. Clothing, hardware, grocery, auto parts, and office supply outlets are just some of the kinds of shops which are conveniently located in our community. There is also a diverse choice of garages, repair shops, service stations, specialty stores and restaurants in town. Friendly merchants and reasonable prices characterize shopping in Charleston.


There is no shortage of recreational activities in Charleston. From the Rotary swimmingpool complex to softball, baseball, volleyball and tennis leagues for adults and youth, almost anyone can find an activity in which to participate. Fox Ridge State Park, situated just eight miles south of Charleston, has expansive recreational facilities, including family and groupcamping sites, canoeing, picnic areas with pavilions, and hiking trails of varying ranges of difficulty and length. Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, just five miles outside Charleston, re-creates the year 1845, and volunteer pioneers dressed in period clothing and speaking in period dialect make this living history home of Abraham Lincoln’s father and stepmother a charming, fascinating spot. In town, Charleston’s Morton Park with its playground and shelters, its ballfields and tennis courts, offers a delightful place for picnics, reunions, or just a pleasant stroll.Other parks and athletic facilities, a public golf course and a driving range as well as the Coles County Fair insure fun activities for everyone.

Cultural Events

From well-crafted productions at the Charleston Alley Theater to visiting orchestras in Eastern Illinois University’s Doudna Fine Arts Center, cultural events are readily available to Charleston citizens. Eastern’s Tarble Arts Center provides a site for a diverse offering of the arts, including exhibits of paintings and sculpture, performances by chamber music groups, poetry readings and classes in arts and crafts. The Coles County Arts Council regularly encourages arts activities in the area, including the City Art Exhibit which features a new showing of the work of local artists each month in Charleston’s City Building. The Jackson Gallery displays the work of area artists in a wide variety of media. Each summer the Charleston Community Band presents several evening concerts in Charleston’s Kiwanis Park.


Charleston has a strong and effective school system with an enviable reputation. Four neighborhood elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school provide a solid educational foundation for the children of our community. Charleston schools consistently rank high in comparisons with other schools throughout the region. Active parent and community support helps insure academic excellence and assists with a wide range of extracurricular activities. Private, church related schools, both elementary and secondary, also operate in Charleston. Eastern Illinois University, located in Charleston, and Lake Land College, just nine miles distant near the neighboring city of Mattoon, provide extensive choices for education beyond high school.

Health Care

The Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, located outside Charleston and easily accessible on Illinois Route 16, is a regional medical center with 209 beds and a staff of 950 which provides comprehensive health care to the area. The Carle Clinic, staffed by physicians in several medical specialties, is located five miles west of Charleston. Twenty-four hour ambulance service, home health care agencies and several physicians and other health care professionals with practices in Charleston make up the community’s health care structure.