The recorded history of the Illinois Valley reaches back over three centuries to the explorations of French explorers Louis Joliet and Father Marquette in 1673 and their discovery of a large Indian settlement on the Illinois River at Starved Rock. Starved Rock acquired its name with the legend of a band of Illini Indians who chose to starve atop the rock during a siege by Ottawa and Potawatomi Indians, rather than surrender.
Modern Valley history began with the first pioneer settlers who arrived in the early 1800's. The Illinois River and the rich soil of the Illinois Valley attracted these early settlers. Opportunities for work on construction of the Illinois-Michigan Canal in 1836 drew thousands more. The cities of LaSalle, Peru, DePue, Hennepin, and Utica had their beginnings between 1820 and 1840. In the early 1850's, construction of the Illinois Central and the Rock Island railroads brought a new influx of labor and early industry to the area.
Rapid industrial expansion followed. Area coal mines provided an economical power source, and the river, railroads, and the Illinois-Michigan canal offered a convenient mix of transportation. Among the companies founded before 1900 are W.H. Maze Company (1854), Marquette Cement Company, now Lone Star (1898) and American Nickeloid Company (1898).
Industrialization led to the founding of new cities and villages. Spring Valley established in 1885, Ladd in 1890, and Oglesby in 1902. The era of coal mining ended with the closing of the most mines in the 1920's.
As a result, the Illinois Valley recognized the need for industrial diversification. And, as their pioneer forefathers met the challenges of their time, modern Illinois Valley leaders pooled their knowledge and skills to attract new industry.
Their successes in the effort include the Hobbs Divisions of Stewart-Warner Corporation, American Hoccht (now known as Huntsman Chemical), Sundstrand Corporation (today Sauer Sundstrand), Jones & Laughlin Steel (now LTV Steel Corporation), and many others.
Transportation spurred the Illinois Valley's initial growth in the early 1800's and is again playing an important role in accelerating commercial and industrial development with the current location of major distribution centers and manufacturing operations. The Illinois Valley's east-west 1-80 and new north-south new 1-39 position the Valley as a vigorous crossroads and industrial center for the 21st century.
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There is a housing style in the Illinois Valley to satisfying taste and desire. Homes range from large new executive - style dwellings to comfortably modern rental apartments. Also found are cozy bungalows on quiet streets, century-old mansions near city centers, and custom-built homes.
Brick, wood-sided, wood-shingled, and sparkling stucco homes are found
in the residential areas of the Illinois Valley. In older sections,
pebble-dash houses stress the uniqueness of homes in the region and
achieve their interesting exterior texture from pebbles dashed against
a wet cement surface.
New housing fringes Valley cities and the Illinois River with modern ranch, split-level, and two-story designs reflecting a wide variety of architectural styles.
Brick, wood-sided, wood-shingled, and sparkling stucco homes are found in the residential areas of the Illinois Valley. In older sections, pebble-dash houses stress the uniqueness of homes i the region and achieve their interesting exterior texture from pebbles dashed against a wet cement surface.
New housing fringes Valley cities and the Illinois River with modern ranch, split-level, and two-story designs reflecting a wide variety of architectural styles.
In addition to the single-family dwellings, attractive apartment and townhome units meet the needs of young singles, newly married couples, seniors, and those who shun the maintenance responsibilities of home ownership. Three conveniently located high-rise apartment structures provide lower cost housing for senior citizens, satisfying the need for security and peer companionship.
Pride in home ownership is part of the treasured heritage of the families in the Illinois Valley.
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The Illinois Valley is the ideal site for new businesses and the relocation or expansion of existing operations. Well-planned industrial parks offer fully developed sites away from residential areas and near interstate highway connections. Large parcels of industrially zoned land, are available along I-39, 1-80, and connecting highways. River sites are available as well.
Important to industrial enterprises seeking relocation or expansion is the fact that large areas of LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby, and Utica are part of the Illinois Valley Enterprise Zone. Portions of Spring Valley, Granville, Hennepin, and Princeton are included in the Bureau Putnam Enterprise Zone. These zones offer a host of financial incentives, including extensive property tax abatement, state income tax credit for qualified job creations, and sales tax and investment tax deductions. Funds for training for qualified workers are available from the job Training Partnership Act/Private Industry Council and the Illinois Valley Community College (FVCC) offers training structured to meet the needs of area industry.
The Illinois Valley is home to divisions of several Fortune 500 companies and nearly 65 industries large and small. The Hobbs Division of Stewart Warner Corporation manufactures auto and tractor lamps assemblies and halogen tractor headlamps. Maze Nails, a division of W.H. Maze founded in 1848, produces specialty nails and exports to the world. Open Court General Books, now Carus Publishing Co. publish several children's magazines. Other leaders in their fields are American Nickeloid, Sauer Sundstrand, Lone Star and Illinois Cement Companies, Huntsman Chemical Corp., LTV Steel, ESK, and Badge-A-Minit, Ltd., the world's largest manufacturer of button making equipment.
In recent years, three Japanese firms (Unytite, Inc., Eakas Corporation and Univance)and one Swedish company (Nobel Biocare Mfg.,Inc.) have located in the Illinois Valley.
Among the Valley's newest firms are MetoKote Corporate and Donlar Corporation, producer of Inc., a steel product manufacturer and fabricator, and Donlar Corporation, producer of biodegradable fertilizer. Boise Cascade has opened a large call center to service its customers. Supervalu is locating a large Midwest Distribution Center and J.C. Whitney, an auto parts firm, is located in a newly constructed distribution and call center.
Goods produced in the Illinois Valley range from electronics to eyeglass and optical products, molasses, automotive products, business forms, children's monthly publications, cement, hot and cold roll steel, cookies, hydrostatic transmissions, polystyrene, corrugated boxes, and much more.
The Illinois Valley's financial institutions are prepared to lend strong support to local and new businesses. Through cooperative working agreements, many banks provide area firms with larger capital needs.
Illinois Valley industries are good neighbors with a positive effect on the community and provide a diversity of employment opportunity.
With energy resources readily available, utility companies supply industrial requirements for gas and electricity with ease and low costs. The river and deep wells, including artesian, are plentiful sources of water. Industry and home owners benefit from full city services.
A close relationship exists amongst business, industry, and Illinois Valley communities. Labor and management cooperate to reach important community goals. Together, they played an instrumental role in obtaining funds for the completion Of 1-39, the North-South interstate, Abraham Lincoln Memorial Bridge, the Illinois Valley Regional Airport, construction of the LaSalle Veterans Care Facility, and other major facilities.
Agriculture and agribusiness have a significant role in the economic activities of the Illinois Valley. The Valley's more than 3,700 farms produce 120 million bushels of corn, 25 million bushels of soybeans, 61,000 head of cattle, and 200,000 hogs annually. Hybrid seed corn, mushrooms, fresh eggs, and milk are also produced and processed in the Illinois Valley. The total value of agricultural production is over $480 million. Several large grain terminals maintain elevators and ship thousands of tons of grain by barge to many parts of the country and the world.
The Illinois Valley has a total work force of more than 85,000 skilled and semiskilled workers living in the Quad-County area of LaSalle, Bureau, Putnam, and Marshall counties. The work force is noted for being skilled and extremely industrious. Many workers are direct descendants of the hard-working tradesmen, farmers, and artisans who were responsible for the early development of the area.
The Illinois Valley has a history of stable labor-management relations, long lengths of employment, and low tardiness and absenteeism. Labor and management have benefitted from responsive educational systems that assure opportunities to learn the new skills required by today's business and industry, including but not limited to CAD/CAM, robotics, metallurgy, micro processor controls, and data processing.
The numerous firms of the Illinois Valley draw their employment from among workers who are well-educated and highly skilled and motivated by a heritage of hard work.
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The Illinois Valley is rich in opportunities for outdoor recreation. a few minutes from the Illinois Valley cities are three beautiful state parks where visitors can absorb breathtaking scenery, explore canyons, forests, and streams, or simply commune with nature.
A famous natural area on the Illinois River, Starved Rock State Park, has miles of hiking trails, deep canyons, sandstone bluffs, and the remains of two Indian villages. This beautiful 2,630-acre site offers camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and picnicking.
The park lodge is a rustic log and stone structure with an enormous great room highlighted by a vaulted, log-beamed ceiling. Its central focal point is a huge, two-sided stone fireplace. The lodge offers its visitors an indoor swimming pool and children's pool, has a game room, exercise room, whirlpool, saunas, outside sunning patio, restaurant, gift shop, and cocktail lounge and bar. Guests spending the night will find the lodge's 71 guest rooms and 22 guest cabin rooms to be very cozy, clean, and peaceful. Lodge guests are treated to Veranda Parties each Friday evening from May through September. The entertainment and food differs each week, so Veranda Parties are always fresh and entertaining.
Matthiessen State Park was presented to the state by the heirs of the late F.W. Matthiessen, a prominent LaSalle industrialist and philanthropist. Rich in history and geological formations, the 1,938-acre park is a delight for flower lovers and bird watchers. Its principal canyon, a striking gorge nearly 200 feet deep and 50 to 60 feet wide, is a prime attraction.
Buffalo Rock State Park is situated on a bluff 10 miles east of LaSalle. From the summit of Buffalo Rock, visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the Illinois River. The park has several popular picnicking areas, a shelter house, and provisions for outdoor cooking.
Cross country skiing, ice skating, tobogganing, and snowmobiling are among the winter-time recreational opportunities available in state parks in the Illinois Valley.
The Illinois River provides superb water sports. Summer sailing, power-boating, and water-skiing are popular among residents. Two boat clubs in Peru and Spring Valley have docking facilities and comfortable clubrooms. Several other public boat launching ramps are available.
Hunters and fishermen are in their glory in the Illinois Valley. Northern pike, walleye, and small-mouth bass are among the numerous varieties of fish that frequent the Illinois River and dozens of tributary streams flowing through woodlands and pastures. Backwaters of the river, plus the bottom lands, abound with water fowl. Ducks and geese by the thousands headquarter in the region until long after freeze-up. Numerous hunt clubs are spotted throughout the Valley's Illinois River area.
Popular among area fishing enthusiasts is the Master's Walleye Circuit Tournament held at the end of March at Barto Landing on the Illinois River in Spring Valley. It's a two-day professional team tournament with a cash purse of $54,000. The site of the tournament is said to have the best year-round fishing in Illinois.
In July, The Valley hosts the National Championship Boat Races on Lake DePue. Power boats from throughout the nation and several foreign countries race for the coveted crown of National Champion in each of 17 classes of boats. Along with the races there are live entertainment, food stands, carnival rides, and a beer garden.
The Vermilion River which joins the Illinois River at Oglesby offers the best white water canoeing in the state. Hennepin Canal Park, west of Spring Valley, is another favorite water recreation and fishing location.
The communities of the Illinois Valley have more than 20 parks and offer a variety of outdoor sports and programs. Many parks are fully developed with picnic shelters, baseball and softball diamond, and playground apparatus. Several have tennis courts and out-door public swimming pools. Park recreation programs feature activities for all ages, including youth football, classes in arts and crafts, Little League, tennis and swimming lessons, and softball leagues.
The facilities of a modern YMCA include a weight and exercise room, two handball courts, a large gymnasium, and an attractive all-purpose room and offers extensive athletics and social programs for the whole family. Aerobic dancing, physical fitness classes, and karate rank high in popularity while volleyball, basketball, and soccer leagues remain as favorites. Programs are revised at the end of each eight-week session.
Five excellent golf courses, three public and one private, give golfers a choice of challenges. Tennis buffs have topnotch facilities at a private racquet club. The club provides opportunities for indoor tennis, handball, exercise and swimming. The pool also offers specialized sessions for arthritis, water walking & water exercise. There are several enjoyable bowling centers in the area. In addition, the communities of the Illinois Valley have three health clubs.
amusement facility offers fun for the whole family, with a waterslide,
mini golf, automatic batting cages, a driving range, go-karts, and
bankshot basketball. Stock car racing is available every Saturday night
for all those who enjoy watching or living life in the fast lane. For
those who enjoy a more relaxing but adventurous type of recreation,
airplane rides viewing the beautiful Illinois Valley area are offered
at the Illinois Valley-Regional Airport. An indoor play-ground called
Absolute Fun is excellent for children's birthday parties and special
days that call for pure fun.
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When you make the Illinois Valley your home the scope of arts and entertainment is near endless. You can participate either as a performer or as a listener to the Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra and the Illinois Valley Choral Association, or choose to become a member of the Illinois Valley Art League.
The Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra was organized in 1950 and has about 50 members. The orchestra presents four concerts annually at various sites throughout the area. In addition, it presents two special children's concerts.
The Suzuki Music School was established in 1981 and involves about 200 persons between the ages of 18 and 80-plus years. The instruments employed are the violin, viola, cello, piano, organ, and guitar. The group performs for various community functions, at recitals, and major performances throughout the area.
The Illinois Valley Choral Association offers concerts on request by either of two children's choral groups. These groups perform annual Christmas and Spring concerts at Matthiessen Auditorium at L-P Township High School and appear frequently before business organizations and social and service clubs in Illinois Valley communities.
The Illinois Valley Art League is devoted to promoting art. It offers art classes for children between 10 and 12 years of age and provides judges for children's art shows and also arranges bus trips to Chicago art museums.
The Cultural Center at Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC), a $1.58 million facility, is the setting for a continuing Arts and Letters Series that includes concerts, plays, and lectures featuring major artists and speakers. The Center's 600 seats present an unobstructed view of the stage. For lectures and meetings, the auditorium can be divided into three 200-seat facilities. A December favorite at IVCC is the popular Madrigal dinner featuring Old English lyrics, court jesters, and humorous antics.
Community Concert Association involves people from several Illinois Valley communities and presents a variety of performances by professional artists, including ballet, vocal, and instrumental concerts.
Stage 212 is an amateur theatrical group that features local talent and has delighted audiences with musical and dramatic productions for 17 consecutive seasons. Through area cooperation, funds were raised enabling 212 to purchase a vacant theater for productions.
Theatrical and musical productions by students of LaSalle-Peru High School attract large audiences, as do those at Hall High School, St. Bede, and Fieldcrest High. The cultural activities of nearby Northern Illinois University, Illinois State, Illinois Wesleyan, and Bradley Universities also draw residents from the Illinois Valley.
A variety of special events entertain area residents. Oglesby Best Fest is an annual june attraction which features five days of free entertainment with more than 75,000 people attending the festivities.
In June, Spring Valley hosts its annual Summer Fest. The event features golf, woman's volleyball, softball, 3 on 3 basketball tournaments, citywide garage sales, carnival, beer garden, live entertainment, Spaghetti feast, pork chop tent, etc. Summer Fest attracts some 10,000 people from throughout the Illinois Valley. The Burgoo Festival, sponsored by the LaSalle County Historical Society, is held each October at Utica and adds its own distinctive flavor to the area's entertainment. Named for a tasty pioneer dish, Burgoo is generously ladled from large iron kettles to as many as 35,000 visitors. In addition to this robust dish, barbecued pork chops and homemade pies are favorites. The festival features live music, a large flea market, a craft show, and demonstrations of period handiwork.
Taste of the Illinois Valley is another popular summertime event. Held in the end of May and beginning of june, the festival features food from area restaurants, music, rides games, and other entertaining happenings.
Wenona Days is a celebration of the community's heritage and features events and activities pleasing to the whole family.
Lovers of old time country music, bluegrass, and folk are attracted to "Music in the Wild," held in mid-July at the Putnam County Conservation District in Hennepin. The two-day event has storytelling, old-time craft demonstration, an old-time fiddle contest, and lots of good food. There's even a Buckskinners encampment with Mountain Men events.
Each spring and fall, the Peru Mall sponsors big craft shows attracting crafters from throughout the nation. The event draws big crowds to the popular shopping mall.
Illinois Valley readers have access to excellent library facilities. The LaSalle Public Library occupies a classic structure close to downtown and offers 44,000 volumes, along with audio cassettes, and microfilmed copies of the local newspaper and periodicals. For children, the Library has story hours and special holiday programs.
The Peru Public Library is a modern, 17,000-square-foot structure that has approximately 50,000 volumes, 140 periodicals subscriptions, and access to the collections of other libraries. It provides audio and video cassettes, compact discs and access to the Internet and other electronic databases. The library frequently offers free programs of interest to the public. Illinois Valley residents also have access to materials in the 28 libraries of the Starved Rock Library System and the IVCC library with its extensive selection of periodicals, reference volumes, magazines, books, and newspapers.
The LaSalle County Historical Museum in Utica is the home of the 85-year-old LaSalle County Historical Society. Housed in a fully restored pre-Civil War stone warehouse near the historic
Illinois Michigan Canal, the museum contains such artifacts as Indian relics, early pioneer home furnishings and pioneer garments, and early farm tools, and a carriage which conveyed Abraham Lincoln to the scene of a Lincoln-Douglas debate.
Located nearby is Starved Rock Lock and Dam and Illinois Waterway Visitor Center. The Center provides exhibits, an observation deck, and an informative audiovisual display of lock operations.
Yet another historical site is Lock 14 on the Illinois-Michigan Canal, at LaSalle. The lock has undergone extensive restoration in recent years. The canal has become a National Historic Corridor, giving it the status of a National Park.
Effigy Tumuli Sculpture at nearby Buffalo Rock State Park presents a unique art form. The open scar of an abandoned surface mine has been transformed into a place of pleasure for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Giant sculptures reminiscent of the work of ancient mound builders who once inhabited the area have been created of a water spider, frog, catfish, turtle, and a snake.
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Air, interstate highway, rail, and water transportation the Illinois Valley has it all! Located at the center of a market area that includes Rockford, Peoria, Rock Island-Moline, Bloomington-Normal, and Chicago, it is only hours from 30 major Midwest markets.
The Illinois Valley stands at an important interstate crossroads,
positioning Valley industries to serve both east-west and north-south
markets by motor freight. Interstate 80, the primary route between New
York and San Francisco, cuts through the heart of The Valley, serving
LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby, and Spring Valley. Intersecting 1-80, at
LaSalle, is 1-39, the linchpin of an interstate system that extends
from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Interstate 39 crosses the Illinois
River between LaSalle and Oglesby via the beautiful Abraham Lincoln
Memorial Bridge, the longest bridge of its type in Illinois. Forty-four
transportation firms operate in the Illinois Valley.
Illinois Valley Regional Airport - Walter Duncan Field provides air transport services. The Regional Airport has a 6,000-foot-long and 100-foot wide hard-surface, and lighted runway and offers complete facilities and has hanger and tie-down space for 60 aircraft. An Automatic Weather Observing System (AWOS) provides weather information to pilots, public, and state and local agencies, alerting them to threatening weather conditions. Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) and a Localizer are in place, part of a plan to install a complete ILS system. Flight operations increase steadily and are up to 1,200 flights per month. The airport offers charter service to Chicago's O'Hare International and Midway airports. The area has several rental car agencies and ground transportation services to O'Hare and Midway. O'Hare International Airport is only 90 miles and airports in Rockford, Moline, Bloomington, and Peoria airports are within a 60- to 75-mile radius.
The Illinois River flows through the 400-square-mile Illinois Valley, providing natural beauty and an economical means of transportation for industrial shippers. Docks and terminals service barges carrying bulk commodities and heavy cargo between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, via the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.
Four major railroads give overnight delivery to major Midwest markets Much of the rail network parallels the Illinois River, thus water-oriented industry can access both modes of transportation.
The Peoria to Chicago freeway continues down its study path, lending confidence that it will be built and benefit the Illinois Valley area. Of four routes under consideration, three impact positively on the Illinois Valley. The current study phase is focusing on a "ring road" around Peoria. "A complete ring road around Peoria is needed for any of the four cross-count routes to achieve their maximum benefits," said Bob Vickery, Chairman of the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee. "We're looking at statewide expansion of jobs from eight to 36 percent along the corridor. The numbers we see from the study process is encouraging," Vickery commented. The current phase of study is scheduled for completion in 1997.
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Illinois Valley encompasses the cities of LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby, Spring Valley, Wenona, and several smaller communities. Strategically located in North Central Illinois, the Illinois Valley is within 60 miles of Rockford, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, and Rock Island-Moline. Chicago is 90 miles away. The Illinois Valley continues to thrive and grow through increasing economic diversification. Action-oriented, it's future is bright. Large areas of the Illinois Valley are designated as enterprise zones which provide a wide range of economic incentives for new & existing business and industry. The people of the Illinois Valley are hardworking and energetic, taking pride in their jobs, homes, and communities. They support good school systems, both public and private. Area students perform above the national norm and school bands and athletic teams often win local and state championships.
Noted for its splendid recreation assets and favored by tourists, the Illinois Valley is loads of fun for families. The Illinois River flows through The Valley, offering a wide range of water sports. The beautiful terrain and facilities of three state parks - Starved Rock, Matthiessen, and Buffalo Rock - are contained within the area. Cultural activities and events indulge the wide and varied interests of Illinois Valley residents.
When it comes to humanity, the Illinois Valley is ready and willing to lend its support in helping the less fortunate. Residents truly carry out the Golden Rule of Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.
This publication will acquaint you with the many aspects of living and working in the Illinois Valley area. It covers LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby, Spring Valley, and Wenona, the five cities in the Illinois Valley, along with the nineteen villages.
For more information, please contact the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development (815-223-0227).
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