One of the First Great Cities of Illinois Prairie
Visitors to Ottawa soon discover why it was one of the first great cities to sprout from the Illinois Prairie. Located in a beautiful valley at the confluence of the Fox and Illinois Rivers, Ottawa’s natural setting is as appealing today as it must have been when Native Americans, French explorers and early settlers traversed the woodlands and rivers.
The development of the Illinois & Michigan Canal literally placed Ottawa on the map. Canal surveyors platted Ottawa and Chicago at the same time. Prior to the Civil War, Ottawa had become a great center of commerce, agriculture, culture, law and politics. Abraham Lincoln had many friends and supporters in Ottawa and often practiced here before the local and state courts. Lincoln last visited Ottawa in 1858 to debate Stephen Douglas in the first of the great debates, an event that has been memorialized with heroic-sized bronze sculptures of these men in downtown Washington Square.
Ottawans take pride in their heritage and community, and this is evident everywhere. The stately architecture in the city’s downtown and older neighborhoods reflects the aspirations and prosperity of our early citizens. In recent years the city has undertaken major public parks improvements, public works projects and recreational development of our riverfronts. Revitalization efforts are evident in the downtown area and new industry and commerce provide new job opportunities. Hundreds of citizens serve on a myriad of committees, commissions and boards to further improve the community. Quality public and parochial schools are a source of pride and a commitment to a future generation of effective citizens.
While visiting Ottawa, take time to explore Ottawa’s landscape, people and events. Be sure to take advantage of our many fine restaurants and unique shopping opportunities. Enjoy your visit and come back soon!
— Mayor Robert M. Eschbach