Introduction to Peoria, Illinois
The Illinois city of Peoria, county seat of Peoria County, is located on the banks of the Illinois River in the central part of the state, about 165 miles southwest of Chicago and about 70 miles north of the state capital of Springfield. Situated at the junction of Interstate Highways I-74 and I-474, Peoria is serviced by other thoroughfares including U.S. Route 24 and Illinois State Highways 6, 9, 29, and 116. Surrounding communities include Bartonville, Marquette Heights, and the newly established city of West Peoria. The city is home to Bradley University.
Originally known as Fort Clark, Peoria derived its new name in 1825 from one of the major tribes of the Illinois Indian confederacy. The village was incorporated as a town in 1835 and then as a city ten years later. The Civil War era marked a sharp division among the citizens of Peoria on the controversial issue of slavery. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas gave impassioned speeches on the subject during 1854 on the city's courthouse steps. During the early years of the 20th century, Peoria was known as one of the largest manufacturers of liquor in the nation and was a prominent stop on the Vaudeville circuit. The city today has become synonymous with "mainstream America" and representative of Midwestern culture, often being used as a national test market for new products and opinion surveys.
Peoria Points of Interest
A new 6.8-acre development in downtown Peoria known as Museum Square is planned to be completed in 2009. The site will be the new home of the Peoria Riverfront Museum, a large facility which will feature hands-on and interactive displays, a planetarium, and exhibits from a variety of disciplines with a regional focus. The museum will join existing Peoria museums such as the Wheels o' Time Museum and the Lakeview Museum for the Arts and Sciences. The Peoria Civic Center, completed in the early 1980s, is currently undergoing a revitalization and expansion to its facilities which will greatly enhance the scope of its conventions and entertainment options. Bradley Park, a gift to the city from Bradley University founder Lydia Moss Bradley, was completed in 1910 and includes a Japanese Bridge and Garden. Glen Oak Zoo, which will soon be known as Peoria Zoo and Gardens, is undergoing renovations which will triple its size and allow the establishment of a major African safari exhibit. Other sites of interest in the city include the following:
- Civil War Memorial: Dedicated by President McKinley and members of his cabinet in 1899.
- Grand View Drive: Cited by President Theodore Roosevelt as the "world's most beautiful drive".
- Renaissance Park: A research park established in 2003.
- Forest Park Nature Center: A 500-acre wooded oasis.
- George L. Luthy Memorial Botanical Garden
- Wildlife Prairie State Park
- Peoria Riverfront
Annual events in Peoria include the Steamboat Classic, a four-mile long running race held every summer; and the Louie Louie Festival, a musical celebration of the beginning of summer held in late May on the Peoria Riverfront.
Professional sports in Peoria are alive and well, especially for baseball and hockey fans. The Peoria Chiefs are a Class Single-A minor league baseball team playing in the Midwest League. Founded in 1983, the team is affiliated with Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs. Hockey fans can root for the Peoria Rivermen, a team in the American Hockey League (AHL) playing their home games at the city's Carver Arena. The Rivermen are an affiliate of the National Hockey League's St. Louis Blues, and before 2005 were at various times known as the Worcester IceCats, the Springfield Indians, the Syracuse Warriors, and the Springfield Kings.