St. Charles’ tourism history dates back more than 200 years. With its rich heritage and cultural amenities, St. Charles has a lot to offer.
In the late 1700s, Potawatomie Indians roamed the area that later became St. Charles. The Potawatomie migrated westward in 1832 and white settlements began to populate the Fox River area. In 1833, Evan Shelby and William Franklin staked the first claim in what was initially known as Charleston. Churches, a sawmill and a gristmill were constructed, and masons, potters, doctors and lawyers plied their trade. Residents changed the town’s name to St. Charles in 1839 after discovering another Illinois town also bore the name Charleston.
Irish and Swedish immigrants fueled a population boom between 1840 and 1850. Economic activity was spurred by the hotel industry because St. Charles was a stopover for travelers going between Chicago and Dekalb. The town played a prominent role in the Underground Railroad and had an active abolitionist group. Camp Kane, now the site of Langum Park, was a training center for Civil War soldiers.
The arrival of the railroad revitalized the town in the 1870s. Industry began to replace agriculture and gave rise to Belgian, Lithuanian and German neighborhoods. The 1920s brought the transformation to a resort town, due in part to the beautiful river views, scenic parks and the building of the Hotel Baker. Construction of Route 64, present-day Main Street, provided a direct route to Chicago.
The city continues to thrive and has earned the reputation as the Pride of the Fox River. City officials are committed to green programs such as Fox riverbank stabilization and prairie restoration in Riverside Park. Its unique architecture, strong education system, affordable housing and community spirit have garnered the city several awards.
Geography and climate
St. Charles covers 14.93 square miles; the Fox River runs through the downtown area. Located 40 miles west of Chicago, the city straddles Kane and DuPage counties. The city has a humid continental climate with four distinct seasons. Winters are windy, cold and snowy; summers are hot and humid.
The 2010 Census reports a population of 32,974; the population density is 2,257.7 people per square mile. Forty-seven percent of residents older than 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
St. Charles’ economy is a mix of industry, retail and restaurants. Nearly 46 percent of residents hold positions in management, business, science or the arts; 28.3 percent hold sales or office jobs. The private sector accounts for 84.5 percent of jobs. The average household income is $106,320. Slightly over 71 percent of residents own their own home; the median home value is $299,300.
Downtown St. Charles features art, fine dining and boutique shops. The Arcada Theater offers a diverse selection of entertainment, including comedy, classical music and nationally known entertainers. The city’s annual Pride of the Fox Riverfest, St. Charles Jazz Weekend and Scarecrow Festival are complemented by running and cycling races, concerts in the park and a farmers’ market. The nationally ranked St. Charles Public Library and the St. Charles Heritage Center are other attractions.
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