Alton, IL

Welcome to Alton:

Alton, Illinois is a historic community situated upon the Mississippi River thirty minutes northeast of downtown St. Louis. If you haven't visited our City in a while you might be surprised at what you find! Come watch our progress as the legendary Piasa Bird returns to a bluff face on the Great River Road. We are also excited to recently have been designated as one of 26 National Scenic Byways.

Other recreational improvements include the multi-million dollar Melvin Price Lock and Dam Visitors Center (to open next year) and the state-of-the-art Alton Marina. Our nationally renown Gordon Moore Park includes Arnold Palmer's Spencer T. Olin Golf Course, Lloyd Hopkins Baseball Field, Bud Simpson Tennis Complex, and Nan Elliott Rose Garden. Many future improvements at Riverfront Park, including plans for a large fountain, ice-skating rink and amphitheater, are planned.

In addition to our recreational progress, we are also in the midst of exciting residential development. New housing programs including the Homeownership Program, Residential Facade Program, Historic Preservation Grant Program and Comprehensive Rehabilitation Program have been implemented to stimulate growth in our population and improve Alton's housing stock

Once the U.S.'s largest glass factory, Owens-Illinois Glass has sat derelict in the City's industrial corridor for nine years. Clark Properties, along with the city, state and federal government, are partnering to redevelop the property into usable warehouse and light industrial space. Not only will this project boost Alton's economy, but it will provide hundreds of local jobs.

Retail growth is occurring both on a small and large scale. The Alton Marketplace Association -- an Illinois Main Street Program, the Upper Alton Business Association and North Alton Businesses are working hard to revitalize small businesses in Alton. Larger retail stores such has Lowe's Hardware, Sears and Roebuck, and GrandPa's Department Store have also chosen to make Alton their home.

I encourage you to become part of what makes Alton special -- the people. Please visit our many parks, shops, restaurants, or try your luck at the Alton Belle Casino. I am proud of Alton's many accomplishments and am optimistic about our future.


Donald E. Sandidge


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The Mississippi River at Alton makes a giant eastward swing before turning south to St. Louis. Throughout history barge traffic has been key to Alton's economy. Today, the Alton Barge Terminal is ever busy, shipping and receiving grains, petroleum products, coal, and other goods.

Several railways serve the Alton area. These include Burlington Northern, Gateway Western, Illinois Central, SPCSL Corporation, Norfolk and Western, Conrail, Union Pacific, and Southern Pacific. Amtrak provides passenger rail service from its Upper Alton station.

Lambert St. Louis International Airport is only 23 miles southwest of Alton, providing freight and passenger service to hundreds of cities worldwide. The St. Louis Regional Airport, at nearby Bethalto, IL, provides both freight and charter air services.

Five Interstate highways -55, 64, 70,255, and 270 - are located between 15 and 30 minutes away. Five state highways and one federal highway - IL 3, 100, 111, 140, and 143 and U.S. 67 - join the River Bend community with the interstate and with neighboring towns and cities. The new Clark Bridge, a four-lane, cable stayed, suspension bridge over the Mississippi carries U.S. 67 to and from St. Louis.

This network is used by the 36 common over-the-road carriers that serve business and industry in the Alton area. In addition, there are six package and local carriers.

Unique, low-slung buses operated by the Madison County Transit provide county-wide service for area residents. Alton has three taxi companies and several limousine services operate in the Alton area.

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ALton's expansive bluffs, rolling hills, and jagged terrain make the city and its area a picturesque location for residential development. Alton homes offer everything from stately 19th Century mansions to smartly styled contemporary condominiums and apartments, from elegant single family construction of the early and middle 20th Century to clusters of spacious homes of the 1990s. There is a home in the Alton area to fit every budget and lifestyle.

The Alton area is poised for new development. Hopp Hollow is an example. Grandly styled new homes sparkle on a site transformed from farmland. A small, brick barn remains and is now the development's community center.

Alton's rich history is resplendently portrayed in the abundance of grand old homes of the Victorian era that cling to steep hillsides. Perched on the bluffs, overlooking the Mississippi, are the mansions of several 19th Century industrial barons, occupied today by business executives and other professionals.

Construction has begun on United Methodist Village, a retirement center featuring independent living, townhouses and apartments for assisted and sheltered living, a nursing home, church, daycare center, activity center, and a commercial area, all situated on 120 acres just north of Alton.

Charming homes dot the countryside surrounding Alton. These places offer the pleasures of rural living in the peaceful privacy of a natural setting.

To the north of Alton, just off the Great River Road, lies tiny, historic Elsah. The village is designed for those who love the trappings of earlier times. Streets are lined with small cottages dating to the mid-1800s and the entire community is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Such are the invitations to good living offered by Alton and its environs. It's a wonderful place to call home.

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Teachers and other professionals meet the high standards demanded by the community.

Alton Community Unit School District 11 operates 12 elementary schools, three middle schools, and Alton High School, the J.B. Johnson Career Development Center, and the James Center for special education. The district is the recipient of one of only a few National Science Foundation grants and it has been selected as one of 10 districts nationally to participate in the Danforth Vertical Team Management program. At the state level, the district has one of the ten "Essential Schools" and two of 30 "Accelerated Schools" in Illinois.

Alton School District also has received research and study grants in science literacy, minority excellence in math and science, urban partnership education, preschool education, truant alternative/optional education, and school improvement. It has been chosen as one of 10 districts in Illinois to begin a training program in cooperation with Motorola Corporation, the Illinois Math & Science Academy, and the State Board of Education.

More than 7,600 youngsters attend Alton public schools. The Alton School District's elementary schools focus on providing the basics of reading and math in an environment that promotes maximum achievement and encourages expression of individuality, creativity, and critical thought. The schools offer a latchkey and tutorial program, computer literacy programs, music and physical education, and field trips. The district's three middle schools, for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, offers gradual transition from primary to secondary education. In addition, the schools offer sports, other extracurricular activities along with special interest clubs.

With an enrollment exceeding 2,200, Alton High School is unique. It's hillside campus consists of three buildings that embrace what has long been termed, "The Pit". Students choose from more than 200 different courses.

The curriculum includes two dozen English courses and offers four years of study in four foreign languages - French, German, Spanish, and Latin. All four offer honors and two, French and Spanish, offer advanced placement. There are advanced placement courses, as well, in calculus and physics. Several honors programs are available in English, physiology, mathematics, science, and social studies. Approximately 60 percent of Alton High graduates go on to some form of higher education.

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The school also places heavy emphasis on career and computer education. It offers more than 25 business courses and over a dozen specialized computer programs. A wide range of career-oriented courses is available in industrial/technical education programs.

Qualified juniors and seniors can take specialized career training courses at the J.B. Johnson Career Development Center. The center has an enrollment of 450 students from five different high schools in the Alton area. They spend a portion of each day at the center and the balance of the day at their respective high schools. The Career Center offers training in 15 fields, covering everything from commercial art and vocational printing to licensed practical nursing, product marketing, auto mechanics, and computerized accounting.

As part of its building trades program, the center's students build a new home every other year. Sale of the home provides funds for materials to construct the next new house.

Marquette Catholic High School, rooted in Ursuline traditions, owned by the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, serves students in the southwest region of the Diocese. More than 360 students are enrolled annually. About 95 percent of graduates continue their education at a college or university. The school offers academic programs that are flexible yet challenging to students. These include general studies, college prep, honors, and advanced placement programs in a curriculum covering business, English, fine arts, foreign languages, physical education, mathematics, religion, science, and social studies. Its mission speaks to three specific components: (1) to inspire; (2) to nurture; and, (3) to serve. The school stresses principles of good citizenship.

Alton High School and Marquette Catholic High both field a full roster of boys and girls sports teams. The city's premier football stadium is home to each school.

The Alton area has 10 private and parochial schools plus several preschools and daycare centers, including Mississippi Valley Christian, St. Ambrose, St. Mary's, St. Matthew's, and St. Peter and Paul Catholic schools, all in Alton.

Higher Education


Alton students have only short distances to go to satisfy their desires for higher education. The 215-acre campus of Lewis and Clark Community College is nestled in Godfrey, Alton's neighbor to the north. Southern Illinois University's 2,660-acre park-like campus is located about 20 minutes southeast in Edwardsville.

In 1970, Lewis and Clark Community College took over the campus of Monticello College, a two-year college for women established in 1838. Lewis and Clark has earned a 10-year academic accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the organization's highest level of accreditation. The Illinois Community College Board has given Lewis and Clark its coveted Institutional Quality Award in recognition of its leadership role in academic excellence.

The college serves all or parts of seven counties in the Alton area, a district covering 1,800 square miles. It offers the first two years of a four-year program in liberal arts, sciences, and pre-professional training. Students transfer to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor's degree. In addition, Lewis and Clark provides career education in vocational, occupational, technical, and semi-technical fields. These programs equip students for direct entry into the job market. The college also offers adult education programs that satisfy individual educational goals.

Lewis and Clark Community College has an enrollment of more than 6,000. Since it opened its doors, the college has continued to upgrade campus facilities with new buildings and high-tech equipment. Its Distance Learning Network enables students to take courses offered by other colleges and universities through interactive, two-way video and audio connections with instructors in other parts of the state. A new, $20 million, five-story Allied Health, Math, and Science complex began construction in 1996. Among its planned features are wet and dry "virtual" labs that will permit students to conduct a variety of chemistry and other types of lab experiments on computers with all the reality of actual lab work minus the possible risks.

Lewis and Clark receives financial support from several major corporations. Olin Corporation has pledged $750,000 in response to the college's capital fund drive. IBM is assisting in evaluating the school's technology. Ameritech has provided distance learning equipment and the associated audio-video connections necessary. TCI Cable has installed a fiber optic line that has given the college its own TV channel and connected all campus buildings with a fiber optic network.

The Madison County Arts Council has its offices on campus and works closely with the college in planning regional cultural programs. Also on campus is the office of Pride Inc., a community organization devoted to community beautification and environmental education. The River Bend Growth Association is also headquartered on the Lewis and Clark campus. This organization is involved in community and economic development activities for 10 municipalities in northwest Madison County and part of Jersey County.

Some 11,000 students are enrolled at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE). Its programs are wide ranging, including degree programs in 57 majors and 42 minors.

Degrees are awarded by the university's six schools: the College of Arts and Science, the School of Business, the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Education, the School of Engineering, and the School of Nursing.

SIUE's School of Dental Medicine is located in Alton. SIUE is one of the area's sites for the U.S. Small Business Administration's Small Business Development Center program, which strives to promote growth, expansion, innovation, increased productivity, and management improvement in area business.

Alton students have easy access to several other well-known colleges and universities. Elsah's Principia College is just up the scenic Great River Road. Across the Mississippi in St. Louis are several fine universities, among them St. Louis University, Washington University, and the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

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The atmosphere is inviting, with the facades on 19th century buildings restored to their original splendor and a myriad of shops displaying antiques, jewelry, and artworks and stained glass, along with home furnishings and fashions.

Several cozy restaurants and pubs are interspersed among the shops. One local favorite is the Old Post Office Mall, housing a pleasing mix of unique boutiques.

Downtown business success is owed in part to the city's Facade Grant program. The city matches 25 percent of store front improvement costs, thus encouraging restoration, rehabilitation, and the opening of new shops and restaurants.

More shopping experiences are to be enjoyed along Homer M. Adams Parkway, which Altonians call "the Beltline." Alton Square Mall is located here. With two big name department stores as anchors, the two-level mall contains about 70 stores, restaurants, and services.

Several national discount chains have established their own centers along the Beltline, as have major motel chains and national fast food and family style restaurants. A number of auto dealers have built along this artery as well.

Smaller "strip malls" and convenience centers are found along the city's major thoroughfares, especially where they intersect other primary arterial routes. In Alton, shopping is abundant, convenient, and enjoyable.

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.....and looks to its future with optimism. A thriving industrial center in the 1960s, many of its major industrial firms have departed or drastically reduced operations in the community.

Of late, however, official efforts to attract investment, new business, and new residents are beginning to produce results.

In recent years, the number of building construction permits has turned sharply up, as have permits for additions, alterations, and repairs. In addition, city revenues are increasing. To encourage industrial expansion, the city has created a large Enterprise Zone and a Tax Increment Financing District.

The Alton area's largest employers reflect the diversity desired. Olin Corporation is the region's largest, employing more than 4,200 persons. Shell Oil and Laclede Steel rank second, with more than 1,100 workers each.

Local companies take the next four places. Argosy Gaming Company, operators of the Alton Belle floating casino, employs 950 workers. Alton Memorial Hospital has 935 persons on its staff.

Saint Anthony's Health Center has 850 staffers. Jefferson Smurfit, a paperboard and packaging products maker, has 650 employees.

Rounding out the area's top ten employers are Owens-Brockway Machine Mfg., producer of glass machines, with 481 employees; Clark Refining and Marketing, producer of oil, gasoline, coke, and kerosene, with 336 workers; and Mercantile Bank of Illinois, with 310 personnel.

Products originating in the Alton area are diverse. They include electronic components for national defense, liquid and compressed gases, flour, feeds, heat-formed plastics, brooms and mops, steel ingots and wire bar, paperboard packaging, ammunition, and molds for glass manufactured products.

Riverfront redevelopment is key in the city's planning. Included are new pedestrian plazas and bike trails. Recently renovated is Lincoln-Douglas Square with life-size statues of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in debate, Russell Commons, and the Vadalabene Bike Trail Extension. A new marina containing 180 slips opened in 1996 and will feature a boat store and deli, public restrooms, showers, and fueling facilities.

The river continues to be a strong economic force for Alton. Barges regularly load and unload at the Alton terminal west of downtown. On the Downtown riverfront are the dock and shore facilities of the Alton Belle Casino that, since it opened in September of 1991, has attracted more than six million visitors to the community and has brought more than $20 million to city coffers.

The Alton Industrial Corridor, stretching from the city's Central Business District to its eastern boundaries along the Mississippi, is another focal point for redevelopment. In its designated Tax Increment Financing or TIF District, the city plans infrastructure improvements that will make properties in the area even more desirable to business and industry.

Two impressive public works projects enhance Alton's business appeal: the new, four-lane Clark Bridge that carries U.S. Highway 67 to and from Missouri, and the $240 million Alton Locks and Dam, built by the Army Corps of Engineers. The new facility has substantially improved the efficiency and tonnage capabilities of the commercial navigation industry. Union Electric provides Alton with electricity and natural gas. Local telephone service is provided by Ameritech. Water service is the responsibility of Illinois-American Water Company. Waste water treatment is also performed by the city. Utility services assure plenty of capacity to accommodate business, industrial, and residential growth.

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