Aurora History

historic site

Aurora’s pioneering spirit can be traced back to its original settlers. Settlers came to the area in the early 1830s attracted by the fertile Fox Valley’s abundant resources. There was ample fresh water, game for food and clothing, broad farmland with rich, dark soil, lumber for building, and a growing local trade. In 1834, Joseph and Samuel McCarty, millers from New York, settled McCarty’s Mills here. The name was subsequently changed to Aurora, meaning “luminous bands of light.” By the 1840s, two newspapers were spreading the word and Aurora was here to stay. Aurora had opened its first bank by the middle of the 1850s; the fire department had been created; and the City had elected its first mayor.

Aurora became an important railroad center, employing more than 1,000 rail workers and establishing numerous facilities for building and maintaining locomotives. Much of the City’s railroad heritage can be seen today in the restored Roundhouse that is now included in the National Register of Historical Places.

City government had a permanent home when City Hall was erected in 1864. The public library opened to bring the world of information to residents in 1881. That same year, Aurora gained world recognition as the first city in the world to operate streetlights powered by electricity. It truly had become the “City of Lights” and a model Illinois community.

By the time The Aurora Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1907 and incorporated in 1920, the City had earned its reputation as a hard-working, fun-loving community that catered to the needs of residents and businesses alike. Over the years, as its prosperity has grown, Aurora has attracted the attention of hundreds of companies from around the world while still maintaining its sense of traditional, local roots.

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