Belleville Economic Progress, Inc. (BEPI) and its 600 member businesses welcome you and invite you to make this fine area the home for your family or business.

BEPI is a unique organization, a private not-for-profit corporation, supported primarily by member contributions. It combines the functions of an economic development corporation, chamber of commerce, and tourism bureau. Programs and services offered by BEPI include the following:

Economic Development: business retention and expansion programs; recruitment of new businesses; support for major public investments, such as the new MidAmerica Airport adjacent to Scott Air Force Base and the St Clair County extension of MetroLink, the St. Louis area's award-winning light rail transit system; Developer Tours that bring St. Louis investors for personal orientation.

Business Services: networking opportunities at BEPI events (Business After Hours, Breakfast Club, and Business Expo); information and data on the Belleville market area; direct assistance to new and expanding businesses; legislative affairs programs.

Community Improvement: programs to enhance the quality of life for area businesses and residents, including housing and neighborhood stabilization, beautification, downtown improvement, and promotion of area attractions. If you need more information about any of the subjects covered in this book, call BEPI at (618)233-2015, or visit us at our web site Chances are that we have what you need, or we can tell you where to find it!

Dear Friends,

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Belleville's many special attributes, and I hope you will be able to experience our city in person.

Opportunities abound in Belleville. Excellent schools, from early childhood through Belleville Area College's two-year associate's curriculum, illustrate our commitment to education. The Belleville Philharmonic Society, the St. Clair County Historical Society, literary study groups, and a top-notch library system indicate Belleville's rich cultural background. Our historic district proudly exhibits the fruits of dedicated preservationists, while our clean, safe neighborhoods - both old and new - provide the perfect homes for raising families.

Belleville not only is a great place to live, but also it is a great place to work. Perfectly situated near highways 15, 159, 177, 13 and 161, and not too far from I-255 and I-64, businesses find our location convenient and comfortable. The big city services of St. Louis are within easy driving distance. Belleville is the seat of St. Clair County's government, and our hospitals with their medical and technical support, are among the best in southern Illinois.

Police and fire protection are superior. We have city-wide sanitary sewers, and our water supply is abundant and safe.

Shopping in Belleville provides something for everyone. We feature a wide array of shops, from large retail stores to smaller antique, clothing, hardware, lumber, photo, specialty, and sporting goods stores. We feature a number of fine eating establishments as well. Our supermarkets are state-of-the-art, and our country-fresh produce stores are simply the best. All major religious denominations are represented. The nearby Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows attracts thousands of visitors each year. Belleville has it all!

Add the MetroLink transportation system, the MidAmerica Airport, sports complexes, little leagues, movie theaters, parks, a daily newspaper, and an enthusiastic group of service organizations, and it is clear that Belleville is the perfect place to live and work.

Founded in 1814, Belleville has celebrated its Centennial, Sesquicentennial, and 175th anniversaries. We look forward to the Bicentennial in 2014. Friendly residents welcome all. Come celebrate the future with us.

Mark A. Kern
Mayor, City of Belleville

The Belleville area is just the right place for your family and your business. It features the right combination of great location, blue ribbon schools, a wide range of affordable housing, a varied and dynamic economy, a rich history, and abundant family-oriented recreational opportunities.

The Right Location: The Belleville area is ideally located for access to all of southwest Illinois and the greater St. Louis area. Major league sports are only 20 minutes away, but green fields and farms are right on your doorstep. Scott Air Force Base is only minutes away, as is the new MidAmerica Airport. Major highways connect in all directions, and, in a few short years, the MetroLink light rail transit system will connect Belleville directly to the heart of the metropolitan area. Plans have been developed to extend the light rail to MidAmerica Airport.

Blue Ribbon Schools: Belleville area schools have been nationally recognized for excellence in providing quality education at below-average costs. Belleville Area College has been recognized as a leader in quality affordable higher education. The college offers a wide variety of two-year degree programs and an excellent record in transferring its credits to four-year institutions.

Quality Of Life: A wide range of affordable housing is available in numerous distinct neighborhoods, ranging from older districts, to modest family homes, to suburban ranch homes, to exclusive estate homes and golf course communities. Recreational activities are abundant for today's active families, with an amazing array of children's programs and services.

Diverse Economy: As the County Seat of St. Clair County, and the largest city bordering Scott Air Force Base, Belleville is home to a large contingent of government offices., Belleville is also a major financial center, with 10 banks located here. Two major hospitals and numerous other medical offices make Belleville a medical services center. Manufacturing and agribusiness round out a diverse and dynamic local economy, with plentiful employment opportunities.

Rich History and Culture: The Belleville area has a rich and colorful history, dating back to the early French explorers, continuing throughout the German immigration in the 1800’s, when the Philharmonic Orchestra and Library were founded. The architectural and cultural heritage of the area is a source of pride and strength.

Belleville, one of the oldest and most picturesque communities of Illinois, became the county seat of St. Clair County in 1814. Belleville was founded by Frenchman George Blair. However, between the years of 1832 and 1833, a great German infiltration began that continued several decades. The architecture of the city and the history it exemplifies are closely tied to the German population that settled Belleville during that period.

Residents treasure the older neighborhood's simple brick cottages, which feature an architectural style known locally as “German street house.” Other brick structures in Belleville's neighborhoods embrace established architectural styles such as Greek Revival, Italianate, French Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and American Foursquare. The Belleville National Register Historic District includes over 700 properties and provides residents and visitors alike an opportunity to view one of Illinois’ finest examples of mature nineteenth-century neighborhoods.

The city's first local historic district; the “Old Belleville Historic District,” was formed in 1974 and now includes approximately 160 properties. Since then, two more neighborhoods, “Hexenbukel” and “Oakland” have become historic districts.

The culture of the German immigrants influenced many other traditions and customs in the Belleville community, many of which continue today. The early German settlers were highly intellectual and scholarly men, most of them graduates of fine German universities. As they settled the Belleville community, they yearned to establish cultural outlets left behind in their homeland. By 1836, residents established the public library that predates the Illinois State Library by three years and distinguishes the Belleville Public Library the oldest in the state. The Germans formed choral and dramatic groups and literary societies. The Belleville Philharmonic musical society is the second oldest continuous playing philharmonic orchestra in the country. It was founded by German musicians in 1864.

The St. Clair County Historical Society, established in 1905, is one of the oldest county societies in Illinois. The Society operates historic museums, the Victorian Home-Museum, a Greek Revival home built in 1866, and the Emma Kunz Home Museum, a classic example of the German street house circa 1830.

Nearby historic sites reflect the rich history of the region. The Cahokia Mounds and visitor center in Collinsville are dedicated to the early Mississippi Indian culture. Fort de Chartres, near Ruma, is a reconstructed French Fort from the early 1700’s. The village of Maeystown offers a glimpse of history with its shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfast inns.

Belleville Sister Cities, Inc. has been established to promote cultural, social and business exchanges with the citizens of our “sister city” Paderborn, Germany. It also gives Belleville the vehicle to foster additional interests in the rich German heritage of our area. Membership is available and promoted to all area residents, with the common interest of nurturing the fellowship of the society and the good of the community. Numerous benefits are available to all members, such as the opportunity to bring “Gemuetlichkeit” by participation in cultural exchanges, to attend planned and spontaneous social functions, to offer their hearts and homes during exchange visits, and to participate actively to improve the many programs which the organization undertakes and sponsors. In short, the association strives to become “Belleville's Good Will Ambassador.”

In return, the German-American Friendship Committee in Paderborn (Deutsch-Amerikanischer Freundeskreis), as newly found friends and citizens of Paderborn, invite and welcome your participation and visits to their proud and historic land.

General meetings are held twice a year.

For More Information Contact:

1. St. Clair County Historical Society (618)234-0600

2. Belleville Philharmonic (618)235-5600

3. Belleville Library (618)234-0441

4. Belleville Sister Cities, Inc., P.O. Box 333, Belleville, IL 62222

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