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History of Fairview Heights

The area in which Fairview Heights grew to prosper was settled early in the 19th century. However, the earliest known land ownership was that of James Gray, a member of the militia, who in 1790 was granted 200 acres along present-day North Ruby between the Lincoln Trail and I-64. A speculator, Gray sold the parcel in 1805.

German immigrants

The area’s first permanent settlers began arriving about this time. Many were hardworking German immigrants who built small log cabins and cleared land for farming in what was then called Ridge Prairie. About mid-century, a second wave of growth came with the introduction of coal mining in southwestern Illinois.

In 1850, Henry Becherer opened a tavern and stagecoach stop on what is now Lincoln Highway where the Dandy Inn now stands. Shortly after 1900, Fairbrother Realty Co. laid out a town called Fairview in what had previously been known as Ridge Prairie and began advertising lots from $250 to $500 per acre. One ad informed prospective buyers that an acre was equal to about 10 of the 25-foot wide city lots on which they presently lived.

In 1914, residents of the area formed the Fairview Improvement Association to provide protection and security for property owners. The association raised funds to maintain sidewalks and roads through dances and picnics. In 1933, the association arranged for fire protection.

By 1950, Fairview was a place folks passed through enroute from Belleville to Edwardsville and Collinsville. Ironically, the traffic activity stimulated development of the community and more and more homes were built throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-1960s, Fairview voters were asked to choose between Fairview Heights, Lincoln Heights and Prairie Ridge as a name for their community and on June 19, 1969, the name Fairview Heights was officially recorded by the Illinois Secretary of State. The city incorporated on October 2, 1969.

Early in the 1970s, retail interests began to focus on the community. The opening of St. Clair Square mall in 1974 lit the fire that has burned brightly ever since. Today, Fairview Heights is the largest shopping center in southwestern Illinois and still growing. It has earned its motto: “Crossroads of Prosperity.”

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