Alton, IL

boasting of assets that are difficult, if not impossible to find. It doesn't need to boast. Its many natural and created assets speak for themselves - clearly, proudly.

A key example is the city's exciting riverfront redevelopment that includes a large new marina that opened in 1996. the marina contains 180 slips, a boat store and deli, public restrooms, showers, and fueling facilities.

The City of Alton rises boldly from its Mississippi riverfront, up a long, steep slope and onto a landscape of rolling hills and rugged ravines. History is alive in its stately buildings and homes, many dating to the mid-1800s. As growth pushes back from the river, structures become more contemporary, reflecting the 1990s lifestyle of this historic, yet progressive community.

The community which comprises Greater Alton is a wealth of educational, religious, cultural, architectural, recreational, and economic opportunity. Its "hometown" flavor endears Alton to its 34,000 residents and thousands of visitors.

Alton offers exceptional opportunities to new business and is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.

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From its scenic river bluffs, explorers, Marquette and Joliet, and Lewis and Clark opened the way west. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held the last of their Great Debates here. Alton's "Gentle Giant," Robert Pershing Wadlow, who stood 8 feet, 11 inches is the tallest man who ever lived.

Alton is also home to another giant, the mythical Piasa Bird Marquette and Joliet recorded seeing depicted on the face of the limestone bluffs that rise majestically along the bank of the Mississippi. Its name (pronounced PIE-a-saw by the Illini Indians) means "devourer of men." Horned, bearded, and scaled, the Piasa Bird's image is being restored on a new site overlooking the river and the Great River Road at the base of the bluffs.

In 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition departed near Alton, from Camp River Dubois. In 1814, Rufus Easton, a land speculator from St. Louis, began acquiring land for a settlement on the Illinois bank of the Mississippi. The life of official Alton began in 1818 when Easton platted the community and named it for one of his seven sons. In designing the town, he named streets for his daughter, Alby, and sons Alton, George, Henry, and Langdon. The drawing assigned an area for a boat landing and sites for squares, commons, schools, and churches.

Although he gave birth to the community, Easton never lived in Alton. He failed to attract sufficient buyers and his plans disintegrated with the national bank failure in 1819. Eventually, his properties went to other speculators. Alton was incorporated in 1837.

Illinois' first state penitentiary opened in Alton in 1833. During the Civil War, captured Confederate soldiers were imprisoned there. During a small pox epidemic, 1,354 rebel soldiers died. A small, quiet cemetery in North Alton is their resting place. A tall, granite obelisk with bronze plaques containing the names of the dead, stands in the cemetery, now a national historic site. A small section of limestone wall is all that remains of the prison.

Industrialization began in the Alton area in 1831 and expanded rapidly throughout the latter part of the 19th century. At one point, the city boasted of more millionaires (per capita) than any city in the nation.

In 1892, Franklin Olin founded the Equitable Powder Company. The firm made black powder for use in Southern Illinois coal mines. Later, it started production of shotgun ammunition. In 1913, John Olin joined his father in the firm. Under John Olin's direction, the company developed smokeless and progressive powders. Soon, it was the industry's production leader.

Olin Corporation remains the Alton area's largest employer. However, the company is not the lone corporate citizen. Dozens of others are an integral part of the area economy.

Steeped in a proud history, Downtown stores are refurbishing and attracting new customers. Business and industry are expanding, aided by an enviable transportation network and a dedicated, highly skilled work force. New homes are being built and older ones restored to their original grace and beauty. Riverfront redevelopment is brisk.

Alton is poised for success and prosperity as it approaches the threshold of its third century.

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...from the fine books available at Hayner Library to the nationally-famed artists who appear on the campus of Lewis and Clark Community College.

Lewis and Clark College is one of the Alton area's premier cultural centers. Its Hatheway Cultural Center houses the 1,000-seat Ann Whitney Olin Theatre that has attracted audiences to musicals and theatrical productions featuring nationally and internationally renowned artists.

For 50 years, Alton audiences have enjoyed concerts by the Alton Symphony Orchestra. In a season that runs from Fall to Spring, the orchestra performs four concerts, climaxing in a performance with the winners of the Young Artists Competition which it sponsors.

One of the oldest municipal bands in the nation, the Alton Muny Band was formed in 1891. Its summer concerts recall simpler times in Alton.

For more than 60 years, Alton Little Theatre has entertained audiences with five productions each season. It is the oldest continuing amateur theatrical group in Illinois.

Alton Children's Theatre has produced puppet shows and plays for school-age children for more than 35 years.

The Madison County Arts Council serves the community in special ways. Since 1981, the council's support has benefited the Alton Symphony Orchestra, six museums and historical societies, eight theater groups, and three artists guilds, plus other music groups and organizations.

The Alton Museum of History and Art is located on the campus of the SIUE School of Dental Medicine and provides an excellent insight into local history and the performing arts.

Alton's proximity to St. Louis gives residents easy access to the metropolitan center's many museums, galleries, concerts, and major professional sports events.

Lighting the way to Alton from Thanksgiving to New Year's is the spectacular Celebration of Christmas. The theme of the display is right out of Dickens. A million lights glow brilliantly each night in the 65-acre Alton Rock Spring Park. The park's rolling terrain and gigantic woods offer a "surprise around every corner." During its first four seasons, more than 160,000 visitors have "Celebrated Christmas" Alton style. On the philanthropic side, Celebration of Christmas has presented over $67,000 to area charities and civic organization through corporate sponsorships and event proceeds.

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...built almost entirely by volunteer workers and donated materials. The 700-acre park contains a 13-acre lake, an 18-hole golf course, eight ballfields, 17 soccer fields, two football fields, eight tennis courts, four picnic shelters, and five playgrounds, plus a 1,600-bush rose garden, an Oriental Garden, a bell tower, a Freedom Shrine, and a memorial to the volunteers who labored to create the park.

Bursting lights shower the baseball, softball, and soccer fields for nighttime activities. More than 3,000 players use the fields annually and the park is the site for major state softball and baseball tournaments. The city's Parks and Recreation Department, headquartered in one of Alton's grand old homes, organizes league play in tennis, golf, baseball, softball, and soccer. It also plans day camps and playground activities.

The park's Spencer T. Olin Golf Course was designed by golf great Arnold Palmer and is operated by his management firm. The par-72 course has earned the first place spot among golf courses in the St. Louis metropolitan area four straight years. It is a qualifying site for such national events as the Nike Tour Gateway Classic. In 1996, the course was host to the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship. For three years in a row, Golf Shop Operations magazine has ranked the course's pro shop among "America's Best 100."

Several other Alton golf courses challenge the most avid golfers. These include Cloverleaf, Lockhaven Country Club, Roseland, Alton Municipal (Muny) Golf Course, Rock Springs, Rolling Hills, and Woodlands Golf Club. More than 30 golf courses are within an easy drive from Alton.

High school hockey teams call a new arena in neighboring East Alton "home ice." Summers Port Swim Club operates in Godfrey, Alton's nextdoor neighbor. Raging Rivers Water Park is a short drive up the River road at Grafton. An outdoor pool in Wood River, just east of Alton and those indoors at Alton YWCA and Lewis and Clark College are popular area attractions.

A short drive west from Alton on the Great River Road takes residents to Pere Marquette State Park, an 8,000-acre recreation mecca. It offers the full scope of family recreation from camping to swimming, boating to fishing, horse riding trails to hiking.

The park's 72-room guest lodge is open year around. It features a 190-seat dining room, a beamed great room with a mammoth stone fireplace, and an indoor swimming pool. The lodge's conference center is a 2,900-square-foot facility that can accommodate 300 diners.

Other major recreation areas are just a short distance from Alton. Families enjoy camping, fishing, boating, hunting, and bird watching at the 2,600-acre Horseshoe Lake State Recreation Area in Madison County. Just east of there lies Carlyle Lake, a 15-mile-long, 26,000-acre sailing, boating, and fishing attraction. There are marinas, a sailboat harbor, and four large sand beaches for swimming. More than 800 campsites are available on the shoreline. Just north of Alton is Beaver Dam State Park, a popular boating, fishing, camping, and picnic site near Carlinville.

Bicycle enthusiasts enjoy the scenic pleasures of riding the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail that stretches along the Mississippi from Alton to Grafton.

Dining and Lodging


Alton restaurants feature fine cuisine to delight the most discriminating gourmet. Whether the preference is formal or casual dining, a variety of intimate or family atmospheres await individuals, groups, parties, banquets, meeting, and receptions - for a simple night out or that special occasion.

Many of Alton's dinner and entertainment spots have rustic river or elegant period themes. In addition to full-service, there are buffets, cafes, and the traditional national fast-food chains located throughout the city and surrounding area.

Alton motels and hotels offer a variety of packages to business and leisure-time travelers. There are accommodations for day trippers who seek bargains at Alton's Downtown antique shops, thrills at the annual July 4th Fireworks celebration on the riverfront, or the jack pot at the Alton Belle Casino.

Lodging in an around Alton ranges from 'Mom 'n Pop' style to plush, from quaint Bed & Breakfast spots to modern lodges and inns offering all the amenities of contemporary lifestyle.

Alton is more to a visitor than just a place to eat and sleep.

[Top of Page] vital to family health and peace of mind. Alton residents have quick access to high quality health care in two community hospitals - Alton Memorial Hospital and Saint Anthony's Health Center. Both are state designated Level II Trauma Centers.

Saint Anthony's Health Center is a 292-bed acute care, two-campus health care organization, owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George. Saint Anthony's Health Center is affiliated with Unity Health Network.

A division of Saint Anthony's Health Center, Saint Clare's Hospital, located at 915 East Fifth Street, offers rehabilitative service, radiation therapy for cancer patients, adult day care, occupational medicine, and behavioral medicine services.

A division of Saint Anthony's Health Center, Saint Anthony's Hospital offers many services, including emergency treatment, medical, chemotherapy, intensive care, surgery, obstetrics, cardiology, diabetes, and gastroenterology.

Outreach programs include a Good Samaritan Center, located at the Saint Clare's campus, which offers medical care for the uninsured and under-insured as well as a multitude of free or low cost health screenings and programs offered to the community. Saint Anthony's also sponsors a Parish Nurse program with local church organizations, including Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopalian denominations.

Alton Memorial Hospital contains 222 beds and 211 staff physicians who are trained in more than 30 medical specialties. Among these are cardiopulmonary care, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, pediatrics, and rehabilitative medicine.

The hospital performs such procedures as laser surgery, laparoscopic surgery, plastic surgery, thoracic surgery, and vascular surgery. It is known for its excellence in oncology services, maternal and child health care, ambulatory surgery, immunology, pulmonary medicine, and home health care.

Alton Memorial's 24-hour emergency service is staffed by physicians specially trained in emergency medicine and offers a fleet of advanced life support ambulances and a heliport. Alton Memorial Hospital is a member of BJC Health System.

Family Service and Visiting Nurse Association, based in Alton, serves the city and surrounding area. Several highly rated skilled care nursing homes serve Alton.

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