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Belleville, Illinois

Belleville welcome sign
Country United States
State Illinois
County St. Clair
Township Belleville
Elevation 515 ft (157 m)
Area 23.01 sq mi (60 km2)
 - land 22.74 sq mi (59 km2)
 - water 0.27 sq mi (1 km2)
Population 43,765 (2012)
Density 2,196.4 / sq mi (848 / km2)
Founded 1814
Mayor Mark W. Eckert
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 62220-62223, 62225, 62226
Area code 618
Location in St. Clair County and the state of Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Wikimedia Commons:

Belleville (French: Belle ville, meaning "Beautiful city") is a city in St. Clair County, Illinois, United States, co-extensive with Belleville Township. As estimated by the US Census Bureau in 2012, shown on the city's economic development page,[1] the city has a population of 43,765 . It is the eighth-most populated city outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area and the most populated city south of Springfield in the state of Illinois. It is the county seat of St. Clair County,[2] and the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Belleville is the most populated city in the Metro-East region of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area and in Southern Illinois. Due to its close proximity to Scott Air Force Base, the population receives a boost from military and federal civilian personnel, defense contractors, and military retirees.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Topography 2.1
  • Culture and contemporary life 3
    • Entertainment and performing arts 3.1
    • National Register of Historic Places 3.2
    • Annual events 3.3
    • Attractions 3.4
    • Sports 3.5
  • Demographics 4
  • Notable people 5
  • Education 6
  • Media 7
  • Transportation 8
  • Sister city 9
  • Popular media 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Belleville around the turn of the 20th century.
1882 Harrison Machine Works tractor, made in Belleville.
Belleville Cathedral

The city of Belleville was named by George Blair in 1814. Blair was born in 1760 and his father was born in Scotland. Blair donated an acre of his land for the Town Square and an additional 25 acres (100,000 m2) that adjoined the Square for the new County Seat, causing the county seat to be transferred from the village of Cahokia. Belleville was incorporated as a village in 1819, and became a city in 1850. It is said that Blair named the city Belleville (French for beautiful city) because he believed that a French name would attract new residents. Since major immigration in the mid-19th century occurred following revolutions in Germany, most of the population is of German heritage.

After the failure of the German Revolution in 1848, many of the educated people fled their homeland. Belleville was the center of the first important German settlement in Illinois. By 1870, an estimated 90% of the city's population was either German born or of German descent.[3]

After the Civil War, Belleville became a manufacturing center; nails, printing presses, gray iron castings, agricultural equipment, and stoves were made there. The number of stoves produced and wealth generated from the stove foundry industry gave Belleville the moniker, "Stove Capital of the World." The State of Illinois’ first brewery was established there also. Belleville was also Southern Illinois’ leading cigar revenue district. In 1868, Gustav Goelitz founded the company that is known today as "Jelly Belly."[3]

An immense deposit (400,000 acres (1,600 km2)) of bituminous coal was found in St. Clair County. By 1874, some farmers had become coal miners. One hundred shaft mines were in operation in and around Belleville. The coal brought the steam railroad to town, which allowed for the transport of many tons of coal to be shipped daily from Belleville to St. Louis. Later, Belleville would have the first electric trolley in the state.[3]

The first style of homes in Belleville was simple brick cottages, known locally as "German street houses" or "row houses." However, there is a great variety of architectural style with American Foursquare, French Second Empire, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Victorian. Over 700 properties are listed on the Belleville National Register Historic District. The "Old Belleville Historic District," was formed in 1974 and is the city’s first historic district.[4] The city also had two more historic districts: "Hexenbukel" (est. in 1991) and "Oakland" (est. in 1995).[5]

Belleville’s early German immigrants were scholarly, with most of them having graduated from German universities. They were nicknamed “Latin Farmers” because of this. After 1836 Gustav Koerner contributed to establish the city’s public library. The Belleville Public Library is the state’s oldest, predating the Illinois State Library by three years. The German settlers also founded choral and dramatic groups as well as literary societies. Belleville was also home to one of the first kindergartens in the country.[3][4]

In October 2010, KEZK radio host Delilah sponsored a "paint the town" project. A local Home Depot donated paint, and volunteers supplied the labor to paint murals and buildings along several blocks of the main street of Belleville.[6]

The National Civic League recognized Belleville as one of the ten 2011 recipients of the All-America City Award.



Belleville is located at (38.521567, -89.995208).[7]

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 23.01 square miles (59.6 km2), of which 22.74 square miles (58.9 km2) (or 98.83%) is land and 0.27 square miles (0.70 km2) (or 1.17%) is water.[8] Richland Creek flows through much of Belleville.

Culture and contemporary life

Entertainment and performing arts

The Belleville Philharmonic Society was formed in 1866, making it the second oldest philharmonic orchestra in the country.[9] With the increase in black population and migrants from the South, musicians developed who played blues and jazz; later rock clubs were added to the scene.

Jay Farrar (now of Son Volt), Mike Heidorn, and Jeff Tweedy (now of Wilco) of the now-defunct alt country group Uncle Tupelo are from Belleville. Another major musician was Neal Doughty, keyboardist for 1970s rock band REO Speedwagon.

National Register of Historic Places

Annual events

Belleville holds several celebrations throughout the year:

  • St Patrick's Day Parade (March 17)
  • Ale Fest (April)
  • Art on the Square. This festival was recently named the "#1 Art Fair in the Nation" by the Art Fair Source Book.[10]
  • Ainad Shriner's Circus Parade (1st Friday in June)
  • Wine Dine and Jazz (June)
  • Labor Day Parade (September)
  • Oktoberfest (September)
  • Chili Cookoff (October)
  • Santa Claus Parade (November)
  • Gingerbread Walk (December)
  • Tour de Belleville (July)[11]

According to the history the city celebrates its Bicentennial in 2014.[12]


Downtown Belleville Lincoln Movie Theater
  • Eckert’s Country Store and Farms - Eckert's, the largest family-owned, pick-your-own orchard in the U.S., first opened a roadside sales stand in 1910. The 6th and 7th generations of the Eckert family operate retail, entertainment and farming entities in Belleville, Millstadt and Grafton, Illinois.
  • Labor & Industry Museum- The Labor & Industry Museum is devoted to the history of the labor and industry of Belleville and southwestern Illinois. Belleville was one of the most significant centers for the growth of Illinois industry, which ranked third in the nation in the late 19th century. The Museum interprets the area's rich cultural heritage.
  • Our Lady of the Snows, National Shrine
  • Sky-View Drive-In - One of the few remaining drive-ins in the St. Louis metro area, which has two screens.
  • Downtown Belleville - Historic downtown Belleville has been recently renovated, with new stores moving in.



As of the census[16] of 2000, there were 41,410 people, 17,603 households, and 10,420 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,196.4 people per square mile (848.2/km²). There were 19,142 housing units at an average density of 1,015.3 per square mile (392.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.51% White, 15.51% African American, 0.26% Native American, 0.81% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 1.43% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.63% of the population.

There were 17,603 households out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.0% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.8% were non-families. 35.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 88.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,979, and the median income for a family was $46,426. Males had a median income of $33,361 versus $25,375 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,990. About 9.3% of families and 11.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people


Higher Education

Four high schools — two public (Belleville Township HS East, Belleville Township HS West), and two private (Althoff Catholic HS, Governor French Academy).

Belleville is also home to a relatively large grade school district. Belleville District 118 has 9 elementary schools, (Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Douglas, Franklin, Jefferson, Union, Westhaven, Henry Raab, and Washington) and 2 junior high schools (Central Junior High and West Junior High). Belle Valley School District 119 is also available for public school. Harmony School District 175 includes Ellis Elementary and Emge Jr. High. Signal Hill School is the only school in district 181. Whiteside Elementary School and Whiteside Middle School make up district 115. Parochial grade schools include St. Peter's Cathedral, St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, St. Teresa, Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady Queen of Peace, and Zion Lutheran School.[17]


The Belleville News-Democrat, is the city's daily newspaper. The News-Democrat is part of the McClatchy chain and covers the Metro East region and Southwestern Illinois. The city is also served by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the area's major metropolitan daily. Belleville receives the signals of most radio and TV stations based in St. Louis.


MetroLink Light Rail

Belleville has three St. Louis MetroLink stations connecting it to St. Louis and the network via light rail: Memorial Hospital, Belleville, and College.

Illinois State Highways 15, 159, 177, 13 and 161 all pass through Belleville. Belleville is also adjacent to Interstate highways 64 and 255. I-64 is an east-west highway extending from Wentzville, Missouri to Virginia Beach, Virginia and is the major route from Belleville to downtown St. Louis. I-255 is part of a system of expressways that together form a loop around St. Louis.

Belleville has a bicycle trail that runs through the city from Southside Park to Southwestern Illinois College; it is mainly used for recreational purposes

Belleville's area airports are Scott Air Force Base and MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. MidAmerica Airport, located only minutes away from the heart of Belleville, has weekly scheduled passenger air service to Florida. The nearest major airport with regular scheduled commercial passenger service is Lambert St. Louis International Airport.

Sister city

Belleville is a sister city to Paderborn, Germany.[18]

Popular media

Belleville (under the name "Bellevue") is the town where Dirk Peters, companion of Arthur Gordon Pym, is discovered living in the novel A Strange Discovery by Charles Romyn Dake, published in 1899. This novel is a sequel to the only novel written by Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Featured in the annual NPR April Fools news story 2013.[19]


  1. ^ 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Labor and Industry Museum", Labor and Industry Museum: Belleville History, accessed 1 December 2010]
  4. ^ a b "Village Profile", Village Profile: History and Culture, 1997, accessed 1 December 2010]
  5. ^ "Labor and Industry Museum", Labor and Industry Museum: Other Historic Resources, accessed 1 December 2010
  6. ^ "Paint the Town"
  7. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  8. ^ "Places: Illinois". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files.  
  9. ^ Belleville Philharmonic Society Symphony Orchestra
  10. ^ "Notable Art Fairs", Art Fair Source Book
  11. ^ Kirsch, Robyn. "Are you ready to ride your bike? Tour de Belleville rolls through town Friday". Belleville News Democrat. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  12. ^ "Come Celebrate Belleville's Bicentennial in the Year 2014". City of Belleville, Illinois. 2013. 
  13. ^ Watson, Graham (July 11, 2012). "NAIA school unveils the nation’s most original football field".  
  14. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013". Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  16. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  17. ^ "St. Clair County Regional Office of Education", St. Clair County Regional Office of Education, 12/2010, accessed 15 December 2010
  18. ^ Belleville Sister Cities, Inc is the organization which fosters the relationship between the two cities.
  19. ^

External links

  • City of Belleville
  • The Belleville News Democrat Online
  • Belleville Public Library
  • The Belleville Historical Society
  • "Belleville Bicentennial Celebration". City of Belleville, Illinois. 2013. 
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