Get the inside scoop on Belleville with these 10 fascinating facts about this thriving Southern Illinois gem.
We’re Bruce and Karen Carlson. We recently moved to the Metro East area of Illinois. It’s a whole new world out there. Our goal with this website is to share our exploration of the Metro East area. As we find businesses and services we use in our daily lives, we’ll share how these businesses and services have helped make our lives better and easier to live.
We’re calling our move to the Metro East area retirement, but we’re not quite sure what that means. By sharing our story with you, we hope you too will gain a better sense of what the Metro East area has to offer and how their businesses and services can improve your lives and build a better community.
Today we’re continuing the series on the cities in the Metro east area of Illinois. As we drive from our home in New Athens we go through Freeburg and the next city in Belleville. As I looked for the places in Belleville I was surprised that Eckert’s and Southwestern Illinois College were in Belleville.
I pulled up the map of Belleville and found it was one of the most irregularly shaped city boundaries I have ever seen. It has pockets and arms that reach out in all directions. So read on and enjoy.
Top 10 Quick Facts, Stats & Trends About Belleville, IL
- Belleville is the most populated city in Southern Illinois and in the Metro East region of Greater St. Louis.
Belleville has a population of 42,404 as of the 2020 census, making it the largest city in Southern Illinois and in the Metro East region of Greater St. Louis. The city is also the county seat of St. Clair County, Illinois. Belleville is located within Greater St. Louis, which is a metropolitan area that spans parts of Missouri and Illinois and has a population of over 2.8 million people.
- Belleville was named by George Blair in 1814.
George Blair was a surveyor who laid out the town of Belleville in 1814. He named it after his hometown of Belle Ville, which means “beautiful city” in French. Belleville was incorporated as a village in 1819 and as a city in 1850. The city has a rich history that includes being a center of German immigration in the 19th century, hosting the first state fair in Illinois in 1853, and being home to several notable people such as astronaut James Buchli, singer Lea DeLaria, and actor Buddy Ebsen3.
Learn more here: Belleville, Illinois – Wikipedia
- Belleville is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville was established in 1887 and covers 28 counties in Southern Illinois. The diocese has over 100 parishes and schools and serves more than 100,000 Catholics4. The Cathedral of Saint Peter is the mother church of the diocese and is located in downtown Belleville4. The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is one of the largest outdoor shrines in North America and is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The shrine is located on a 200-acre site near Belleville and attracts over one million visitors annually.
- Belleville hosts several annual events and festivals that celebrate its culture and heritage.
Some of the most popular events and festivals in Belleville are:
- The Art on the Square is a juried fine art show that features over 100 artists from across the country and attracts over 60,000 visitors every May.
- The Belleville Oktoberfest is a two-day celebration of German culture, food, music, and beer that takes place every September in downtown Belleville.
- The Gingerbread Walk is a holiday tradition that showcases over 150 gingerbread creations made by local businesses, schools, and organizations throughout downtown Belleville every December.
- The Chili Cook-off is a competition among local chili makers that raises money for local charities every October.
- Belleville has a diverse economy that includes manufacturing, healthcare, education, retail, and military sectors.
Some of the major employers in Belleville are:
- Scott Air Force Base, which is one of the largest employers in the region and hosts several commands and units of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.
- Memorial Hospital Belleville, is a 222-bed acute care hospital that provides comprehensive health services to the community.
- Southwestern Illinois College, is a public community college that offers over 150 degree and certificate programs to over 9,000 students.
- St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is a 144-bed acute care hospital that is part of the HSHS (Hospital Sisters Health System) network.
- Allsup Inc. is a nationwide provider of disability services and benefits to individuals with disabilities.
Learn more here: Scott Air Force Base – Wikipedia, Memorial Hospital Belleville – Official Website, Southwestern Illinois College – Official Website, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital – Official Website, Allsup Inc. – Official Website
- Belleville has a variety of parks and recreational facilities that offer opportunities for outdoor activities and sports.
Some of the parks and recreational facilities in Belleville are:
- The Belleville Parks and Recreation Department manages over 200 acres of parkland and offers programs and events for all ages and interests.
- The Belleville/Swansea Moose Lodge Bike Trail is a 15-mile paved trail that connects Belleville with Swansea and other nearby communities.
- The Orchards Golf Club is an 18-hole championship golf course that was designed by former PGA Tour player Bob Goalby.
- The Skyview Drive-In, which is one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the country still shows double features of new and classic movies every weekend from April to October.
- Belleville has a vibrant arts and culture scene that includes museums, theaters, galleries, and music venues.
Some of the arts and culture attractions in Belleville are:
- The Labor & Industry Museum is the only museum in Illinois that focuses on the history of labor and industry in the state and features exhibits, artifacts, and archives.
- The Lincoln Theatre is a historic theater that was built in 1921 and hosts live performances, concerts, movies, and special events.
- The Schmidt Art Center is a contemporary art gallery that showcases the works of local, regional, and national artists and offers educational programs and workshops.
- The Philharmonic Society of Belleville is the second oldest continuously performing orchestra in the country and performs classical and pops concerts throughout the year.
- Belleville has a strong educational system that includes public and private schools, colleges, and universities.
Some of the educational institutions in Belleville are:
- The Belleville Public School District #118, serves over 4,000 students in grades pre-K to 8 in 10 schools.
- The Belleville Township High School District #201, serves over 5,000 students in grades 9 to 12 in two high schools.
- The Governor French Academy is a private school that offers a college preparatory curriculum for students in grades pre-K to 12.
- Belleville has a unique architectural heritage that includes many historic buildings and landmarks.
Some of the historic buildings and landmarks in Belleville are:
- The St. Clair County Courthouse is a neoclassical building that was built in 1914 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The Gustave Koerner House, which is a Greek Revival house that was built in 1849 and was the home of Gustave Koerner, a prominent politician and diplomat who was one of the founders of the Republican Party.
- The Emma Kunz House is a Victorian house that was built in 1887 and was the home of Emma Kunz, a suffragist and philanthropist who founded the first public kindergarten in Illinois.
- The Garfield Street Saloon is a brick building that was built in 1886 and was one of the oldest saloons in Illinois until it closed in 2017.
- Belleville has a friendly and welcoming community that embraces diversity and inclusion.
Belleville has a friendly and welcoming community that embraces diversity and inclusion. The city has a Human Relations Commission that promotes equal opportunity and fosters positive relations among all people. The city also hosts various events and programs that celebrate the cultural and ethnic diversity of its residents, such as the Black History Month Celebration, the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration, the International Women’s Day Celebration, and the Pride Parade.
In conclusion, Belleville, Illinois, stands as a hidden gem in the heart of Southern Illinois and the Greater St. Louis region. Its irregularly shaped city boundaries hide a treasure trove of history, culture, and community. From its diverse economy to its vibrant arts scene and strong educational institutions, Belleville has much to offer. The warm and inclusive community, rich architectural heritage, and celebration of diversity make Belleville a city like no other. As you’ve explored its top 10 facts, stats, and trends, we hope you’ve gained a newfound appreciation for this remarkable city. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, Belleville welcomes all to experience its unique charm.
We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we share our adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, This is an exciting area and we are so happy to be part of this area. Our lives are being fulfilled by the people we are meeting. Bruce & Karen.