Exploring Old Town Edwardsville

Walking into Old Town Edwardsville felt like stepping into a different era. With each step, I traversed through layers of history, uncovering stories cemented in the architecture and the cobblestone paths beneath my feet. It’s not just a walk; it’s a journey back in time, where every building whispers tales of the past.

One of the pivotal stops on this tour is the Madison County Courthouse. Constructed in 1915, this historic building is an exquisite example of Edwardsville’s rich architectural heritage. Its towering presence and intricate designs stand as a testament to the area’s storied past. The courthouse, still in use today, bridges the gap between the Edwardsville of yesteryear and its modern counterpart, serving as a living piece of history.

Adjacent to this, the Benjamin Stephenson House offers a glimpse into the life of one of Illinois’ early settlers. Built in 1820, this house has been meticulously preserved, allowing visitors like me to step right into a postcard from the past. The guided tour inside illuminated the domestic life of the 19th century, complete with original furnishings that have stood the test of time.

But perhaps what fascinated me the most was the chance to meander through the Leclaire Historic District. Named after N.O. Nelson, who founded the village of Leclaire in 1890, this area showcases a utopian ideal for workers’ housing and a community-centered way of life. It’s inspiring to see how this philosophy has been preserved in the architecture and layout of the neighborhood. Strolling through, I could sense the communal spirit and industrial innovation that once thrived here.

Throughout my journey in Edwardsville, I couldn’t help but feel intertwined with the threads of history that bind this town. Whether it was marveling at the architectural marvels or walking the paths that generations before me had trodden, I was constantly reminded of the depth and richness of this place’s history.

As I continue to explore, I’m eager to uncover more hidden gems and stories tucked away in the corners of Old Town Edwardsville. Each building, each street, and every brick seems to hold a secret waiting to be discovered. It’s clear to me now that to truly appreciate the beauty and history of Metro East Illinois, one must simply take the time to explore it on foot.

Discovering the Civil War History of Alton

As I ventured further into Metro East Illinois, the historic walking tours guided me toward Alton, a city steeped in unparalleled Civil War history. The moment I stepped onto its streets, it felt like walking back in time. Alton’s rich past unfolded before me, revealing stories and landmarks I had only read about in history books.

One of the most striking discoveries was the Alton Military Prison site. During the Civil War, this prison was notorious for its harsh conditions and the tremendous impact it had on both prisoners and the local community. Though the original structure no longer stands, the site is marked, evoking a powerful connection to the past. The stories of hardship and resilience that emanated from this place were both humbling and profound.

Next on my journey was the Lincoln-Douglas Square. It’s remarkable to stand in the exact spot where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held their seventh debate. This pivotal moment in American history, where issues of freedom and slavery were fervently argued, felt incredibly real as I stood there, imagining the throngs of spectators hanging on to every word.

Another gem in Alton’s historical tapestry is the Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument. Lovejoy, an abolitionist newspaper editor, became a martyr for freedom of the press and the abolition movement after he was killed by a pro-slavery mob in 1837. The monument dedicated to his memory is not only a tribute to his courage but also serves as a stark reminder of our nation’s struggle with slavery and the fight for fundamental human rights.

Throughout my walk in Alton, I continuously encountered stories of bravery, tragedy, and the unwavering spirit of those who fought for what they believed in. Each landmark and memorial added layers to my understanding of the Civil War’s impact on this community and the nation.

Key Sites in AltonDescription
Alton Military Prison SiteSite of a notorious Civil War prison, symbolizing hardship and resilience.
Lincoln-Douglas SquareHistorical debate location that shaped America’s discussions on slavery and freedom.
Elijah P. Lovejoy MonumentMemorializes the abolitionist’s fight for freedom and press rights.

My time in Alton deepened my appreciation for the complexities of our history. Walking through these streets, where every corner holds a story, underscored the power of place in connecting with our past.

Walking Through the Victorian Era in Belleville

Continuing my journey through Metro East Illinois, I found myself drawn to the charm of Belleville, renowned for its Victorian-era architecture and rich historical tapestry. The city’s history, woven into the very fabric of its streets and buildings, promised an enchanting walk back in time.

From the moment I stepped onto Main Street, the picturesque facades of the Victorian homes captivated me. Each one, with its intricate design and meticulous attention to detail, seemed to whisper stories of the past. I couldn’t help but feel a profound connection to the generations that once walked these very sidewalks.

Belleville’s historic district is nothing short of a living museum. The brick-paved roads and the ornate lamp posts set the scene, transporting me to a time when horse-drawn carriages were the norm. I marveled at buildings that have stood the test of time, now housing quaint shops and cozy cafes, each with its own story to tell.

One particularly striking feature of Belleville is the Garfield Street Historic District. This area, home to a remarkable collection of homes built in the Queen Anne and Second Empire styles, displayed an elegance and grandeur that was simply breathtaking. I paused frequently, taking in the beauty of the detailed woodworking, the stained glass, and the beautifully preserved facades.

Belleville also prides itself on its commitment to preserving history, evident in the Labor & Industry Museum. It’s the only public institution in southwestern Illinois dedicated to the history of the region’s labor and industry. Exploring the exhibits, I gained a deeper understanding of the city’s industrial past and the integral role it played in shaping the community.

What’s more, the annual Belleville Historic Home Tour offered a rare opportunity to step inside some of these architectural marvels. Though my visit didn’t coincide with the tour, I was told that it’s an experience that truly brings history to life, offering glimpses into the opulent interior designs and lifestyles of the Victorian era.

As I wandered through Belleville, every corner and every street seemed to hold a piece of history, inviting exploration and reflection. The sense of continuity from past to present was palpable, reminding me that while times may change, the essence of a place remains firmly rooted in its history.

Uncovering the Underground Railroad in Metro East Illinois

As I continued my exploration of Metro East Illinois, my journey took a profound turn. I found myself delving into a pivotal chapter of American history, venturing into the shadowy realms of the Underground Railroad. This part of the journey wasn’t just about admiring the beauty of historical sites; it was about connecting with the courage and determination that defined a crucial resistance movement.

Metro East Illinois, with its strategic location, played a significant role in the Underground Railroad. The area was a critical crossroads for fleeing slaves seeking freedom in the North or Canada. It’s humbling to walk the same paths that these brave souls once tread, feeling a deep sense of respect for their struggle.

One of the key sites is the town of Alton. Alton’s role in the Underground Railroad is well-documented, with several buildings that served as secret shelters for escapees. Walking through the streets, I was particularly drawn to the Enos Apartment Building. Historical records suggest that this building, which now seems so ordinary, was once a beacon of hope for many seeking freedom. It’s these hidden stories that turn every corner and every brick in Metro East Illinois into a marker of history.

Further enriching this leg of my journey was a visit to the Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument. Lovejoy was a fervent abolitionist, and his legacy in Alton reminds us of the price of freedom and the fight against slavery. Standing before the monument, I couldn’t help but reflect on the sacrifices made by Lovejoy and countless others in their quest for liberty and equality.

Another poignant stop was the Rocky Fork Church in Godfrey. This small, unassuming church was once a critical hub for the Underground Railroad. It’s said that the church’s cellar hid fleeing slaves, providing a temporary sanctuary on their perilous journey to freedom. Visiting this site, I was moved by the thought of the church’s dual role in providing spiritual solace and physical refuge.

Throughout my exploration of Metro East Illinois’ role in the Underground Railroad, I was struck by the resilience and bravery of those who risked everything for freedom. It’s a stark reminder of our shared humanity and the lengths to which people will go to seek justice. This part of my journey didn’t just teach me about history; it instilled in me a profound appreciation for the spirit of resistance and hope that defines the best of humanity.

Reliving the Roaring Twenties in East St. Louis

As I strolled through the vibrant streets of East St. Louis, it was impossible not to be transported back to the Roaring Twenties, a time of jazz, prohibition, speakeasies, and a cultural renaissance that reshaped America. This part of Metro East Illinois boasts a storied history that played a significant role in the era, serving as a hotspot for musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs alike.

One of the first stops on my journey was the iconic Majestic Theatre. Though now a shadow of its former glory, back in the day, it was the crown jewel of East St. Louis, hosting renowned jazz musicians who brought the city alive with their groundbreaking sounds. Imagining the lively performances and the bustling crowds, I could almost hear the faint echoes of jazz music in the air.

Next, I ventured towards the remnants of old speakeasies that once flourished under Prohibition. Hidden in plain sight, these establishments were the heart of the nightlife, offering a thrilling mix of danger and delight. Tales of secret passwords and hidden entrances added an aura of mystery, making me wish walls could talk and share stories of those exhilarating nights.

To dive deeper into the spirit of the Twenties, I explored the neighborhood’s architecture, admiring the preserved facades that exhibit classic Art Deco and Beaux-Arts styles. These buildings served not only as physical reminders of the past but also as silent witnesses to the transformation of the city and its people over the decades.

Engaging with locals, I heard personal anecdotes that painted a vivid picture of East St. Louis during its heyday. From stories of legendary musicians who graced the stages of local venues, to tales of everyday life during a time of immense cultural and social change, these conversations brought history to life in a way that no book ever could.

Every corner of East St. Louis whispered secrets of the past, each site offering a unique lens through which to view the complexities and dynamics of the Roaring Twenties. My visit here wasn’t just a walk through the city; it was a journey back in time, allowing me to relive one of the most electrifying periods in American history through the eyes of those who experienced it firsthand.


Walking through Metro East Illinois has been like stepping into a time machine. I’ve laughed, marveled, and even felt the echoes of the Roaring Twenties beneath my feet. It’s not just about the buildings or the streets; it’s about the stories they hold. The Majestic Theatre and those hidden speakeasies have whispered tales of a bygone era that still resonates today. Chatting with locals and exploring these historic sites has given me a richer, more colorful understanding of this pivotal time in our history. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend taking this walk down memory lane. It’s an experience that’s as enlightening as it is unforgettable.

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We’re Bruce and Karen Carlson. We recently moved to the Metro East area of Illinois. This area is east of St. Louis from the Mississippi River north to Alton, east to Carlyle, back south to Waterloo and the Mississippi River, finally north to Columbia. The center is Fairview Heights, Swansea, Belleville, Shiloh, and O'Fallon. Not to be forgotten is Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Edwardsville. 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.