Skip links

Illinois (Il): State Guide and Fun Facts


When was Illinois Founded?
December 3, 1818

Who was the first European explorer in Illinois?
Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet

First Native American settlers:
Chippewa, Delaware, Foxes, Illinois, Kickapoo, Miami, Potawatomi, Sauk, Shawnee, Wyandot tribes

Square Miles:
57,918

US Rank:
25th

State Flower:
Native Violet

State Bird:
Cardinal

State Motto:
“State Sovereignty, National Union”

Capital City

Springfield – Springfield was not always the capital of Illinois. From 1809 until 1818, Kaskaskia was the location of the governing bodies of the Illinois Territory. From 1819 until 1938, Vandalia served as the new state’s capital. Springfield, which was founded in April of 1821, was named the permanent capital of the new state of Illinois in 1839.
Most notably, Springfield was home to Abraham Lincoln for almost a quarter-century.
The town today has just over 200,000 residents, many of whom are involved in governmental jobs.

 

What is Illinois famous for?

1. Sears/Willis Tower
When the Sears Tower was built in 1974, it was the tallest building in the World, at 1,730 feet tall (including the spires on the roof). Sears, Roebuck & Co. commissioned architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to take on the challenge of building a skyscraper of unprecedented height in order to house their headquarters, which was located in Chicago. Within five years of the original plan, the building was completed and occupation was underway. Unfortunately, the Sears Tower remained only half-full for the first 20 years of its existence. Sears began to relocate their employees to a smaller suburb outside of Chicago, where real estate was not at the premium that it was in downtown Chicago. By 1995, no Sears’ employees remained employed at the tower.

2. Wrigley Field/Cubs
Wrigley field is one of the most well known baseball stadiums in the sport of Major League Baseball. It is America’s second oldest ballpark after Fenway Park in Boston. Construction was completed in 1914 at a cost of $250,000. Today, the field is surrounded by dense three- to five-story brick and stoneapartment and condominium buildings in one of Chicago’s most diverse and exciting neighborhoods. The park has been home to the Chicago Whales (Federal League), Chicago Cubs (MLB), Chicago Tigers (American Professional Football Association), Chicago Bears (NFL) and the Chicago Sting (National American Soccer League). The Cubs have been the stadium’s longest running tenant, having used Wrigley Field since 1916.

3. Birthplace of Skyscraper
After the devastating Chicago Fire of 1871, the city needed to rebuild. However, instead of rebuilding exactly what had burned down, the entire area decided to embrace the idea of moving forward with new construction technology. This was begun with the completion of the Home Insurance Building in 1885, the first steel-framed skyscraper to be built worldwide. Many others followed, each looking to outdo to the height of the last.

Today, Chicago is home to a number of notable and recognizable skyscrapers, some of which have held records as the highest building in the city, country or world at one time during their existences. The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) remains Chicago’s tallest building, followed by Trump International Hotel and Tower, completed in 2009, the Aon Center, completed in 1973 and the John Hancock Center, finished in 1969.

What is Illinois’s economy?

1. Agriculture – Illinois has an important agricultural sector. Many families that live outside of urban and suburban areas depend on agricultural production in order to sustain their lives. The main crops grown throughout Illinois are corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, rye, oats, grains, apples, melons, peaches, asparagus, cabbage and beans.

2. Manufacturing – Illinois is a leading manufacturer of construction and farm equipment, machine tools, food for processing and chemical products.

3. Services – The services industry in Illinois is that state’s largest contributor to its GDP. This includes businesses such as private health care companies, hotels, law firms, advertisers, engineering companies, financial advisors, insurance agencies and real estate firms.

 

Illinois Historical Landmarks

1. Auditorium Building
The Auditorium Building was commissioned by Ferdinand Peck in 1886 to be built as the world’s most expensive and luxurious theater. Peck chose architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan (an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright) to design the building and oversee its construction. When the massive structure was completed three years later in 1889, it was a model of innovation. The building is set on a unique foundation that floats above the uneven and constantly changing bed of clay below. It was the first commercial building to contain an air conditioning system, which consisted of enormous fans that blew air over large blocks of ice, cooling the air as it then traveled through ducts throughout the auditorium. Additionally, the Auditorium Building was the first theater to entirely light itself with incandescent electric light bulbs.
Today, the Auditorium Building has been restored to its original grandeur and still hosts a variety of performances annually.

2. Frederick C. Robie House
The Robie House was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, a prominent Chicago-area architect, the father of the Prairie style and perhaps the most famous architect in history. Wright designed the house for a wealthy and young family who were recent graduates of the nearby University of Chicago. Although the house was designed specifically to meet the needs of the Robie family, they only lived in the house for a little over a year. The next owner only occupied the house for a year before dying. Finally, the Wilbers purchased the house in 1912 and lived there for 14 years. The Chicago Theological Seminary lived in the house but twice planned to demolish it in the 1940s to build a larger Seminary. Luckily the house was declared a Chicago Landmark before it could be demolished. Today the house is open for public tours as one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous Prairie style homes.

3. Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum
The Adler Planetarium is an interesting architectural design by Ernest Grunsfeld Jr., however more than that, it is known because it is the first planetarium opened in the Western Hemisphere. Completed in 1930, the planetarium (and now astronomy museum) has remained in operation since opening day. Today, it is part of the Museum Campus in Chicago’s South Loop. The Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium together create the campus, one of Chicagoland’s richest sources of all knowledge. The planetarium was added to the National Register of Historic Places and it was named a National Historic Landmark on February 27, 1987.