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Decatur Downtown
Country United States
State Illinois
County Macon
Coordinates 39°51′6″N 88°56′39″W / 39.85167°N 88.94417°W / 39.85167; -88.94417
Area 45.9 sq mi (119 km2)
 - land 45.9 sq mi (119 km2)
Population 81,860 (2000)
Density 1,969.7 /sq mi (761 /km2)
Founded 1823
Date 1823
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 62521
Area code 217
Location of Decatur within Illinois
Location of Decatur within Illinois
Wikimedia Commons: Decatur, Illinois

Decatur (pronounced /dəˈkeɪtər/) is the largest city and the county seat of Macon County in the U.S. state of Illinois. The city, sometimes called "the Soybean Capital of the World", was founded in 1823 and is located along the Sangamon River and Lake Decatur in Central Illinois. In 2000 the city population was 81,500. According to Sperling's Best Places, Decatur's metropolitan area population is 114,749.[1]

Decatur is a classic Midwest USA small city situated with homes and park areas facing Lake Decatur, and with many historic brick buildings downtown. This city is home of private Millikin University and public Richland Community College.

In the transition from a manufacturing to a service economy, Decatur has experienced some population sprawl as new development activity grows to the outer Decatur metro area, seemingly blurring the detectable boundaries of contiguous city limits of neighboring communities Mount Zion, Harristown, and Forsyth.

Decatur and Macon County's most notable resident was Abraham Lincoln, who settled with his family west of town in 1830. He later practiced law in the city after moving to nearby Springfield.



Decatur is located at 39°51′6″N 88°56′39″W / 39.85167°N 88.94417°W / 39.85167; -88.94417 (39.851636, -88.944228)[2]. Decatur is 3 hours SW of Chicago, and 2 hours NE of St. Louis.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.9 square miles (118.8 km²), of which, 41.6 square miles (107.6 km²) of it is land and 4.3 square miles (11.2 km²) of it (9.42%) is water. Lakes include Lake Decatur, formed in 1923 by the damming of the Sangamon River.

The Decatur, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area (population 109,900) includes surrounding towns of Argenta, Bement, Bethany, Boody, Blue Mound, Cerro Gordo, Clinton, Dalton City, Elwin, Findlay, Forsyth, Harristown, Illiopolis, Kirksville, La Place, Long Creek, Macon, Maroa, Monticello, Moweaqua, Mount Auburn, Mount Zion, Niantic, Oakley, Oreana, Stonington, Sullivan, and Warrensburg.


As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 81,860 people, 34,086 households, and 21,099 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,969.7 people per square mile (760.5/km²). There were 37,239 housing units at an average density of 896.0/sq mi (346.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.59% White, 19.47% African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.66% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.43% from other races, and 1.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.19% of the population.

There were 34,086 households, out of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 11.1% from ages 18 to 24, 26.0% from ages 25 to 44, 22.5% from ages 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 83.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,111, and the median income for a family was $42,379. Males had a median income of $36,920 versus $22,359 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,009. About 12.1% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.1% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.


The Decatur Transfer House in the background in downtown's Central Park

The city's motto is "Decatur, We Like it Here". The old motto was "The Pride of the Prairie". "The Soybean Capital of the World" is the un-official, but popular motto.

Decatur was awarded the All-America City Award in 1960.

The city's symbol is the Transfer House, an early-twentieth-century Victorian structure located originally in the center of town where the city's mass transit lines met. The Transfer House was moved in 1963 to save it from possible destruction as increasing automobile traffic flowed through the highway routed through downtown.

Decatur is a sister city to Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan and to Seevetal, Lower Saxony, Germany.



Mayor Mike McElroy was elected in April 2009 and began duties office in May, to fill out the remaining 2 years of the 4 year term of office. Mike Carrigan served for a year as Mayor, after being selected by the City Council after the unusual circumstances surrounding the abrupt resignation of former Mayor Paul Osborne, following a year of turmoil and leadership crisis.

Former City Manager Steve Garman resigned May 2, 2008[4] and Mayor Paul Osborne resigned June 1, 2008[5]


  • Charles M. Borchers (1909–1911; 1919–1923)
  • Elmer R. Elder (1925)
  • Harry E. Barber (1935)
  • Charles E. Lee (1937–1942)
  • James A. Hedrick (1945)
  • Robert E. Willis 1953)
  • J. Clayton Povler (1954)
  • Robert A. Grohne (1959–1963)
  • Gary Anderson
  • Erik Brechnitz
  • Terry M. Howley (1995–2003)
  • Paul Osborne (2003–2008) (resigned)
  • Mike Carrigan (2008–2009)
  • Mike McElroy (2009–present)

Mike Carrigan, previously an elected Decatur City Councilman and Mayor-Pro Tem, became new Decatur IL Mayor by City Council appointment 2008-06-01 after the previous Mayor Osborne resigned.Carrigan served for a year, declined to run in the election to fill the remaining 2 years of a 4 year term.


Decatur Celebration

The Decatur Celebration is largest free street festival in the state of Illinois. Every year over 150,000 people come to the celebration to enjoy the numerous live bands, vendors offering sales of refreshments and fun activities for the whole family. In the past few years there has been renewed community support from Decatur Memorial Hospital as a corporate sponsor, among other community sponsors amid budget concerns of the festival supporters and organizers, since much of the festival is free of charge.


Decatur is split into different neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods include the inner city area surrounding downtown Decatur, Baker Woods on the east side of the city, north of U.S. Route 36, as well as South Shores, directly south of the downtown area across the lake following U.S. Route 51. South Wheatland Township is on the south side of the lake and west of Illinois Route 48. Southmoreland and Eastmoreland neighborhoods border the lake on the southeast side of the city off Lake Shore Drive. Home Park is located on the west side of the city.

Quality of life

Sperling's Best Places says the city of Decatur, Illinois, on a scale of 1 to 10, has a property crime rate of 7 and a violent crime rate of 6, both of which are above the national average of 3 and is very close to the ratings given to Chicago (both 7).[6] The metro area, however, has a violent crime rating of 2 and a property crime rating of 3.[1]

Sperling's Best Places also reports 200 average days of sunshine for the Decatur metro area, which is near the national average of 205.[1]


The Decatur Public Library was originally built with a grant from Andrew Carnegie, this original library was built in 1902 and opened to the public in 1903. The building served the community until 1970 when the library was moved to a new building downtown on North Street. In 1999 the library moved to its present location on Franklin Street. The library is part of the Rolling Prairie Library System.


Decatur was the original home of the Chicago Bears, from 1919 to 1920. The football team was then known as the Decatur Staleys and played at Staley Field, both named after the local food-products manufacturer.

From 1900 to 1974 Decatur was the home of The Commodores, a minor-league baseball team playing at Fans Field.

The USTA/Ursula Beck Pro Tennis Classic has been held annually since 1999. Male players from over 20 countries compete for $10,000 in prize money as well as ATP world ranking points at the Fairview Park Tennis Complex. The tournament is held for ten consecutive days at Fairview Park concluding on the first weekend in August.

Starting in 2007, Decatur has hosted the Rodney T. Miller Lakeside Triathlon. This sprint-distance triathlon presently is scheduled on the first weekend each July.

The MidState Soccer Club is based in Decatur.

High School Basketball

The Decatur High School [later Stephen Decatur H. S.] "Reds"/"Runnin' Reds" won the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Basketball Championship in 1931, 1936, 1945, and 1962. In addition, they were 2nd in 1937; 3rd in 1964; and 4th in 1912, 1951, 1960, and 1966. For many years they held the overall record for appearances in the "Sweet 16" and the "Elite 8." They were consistently one of the premier high school basketball teams in America. Legendary coach Galen Kintner was at the helm for the first three titles.


The following Decatur men's fast pitch softball teams have won national championships:

Decatur Pride





AM radio

FM radio

  • WCZQ- 105.5 FM – Hip Hop & R&B
  • WJMU – 89.5 FM – Millikin University — Alternative
  • WYDS– 93.1 FM – Top-40
  • WDZQ– 95.1 FM – Country
  • WXFM — 99.3 — Hot AC
  • WZUS- 100.9 FM — Talk
  • WSOY- 102.9 FM – Top-40
  • WEJT– 105.1 FM – Classic Hits
  • WZNX- 106.7 FM — Classic Rock
  • WDKR — 107.3 — Oldies



Decatur had production facilities for Caterpillar Inc., Archer Daniels Midland, Mueller Co., and Tate & Lyle (previously A. E. Staley). The corporate world headquarters for Archer Daniels Midland, the leading agricultural processor and ethanol producer is in Decatur. A large former Firestone factory is currently being used as storage space for Caterpillar Inc..



Public schools

K-12 public education in the Decatur area is provided by the Decatur Public School District #61. High school athletics participates in the Big 12 Conference.

Private schools


Local Macon County park resources include Lake Decatur, Lincoln Trail Homestead State Memorial, Rock Springs Conservation Area, Fort Daniel Conservation Area, Sand Creek Recreation Area, Griswold Conservation Area, Friends Creek Regional Park, and Spitler Woods State Natural Area. Decatur, at one time was dubbed "Park City U.S.A." because it had more parks per person that any other city in the country.


Decatur Airport is served by three daily commercial flights on Cessna Grand Caravans to and from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Air Choice One. The airport facility has hosted notable visitors Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, Vice-President Dan Quayle, and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev (at the invitation of his long-time friend, Dwayne Andreas, former CEO of Archer Daniels Midland).

Interstate 72, U.S. Route 51, U.S. Route 36, Illinois Route 48, Illinois Route 105, and Illinois Route 121 are key highway links for the area, as well.

A bus-trolley system operates in the downtown and college campus areas.

Trolley transfer station in its original location at the intersection of Main and Main streets; from a postcard sent in 1906


The city is named after War of 1812 naval hero Stephen Decatur, Jr.

Decatur has become an affiliate of the U.S. Main Street program, in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Post No. 1 of the Grand Army of the Republic was founded by Civil War veterans in Decatur on April 6, 1866.

The Edward P. Irving House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright[7] and built in 1911, is located at #2 Millikin Place, Decatur. In addition, the Robert Mueller Residence, 1 Millikin Place,[8] and the Adolph Mueller Residence, 4 Millikin Place,[9][10] have been attributed to Wright's assistants Hermann V. von Holst and Marion Mahony.

Abraham Lincoln

Decatur was the first home in Illinois of Abraham Lincoln, who settled just west of Decatur with his family in 1830. Lincoln gave his first political speech in Decatur about the importance of Sangamon River navigation that caught the attention of Illinois political leaders. As a lawyer on the 8th Judicial Circuit, Lincoln made frequent stops in Decatur, and argued five cases in the log courthouse that stood on the corner of Main & Main Streets. The original courthouse is now on the grounds of the Macon County Historical Museum on North Fork Road.

On May 9 and 10, 1860, the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur. At this convention Lincoln received his first endorsement for President of the United States as "The Railsplitter Candidate." In commemoration of Lincoln's bicentennial the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel on June 6 & 7, 2008.[11]

ADM price-fixing case

In early November, 1992, the high-ranking Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) executive Mark Whitacre confessed to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent that ADM executives, including Whitacre himself, had routinely met with competitors to fix the price of lysine, a food additive.

The lysine conspirators, including ADM, ultimately settled federal charges for more than $100 million. ADM also paid hundreds of millions of dollars [$400 million alone on the high fructose corn syrup Class Action case] to plaintiffs/customers that it stole from during the price-fixing schemes.[12][13][14][15] Furthermore, several Asian and European lysine and citric acid producers, that conspired to fix prices with ADM, paid criminal fines in the tens of millions of dollars to the U.S. government.[16] Several executives, including the Vice Chairman of ADM, did federal prison time.

The investigation and prosecution of ADM and some of its executives has been reported to be one of the "best documented corporate crimes in American history".[17] The events were the basis of a book named The Informant as well as a film named The Informant!

Tornadoes in a Row

On April 18 and 19, 1996, the city was hit by tornadoes. On the 18th an F1 tornado hit the city's southeast side, followed by an F3 tornado the following evening on the Northwest Side. The two storms totaled approximately $10.5 Million in property damage.[18]

Jesse Jackson protest

In November 1999, Decatur was brought into the national news when the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition protested the expulsion and treatment of several African American students who had been involved in a serious fight at an Eisenhower High School football game. The students were video taped in the stands kicking and beating another student. In response to several nation wide incidents, Eisenhower had recently adopted a new "zero tolerance" policy to combat fighting on campus. The enforcement of this policy resulted in the expulsion of the students fighting in the stands. This story made national news because of the quality video that was shot of the fight and the resultant expulsion.[citation needed] Jackson was arrested and detained briefly; however, charges were later dropped.[19]

Firestone Tire problems

In May 2000, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contacted Firestone Tire about the high incidence of tire failure on Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers, and Mazda Navajos fitted with Firestone tires. Investigators found that several models of 15" Firestone tires (ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT) had very high failure rates, especially those made at Firestone's Decatur plant.[20] Investigators also found that the failure rates were brought down to normal levels when installed on other sport utility vehicles.[citation needed] The plant opted to pay off the lawsuits rather than recall the tires. This was one of the leading factors to the closing of the Decatur plant.[20] Another leading factor that lead to the closing of the plant, was the age of the facility and the equipment. Firestone officials have been quoted saying that the plant was going to be closed in the near future anyway and it happened to coincide with the tire failures.[citation needed]


Notable people

Inventions in Decatur

  • Spiral Screwdriver Decatur Coffin Companies' Early Spiral Screwdriver
  • Photo Timer Robert Faries' Pneumatic Photo Timer
  • Flyswatter invented by Robert Montgomery, who holds the patent from c. 1900
  • Radar Gun Law enforcement radar invented by Bryce K. Brown of Decatur Electronics
  • On April 24, 1923, US Patent #1452956 was issued to Arthur W. Cash of Decatur. Mr Cash assigned the patent to Harvey A. Sellers owner of the Hi-Flier Manufacturing Company of Decatur. The patent was for the design of an inexpensive paper kite which dominated the children's kite market from the 1920s to the 1960s.

References in popular culture


  • "Decatur, Or, Round of Applause For Your Step Mother!" is a song by Sufjan Stevens on his album Illinois. The song refers to several locations and events associated with Decatur, including the Caterpillar factory, Greenwood cemetery, the chicken mobile from Krekels, strong historical ties to Abraham Lincoln, and the Sangamon River, (which is mispronounced as "Sang-a-man.")

Canadian folk icon, Willie P. Bennett wrote a song titled "Decatur" which he performed live but never recorded.




  1. ^ a b c "Decatur Metro Area, Illinois". Sperling's Best Places. Fast Forward, Inc.. 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  2. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ Freeman, Huey, "City manager to step down May 2; Steve Garman says he would like to focus on finding another job", Herald & Review, April 23, 2008, Page A1.
  5. ^ Associated Press, via Chicago Tribune. Garman was somewhat of a controversial figure in local government, Ex-Mayor Osborne recently[citation needed] wrote a newspaper article which said that "While Garman was controversial, there were never 4 votes to oust him." A local citizen group called ChangeDecatur circulated a petition to abolish the City Manager position, and although the proposed change in form of government failed, Mr. Garman left office.Decatur mayor set to resign. May 31, 2008.
  6. ^ "Decatur, Illinois". Sperling's Best Places. Fast Forward, Inc.. 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Ingram, Ron, "Ties to Lincoln draw state GOP convention to Decatur", Herald & Review, Decatur, Illinois, Thursday, July 14, 2007,
  12. ^ Greenwald, John (1996, October 28). The fix was in at ADM. Time Magazine. [1]
  13. ^ Wilson, J.K. (2000, December 21). Price-Fixer to the World. [2]
  14. ^ KaplanFox (2004, July 19). Archer Daniels Settles Suit Accusing it of Price Fixing. KaplanFox Law Firm Press Release. [3]
  15. ^ Editorial Staff (2004, June 18). Sweetner Settlement for ADM. FoodNavigator. [4]
  16. ^ Eichenwald, Kurt (2000). The Informant. Broadway Books, Inc.. ISBN 9-78076790–327-1. [5]
  17. ^ Review of Rats in the Grain. The AgriBusiness Examiner (Issue #85). 2000, August 16. [6]
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b Feltes, Michael (2006-08-24). "Firestone Pulls Out of Decatur". the public i (Urbana, Illinois: Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center) 1 (5). Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  21. ^ LaToya Bond Playerfile
  22. ^ Herald & Review Archives | News: WNBA player LaToya Bond scores big points with children at YWCA's after-school program
  23. ^ Kot, Greg: "Bridges to Babylon". Guitar World Acoustic, No. 25. Retrieved from on 2006-05-13.
  24. ^ Mannlein, Arelene: "Relatives of Jars of Clay member — and many, many more — plan to gather". Herald & Review, Decatur, Illinois, Thursday, August 4, 2005, 5:10 pm CDT. Retrieved from [7] on 2006-05-13.
  25. ^ Editorial Staff (2005, June 18). The Informant, the Movie. [8]

External links

Simple English

Decatur is a city in the American state of Illinois. In the 2000 census, there were more than 80,000 people living in it. Many people drive in and out of Decatur on Interstate 72. There is a shopping mall in nearby Forsyth, a suburb of Decatur.

Decatur is the county seat of Macon County. Macon County was the home of the young Abraham Lincoln, later U.S. President, for a short time. The place where the Lincoln family built a log cabin and spent the winter of 1829-1830 is now a state park, the "Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park."


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