LaSalle, Illinois

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Coordinates: 41°20′28″N 89°5′27″W / 41.34111°N 89.09083°W / 41.34111; -89.09083
LaSalle (La Salle)
Downtown La Salle, Illinois.jpg
Downtown LaSalle, Illinois.
Official name: La Salle
Country United States
State Illinois
County LaSalle
Townships LaSalle, Utica, Peru, Waltham, Dimmick
Elevation 517 ft (158 m)
Coordinates 41°20′28″N 89°5′27″W / 41.34111°N 89.09083°W / 41.34111; -89.09083
Highest point 655 feet (200 m)
 - location ABC Wire, Inc.
Lowest point 438 feet (134 m)
 - location Illinois and Michigan Canal
Area 12.21 sq mi (32 km2)
 - land 12.11 sq mi (31 km2)
 - water 0.1 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 9,418 (2013)
Density 778 / sq mi (300 / km2)
Founded 1852
Date May 25
Mayor Jeff Grove
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 61301
Area code 815, 779
Location of LaSalle within Illinois
Location of LaSalle within Illinois
Wikimedia Commons: LaSalle, Illinois

LaSalle is a city in LaSalle County, Illinois, United States, located at the intersection of Interstates 39 and 80. It is part of the Ottawa-Peru, IL Micropolitan Statistical Area. Originally platted in 1837 over one square mile, the city's boundaries have grown to 12 square miles (31 km2). City boundaries extend from the Illinois River and Illinois and Michigan Canal to a mile north of Interstate 80 and from the city of Peru on the west to the village of North Utica on the east. Starved Rock State Park is located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) to the east. The population was 9,609 at the 2010 census, and was estimated to be 9,418 by July 2013.[1] LaSalle and its twin city, Peru, make up the core of the Illinois Valley.[2] Due to their combined dominance of the zinc processing industry in the early 1900s, they were collectively nicknamed "Zinc City."


LaSalle was named in honor of the early French explorer, Robert de LaSalle. In presettlement times the Illinois River was navigable upstream only to LaSalle; beyond LaSalle were a series of portages, in which boats had to be carried around rapids. During the 1830s, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was built to connect the Illinois River with Lake Michigan. LaSalle was the southwestern terminus of the Canal; Chicago the northeastern. At first LaSalle was the larger of the two cities, but it was soon dwarfed by its partner on the Lake.[citation needed]

Although the original town of LaSalle was platted in the 1830s, the city was not incorporated until 1852.

In 1838 large groups of Irish immigrants moved to the area to work on the canal. In May 1838, the War of the Kerry Patch broke out at Marseilles. The South Irish fought the North Irish, and after the South Irish won, they were joined by two hundred men at the Kerry Patch, near Split Rock Lake and the Pequamsoggin. They then marched on Peru and destroyed the shanties and beat up any Connaught or Ulster man they could find. Sheriff Woodruff and his deputy, Zimri Lewis, along with canal contractor, William Byrne, formed a posse and met them near Buffalo Rock. The posse fired upon a mob of five hundred armed South Irishmen led by "General" Sweeney. The mob dispersed,some fled into the river and were shot, many were arrested, officially only ten were killed.

The Illinois Central Railroad crossed the Illinois river over a mile-long bridge through the eastern side of town on its way from Cairo to Galena. The railroad was the cause of a riot in 1853.[3] In 1853, laborers working on the Illinois Central bridge disputed wages with the contractor, Albert Story. He promised to pay them one dollar and a quarter for their daily wage, but later lowered it to a dollar. Some had not read the notice and were incensed at seeing their paychecks. They broke down the door on Story's house with axes, picks, and shovels. Story tried to flee on horse, but the men rushed the stable and with picks, shovels, and stones murdered him. Twelve were arrested and convicted. Governor Matteson commuted the death sentence to imprisonment for life and later granted them full pardons. When Governor Matteson visited LaSalle, he was publicly burned in effigy.

Coal miners, in sympathy with railroad workers, went on strike in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.

On April 18, 1880, a cyclonic windstorm tore off the roofs of houses, St. Partrick's school, toppled the Baptist Church, the engine house, the glassworks, and "entirely destroyed all fences between Utica and LaSalle."[4]

LaSalle quickly developed as a railroad hub, due to the Illinois Central, Rock Island Railroad, LaSalle and Bureau County, and Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy railroads. The commercial stimulus in the downtown created many hotels, restaurants, and bars to cater to passengers.

In the 1920s and 1930s, due to the prohibition, the city was host to many casinos and taverns and dubbed by its Chicago market, "Little Reno".

Though the loss of several large companies, as well as the favoring of large business over small business, led a great atrophy in the local economy. However, many small businesses continued to thrive. Today many small businesses are returning to LaSalle's downtown.

Estimated have shown a steady decline in population since a 3rd millennium high of 9,630 in early 2010. The population went from 9,609 in April to 9,630 in June, 9,619 in July, 9,573 a calendar year later, 9,505 in July 2012, and a 3rd millennium low of 9,418 in July 2013. Another estimate will be released in 33 days.


Six years after incorporation, two men – Frederich W. Matthiessen and Edward C. Hegeler – established the Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company in LaSalle. This company would remain one of the largest employers in the city until its closure in the 1960s. Edward Hegeler built the world famous Hegeler Carus Mansion near his company's site. His daughter, Mary, married Paul Carus – Editor of the Open Court Publishing Company. The Hegeler's are noted for introducing Buddhism to the United States. Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki lived in LaSalle and wrote for Open Court. In 1915 Edward Hegeler Carus, a grandson of Edward Hegeler founded Carus Chemical Company.[citation needed] Matthiessen later became mayor of LaSalle.

Matthiessen State Park is a local state park entailing the country estate of Frederich Matthiessen. Hegeler owns the namesake of Hegeler City Park on St. Vincents Avenue.

Other Early Industries in LaSalle:

  • LaSalle Machine and Tool Company
  • Kahn Shirt Factory
  • LaSalle Pressed Brick Company.
  • German American Portland Cement Company

LaSalle is currently home to the Carus Chemical Company,[5] Illinois Cement Company,[6] Air Products,[7] News Tribune, Buckman's Scrap, and the JC Whitney distribution center and Retail Store,[8] Machelle's Backstreet,[9] along with many other local industries and businesses.[citation needed]


Coal was noted at LaSalle when a survey of the canal was made by Major Long in 1817. Coal mines fueled LaSalle's development. The town was the site of a furious firefight during the Bituminous Coal Miners' Strike of 1894. The earliest mine in the area was Dixwell Lathrop's Mine near Rockwell in 1839. LaSalle had one of the three mine rescue stations in Illinois, the others being in Springfield and Benton. Other mines in LaSalle include:[10]

  • Kentucky Mine, 1856–1873
  • Matthiessen and Hegeler Mine, 1874–1937
  • Rockwell Mine, 1865–1912
  • LaSalle Mine, 1874–1949
  • Caledonia Mine, 1870–1884
  • Blackball Mine

Largest employers[edit]

The following businesses have more than 100 people staffed, making them the six largest in LaSalle:[11]

  • J.C. Whitney 313
  • Carus Chemical 264
  • Illinois Veteran's Home 200
  • Illinois Cement Company 148
  • News-Tribune 101


La Salle is located at 41°20′28″N 89°5′27″W / 41.34111°N 89.09083°W / 41.34111; -89.09083 (41.341056, −89.090834).[12]

Centrally located along the Illinois and Michigan Canal at the crossroads of I-39 and I-80, LaSalle is just six miles (10 km) from Starved Rock State Park.

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 11.85 square miles (30.7 km2), of which 11.76 square miles (30.5 km2) (or 99.24%) is land and 0.09 square miles (0.23 km2) (or 0.76%) is water.[13] This has grown to 12.11 square miles (31.4 km2), 12.11 square miles (31.4 km2), and .1 square miles (0.26 km2) since.


LaSalle's older neighborhoods can be considered divided by Joliet/St. Vincents and 11th Street to form four residential neighborhoods formalized by wards.

In the Southwest Quadrant, North of the I&M Canal is LaSalle's Downtown. Downtown businesses include: KFC, Marty's Barber Shop, La Salle Public Library, Monari's 101, King Tire, and Lawn And Garden Center, located at the former site of the Peru-LaSalle Station. Uptown Grill is located at 1st and Gooding. Illinois and Michigan Canal Lock 16 and The Volunteer operate here.[14][15] Bucklin Street is a wide boulevard splitting this neighborhood in half. There are many fine homes in this part of town. LaSalle-Peru Township High School is here.

The Southeastern Quadrant is home to the Hegeler-Carus Mansion and the Carus Chemical Co. Pulaski Park is located in front of Trinity Catholic Academy. This part of La Salle includes the 8th Street Business District, which contains a drug store, a Mexican restaurant, a casual dining center, and a bakery and toy train store.

The Northeastern quadrant of LaSalle was primarily workers' residences for the M&H Zinc Co. Early paternal improvement included the asbestos-filled Matthiessen School, Hegeler Park, and St. Mary's Hospital. East of the residential area are the ruins of M&H. Saint Vincent and Saint Hyacinth's cemeteries are located near the north end of city limits. Matthiessen School and St Mary's Hospital have since been abandoned, and Matthiessen was demolished in the summer of 2013.

The Northwestern quadrant houses the majority of the public school system: Northwest Elementary School and Lincoln Jr. High; as well as the private LaSalle-Peru Christian Academy. There are several large stately residences on Bucklin Street. Parts of this neighborhood were built over an old horse racing track. The far north of this quadrant is industrial, built along Route 80. Flying J and Denny's are located at Illinois Route 351 and Civic Road, which is named North 30th for the county.

To the east of the Little Vermillion River is the Eastern Acquirement. Rotary Park is being constructed here. This is a low populated area with less than 1,000 residents, and includes the LaSalle Speedway.


The Rockwell Colony was founded in 1838 by a group from Norwich Connecticut, due east of LaSalle. They hoped that Illinois Central would cross the Illinois River and that the Illinois and Michigan Canal would terminate at that location. Instead these two events happened in nearby LaSalle. Soon after, the thriving colony of two hundred people was wiped out by a malaria epidemic. Its territory was later incorporated into the city of LaSalle.[citation needed]


Climate data for LaSalle, Illinois
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 66
Average high °F (°C) 30
Average low °F (°C) 14
Record low °F (°C) −26
Source: <La Salle, Illinois Weather= > (2014). "LaSalle, Illinois Weather". LaSalle, Illinois Weather Data. Open Publishing. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 


Entertainment and the Arts[edit]

LaSalle has performances by the Illinois Valley Symphony. Stage 212 and a ballet studio cultivate the performing arts. Matthiessen Auditorium hosts many examples of performing arts, including the LaSalle-Peru Township High School band, jazz band, choir, musical, and local junior high bands. Maestro and Mi educates musicians.

The Jazz in the Street festival has been held annually since 2006 on the Saturday before Columbus Day. Most years, there have been appearances by locally popular bands, including the Illinois Valley Community College and even Northern Illinois University jazz bands. The day after this festival, the Burgoo festival is held in neighboring town North Utica.


LaSalle has several National Historical Structures: Hotel Kaskaskia, the Hegeler-Carus Mansion, the Julius W. Hegeler House, and the LaSalle City Building.

There is a Museum and Visitor's Center dedicated to the I&M Canal on First and Joliet Streets.

In the Lock 14 basin, just one block south of downtown La Salle on Route 351 is the Volunteer, an 1880s replica Canal Boat. Tourists can enjoy a mule pulled ride on the waterway that changed the face of the nation – the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal. The one-hour, roundtrip journey on a full-size replica canal boat will take you on the same hand-dug waterway that 19th century pioneers traveled. Your guides, dressed as Canal Era crew and passengers, will take you back in time to life on the American frontier and the Illinois prairie.

A few steps from the boat dock and the mule corral, meet ten passengers who rode a canal boat between 1848 and 1853 and three men who worked on the packet boats. These full size steel silhouettes and their labels introduce you to famous and not-so-famous people who walked here before you. Among the famous, see mule driver Wild Bill Hickok, Abraham Lincoln and his family, and Chief Shabonna. Ticket information is available by clicking here.

La Salle also has a National Historic Landmark, in the Hegeler Carus Mansion. The Mansion, built in 1874 for the Hegeler Family by W. W. Boyington is a lavish Victorian-era home with 57 rooms, 10 fireplaces, the oldest private gymnasium in America, and a dining room table that seats 22 people. A showcase of premier 19th century architecture and design, the mansion features intricate, hand-painted walls and ceilings, elaborate woodwork, century-old chandeliers, parquet floors, floor-to-ceiling windows; etched glass windows and other fine details.

The Mansion was associated with advances in Manufacturing, Education, Publishing and Religious Dialog.

The Hegeler Carus Mansion is open for tours all year round and attracts artists, architects and tourists from all over the world. It is the most intact and unaltered example of the work of August Fiedler in existence. The Mansion is owned and operated by the Hegeler Carus Foundation, and is being painstakingly preserved and restored. Most of the exterior restoration is complete, and work on the interior has begun.

In 2012, the Hegeler Carus Mansion became a venue for outdoor Music with its Summer Sunset Concert Series each Friday night in the Summer months.

The Mansion is located at 1307 Seventh Street, at the intersection of Seventh and Sterling streets. For tours, membership, a list of upcoming events or volunteer opportunities visit


There are many parks and nature areas within the city. These include:

  • Hegeler Park

Hegeler Park is LaSalle's largest park. The park was donated by the Hegeler family in 1912. It includes three playgrounds, two baseball diamonds (Adam Bernardi, Volunteer), a softball diamond, a concession stand (only operates during baseball games), restrooms, drinking fountains, the Francis Coutts Tennis Courts, two shelters, two sand volleyball courts and the 85 year old Veterans Memorial Pool.

  • Rotary Park

Rotary has been planned since 2009. The park's first phase was completed and was officially opened in June 2013. This park will feature ball diamonds, soccer courts, fishing areas, a dog park, hiking trails, and possibly an amphitheater. As of May 2014, around $175,000 has been collected of the $400,000 construction cost. Rotary is located between the west and east half of the city near U.S. Route 6 and Interstate 39.

  • Matthiessen Park (not to be confused with the local Matthiessen State Park)
  • Pulaski Park
  • St. Mary's Park
  • Mary Hegeler Carus Memorial Park
  • Tanagool Park
  • Ninth Street Park
  • Prairie Wildlife Park
  • 4th Street Park


LaSalle was once a city of smokestacks and churches. St. Patrick's Cathedral, St. Hyacinths, and Holy Rosary churches lead the city's Catholic scene. Trinity Church and the 1st Congregational Church of LaSalle, complete the old churches. St. Roch's and Resurrection have been re purposed. New Churches have sprung up downtown in old shopfronts and schools, including Christ Family Foursquare Church, a remodeled old school house and location of Head Start and Ax Church which currently meets in Trinity Catholic Academy's old building on Sixth Street.


LaSalle does not have much of a sports scene. There is a strong Little League of nearly 30 baseball teams. The Illinois Valley Youth Football League folded in the mid 2000s, giving way to the LaSalle-Peru Youth Football League. The LPYFL is entering its fourth season.

Nearly 900 people crowd into Howard Fellows Stadium on fall Friday nights to watch the LaSalle-Peru High School Cavaliers football team, which last made the IHSA state playoffs in 2009.

The city housed the LaSalle Blue Sox of the Illinois-Missouri League in 1914.[16] They posted a 26-60 record.


Many radio stations are in the area, including WLPO, WAJK, and WLWF.

For newspaper, the NewsTribune serves the area, as well as many Chicago newspapers.


LaSalle-Peru Township High School serves 9th–12th graders. LaSalle Elementary School District 122 (made up of three schools: Lincoln Junior High, Northwest Elementary, Jackson Preschool) offers education for grades PreK-8th, as well as Trinity Catholic Academy. There is also CCD at St. Hyacinth's Felician Learning Center on Wednesdays.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 3,993
1870 5,200 30.2%
1880 7,847 50.9%
1890 9,855 25.6%
1900 10,446 6.0%
1910 11,537 10.4%
1920 13,050 13.1%
1930 13,149 0.8%
1940 12,812 −2.6%
1950 12,083 −5.7%
1960 11,897 −1.5%
1970 10,736 −9.8%
1980 10,341 −3.7%
1990 9,090 −12.1%
2000 9,470 4.2%
2010 9,609 1.5%
Decennial US Census

As of the 2010 Census[17] there were 9,609 people, 3,970 households, and 2,389 families residing in the city. The population density was 778 people per square mile (300/km²). There were 4,437 housing units at an average density of 367 per square mile (142/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.2% White, 1.7% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 5.7% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.2% of the population.

There were 3,970 households out of which 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.5% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.8% were non-families. 33.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 25.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 3.00.

The city's age distribution consisted of 23.5% under the age of 18, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.4 years, and females made up 49.7% of the population.

The median income for households during 2009-2013 was $47,560, and 15.2% of the population was below poverty level.[18]


The city is at the crossroads of Interstate 80 and Interstate 39. Illinois Route 351 separates the east and west of US Route 6. US Route 51 also runs through the city. The CSX New Rock Subdivision runs through town, with Iowa Interstate Railroad running via trackage rights. The Illinois Railway LaSalle Line also runs through town, crossing the CSX Line and continuing on to a sand pit that they service.

Points of interest[edit]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013". American Factfinder. US Census Bureau. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development
  3. ^ 1853 Riot At LaSalle Illinois
  4. ^ O'Byrne, M.C. "LaSalle and Peru: An Historical Sketch." LaSalle Tribune. June 1911. Twentieth Anniversary.
  5. ^ Carus Chemical Company, located at 1500 8th St., LaSalle, IL 61301
  6. ^ located at 1601 Rockwell Rd., LaSalle, IL 61301
  7. ^ located on Civic Road, LaSalle, IL 61301
  8. ^ located at 761 Progress Pkwy, LaSalle, IL 61301
  9. ^ LA SALLE – Spring Poker Run for Life is Sunday –
  10. ^
  11. ^ Comprehensive State of the City
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  13. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files for Places – Illinois". United States Census. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ 'Dreamboat' christened Replica canal boat officially goes into service –
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010". American Factfinder. US Census Bureau. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  18. ^ "LaSalle, Illinois". State and County Quick Facts. US Census Bureau. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]