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St. Charles History

Mill in Future Municipal Building Site


St. Charles has a rich and storied history. We honor and preserve that history, which has helped shape who we are today. Below is an overview of some significant milestones in St. Charles history:

  • In 1833, Evan Shelby explored the Fox Valley and claimed a site which was to become St. Charles.
  • In 1834, Evan Shelby, Ira Minard, and Read Ferson founded the town and named it Charleston after a town in Mr. Ferson’s home state of Vermont. The town name was changed to St. Charles because there already was a town called Charleston in downstate Illinois.
  • In 1861, Camp Kane was created as a major union training facility first for the 8th & 17th Illinois Cavalries in the Civil War. This area would later become Langum Park.
  • In 1874, St. Charles became incorporated with Dr. James K. Lewis as the first mayor.
  • The first bridge across the Fox was built in 1836 and was 18 feet wide. The bridge had been destroyed and rebuilt three times through 1857.
  • Lester Norris invested $500,000 to build the Arcada Theatre which opened on Labor Day in 1926.
  • Built by Colonel Edward J. Baker, the Hotel Baker opened its doors on June 2, 1928.
  • On May 20, 1912, Pottawatomie Park opened; the first to open under a new Illinois Parks Act.
  • Ground was broken in July 1939 for Delnor Hospital on 5th Avenue, north of Iroquois. The hospital and ten acres for future expansion were given to the City by Lester and Dellora Norris.
  • In 1940, the iconic Municipal Building was completed. It was a gift to the St. Charles community from two of St. Charles’ most generous benefactors. The Norris family donated the land and the Baker family provided for the design and construction. It was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
  • In early 1969, the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce sponsored a contest to select a slogan for the town. Long-time resident William R. Ross submitted the winning entry: “The Pride of the Fox.” The City of St. Charles proudly uses this award-winning slogan to this day. 
  • In 1972, Dellora and Lester Norris donated 70 acres of land where St. Charles East High School was built. Additional Norris grants were responsible for construction of the Dellora Norris Cultural Arts Center, the Lester Norris Sports Complex, and the John B. Norris Recreation Center.

Over the years, St. Charles has received numerous recognitions for its architecture, top-notch schools, parks, events and entertainment, and as a top place to live and raise a family.

St. Charles History Museum
St. Charles: Culture and Leisure in An All-American Town
Reflections of St. Charles, The Definitive History of St. Charles

updated Mar 15, 2023