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Dining, Shopping  & Exploring the Fox River Valley

St Charles History

This is an area that was originally home to the Pottawatomie – the Neshnabi, as they called themselves. The bustling city of St. Charles is situated along the banks, and on both sides of, the Fox River. The river, as the Pottawatomie well knew, was a tremendous asset, and white Anglo-Saxons moving into the area in the 1830s were quick to discover this.

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riverboat paddlewheel
St Charles Belle - Photo by Richard Ross

A Bit of St Charles, IL History

The river was a great source of waterpower, and the land around it was also an abundant source of firewood, game, fresh spring water and limestone. That limestone was one of the major resources and building materials still seen in numerous area dwellings and businesses today. These early European pioneers eventually drove the Native Americans from their home.

First Dam, First Bridge & Swedish Immigrants

In 1836, the first dam was completed in what was then called Charleston. It was an excellent source of power to grind flour and cut wood, both necessary for a growing town which, in 1839, changed its name to St. Charles.

1857 saw an iron bridge constructed across the Fox River, replacing several failed wooden ones. This was during a time when the city experienced rapid growth, aided by the influx – not unlike sister city Geneva to the south – of hard-working Swedish immigrants.

Familiar Names and a Still-Growing City

The years of 1920-1940 brought now-familiar names like the Cable Piano Factory and Moline Malleable, Hotel Baker and Arcada Theatre to St. Charles, as well as the philanthropic contributions of the Gates, Norris and Baker families.

Still a thriving and growing city today,  St. Charles, IL has spread far from the banks of the Fox River. The east-west borders reach from Randall Road on the west, all the way to West Chicago, its neighbor to the east. For additional history about  St. Charles, please visit the St Charles Heritage Center.

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The OTF Design Team

local experts, foodies, travel writers, photographers, web designers

Between the two of us, we’ve spent almost 100 years living in the Tri-Cities! On the Fox is our combined effort to share with you all that The Fox River Valley has to offer. We hope you enjoy the site… and the area; and that you come back often to see what’s new!

Yvonne & Richard