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Belleville, Illinois
“Welcome to Belleville, Capital of southern Illinois”
“Welcome to Belleville, Capital of southern Illinois”
Flag of Belleville, Illinois
Location of Belleville in St. Clair County, Illinois.
Location of Belleville in St. Clair County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Country United States
State Illinois
County St. Clair
Founded 1814
 • Total 23.49 sq mi (60.84 km2)
 • Land 23.23 sq mi (60.17 km2)
 • Water 0.26 sq mi (0.67 km2)
515 ft (157 m)
 • Total 42,404
 • Density 1,825.16/sq mi (704.71/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code(s)
62220-62223, 62225, 62226
Area code(s) 618
FIPS code 17-163-04858
Wikimedia Commons Belleville, Illinois
Bird's Eye View of Belleville, Illinois
Bird's Eye View of Belleville, Illinois in 1867

Belleville (French: Belle ville, meaning "Beautiful city") is a city and the county seat of St. Clair County, Illinois, coterminous with the now defunct Belleville Township. It is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. The population was 44,478 according to the Census Bureau's 2010 data, making it the largest city in the state south of Springfield.

Belleville is the eighth-most populated city in the state outside the Chicago metropolitan area, and the most-populated city in southern Illinois and in the Metro-East region of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. Due to its proximity to Scott Air Force Base, the population receives a boost from military and federal civilian personnel, defense contractors, and military retirees.


Belleville around the turn of the 20th century.
Harrison Machine Works 1882 tractor
1882 Harrison Machine Works tractor, made in Belleville.
Belleville St. Peter's Cathedral
Belleville Cathedral

The city of Belleville was named by George Blair in 1814. Blair donated an acre of his land for the Town Square and an additional 25 acres (100,000 m2) adjoining the square for the new county seat, causing the county seat to be transferred from the village of Cahokia. Belleville was incorporated as a village in 1819, and became a city in 1850. It is said that Blair named the city Belleville (French for "beautiful city") because he believed that a French name would attract new residents. Since major immigration in the mid-19th century occurred following revolutions in Germany, most of the population is of German heritage.

Many of the educated people fled their homeland after the failure of the German Revolution in 1848. Belleville was the center of the first important German settlement in Illinois. By 1870, an estimated 90% of the city's population was either German born or of German descent.

After the Civil War, Belleville became a manufacturing center producing nails, printing presses, gray iron castings, agricultural equipment, and stoves. Belleville became known as "The Stove Capital of the World." The first brewery in Illinois was established in Belleville and in 1868, Gustav Goelitz founded the candy company that is known today as "Jelly Belly."

An immense deposit (400,000 acres (1,600 km2)) of bituminous coal was found in St. Clair County. By 1874, some farmers had become coal miners. One hundred shaft mines were in operation in and around Belleville. The coal brought the steam railroad to town, which allowed for the transport of many tons of coal to be shipped daily from Belleville to St. Louis. Later, Belleville would have the first electric trolley in the state.

The first style of homes in Belleville was simple brick cottages, known locally as "German street houses" or "row houses." However, there is a great variety of architectural style with American Foursquare, French Second Empire, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Victorian. The Belleville Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, comprises 73 contributing properties. The "Old Belleville Historic District," was formed in 1974 and is the city’s first historic district. The city also had two more historic districts: "Hexenbukel" (est. in 1991) and "Oakland" (est. in 1995).

Belleville’s early German immigrants were scholarly, with most of them having graduated from German universities. They were nicknamed “Latin Farmers” because of this. After 1836 Gustav Koerner contributed to establish the city’s public library. The Belleville Public Library is the state’s oldest, predating the Illinois State Library by three years. The German settlers also founded choral and dramatic groups as well as literary societies. Belleville was also home to one of the first kindergartens in the country.

The National Civic League recognized Belleville as one of the ten 2011 recipients of the All-America City Award.


Belleville is located at 38°31′18″N 89°59′43″W / 38.52167°N 89.99528°W / 38.52167; -89.99528 (38.521567, -89.995208).

According to the 2010 census, Belleville has a total area of 23.009 square miles (59.59 km2), of which 22.74 square miles (58.90 km2) (or 98.83%) is land and 0.269 square miles (0.70 km2) (or 1.17%) is water. Richland Creek flows through much of Belleville.

Culture and contemporary life

Entertainment and performing arts

The Belleville Philharmonic Society was formed in 1866, making it the second oldest philharmonic orchestra in the country. With the increase in black population and migrants from the South, musicians developed who played blues and jazz; later rock clubs were added to the scene.

Jay Farrar (now of Son Volt), Mike Heidorn, and Jeff Tweedy (now of Wilco) of the now-defunct alt country group Uncle Tupelo are from Belleville. Another major musician was Neal Doughty, keyboardist for 1970s rock band REO Speedwagon.

National Register of Historic Places

Annual events

Belleville holds several celebrations throughout the year:

  • St Patrick's Day Parade (March 17)
  • Ainad Shriner's Circus Parade (1st Friday in June)
  • Labor Day Parade (September)
  • Santa Claus Parade (November)
  • Gingerbread Walk (December)
  • Tour de Belleville (July)
  • Memorial Day Parade


  • Rowdies Rugby Football Club — the only rugby football club in the Belleville area.
  • Lindenwood Stadium is a college football stadium with alternating red and gray stripes. It has been called "The nation’s most original (hideous) football field."


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 2,941
1860 7,520 155.7%
1870 8,146 8.3%
1880 10,683 31.1%
1890 15,361 43.8%
1900 17,484 13.8%
1910 21,122 20.8%
1920 24,823 17.5%
1930 28,425 14.5%
1940 28,405 −0.1%
1950 32,721 15.2%
1960 37,264 13.9%
1970 41,223 10.6%
1980 41,580 0.9%
1990 42,785 2.9%
2000 41,410 −3.2%
2010 44,478 7.4%
2020 42,404 −4.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

At the 2000 census there were 41,410 people, 17,603 households, and 10,420 families living in the city. The population density was 2,196.4 people per square mile (848.2/km2). There were 19,142 housing units at an average density of 1,015.3 per square mile (392.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.51% White, 15.51% African American, 0.26% Native American, 0.81% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 1.43% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.63%.

Of the 17,603 households 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.0% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.8% were non-families. 35.1% of households were one person and 14.0% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.95.

The age distribution was 23.4% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% 65 or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.0 males.

The median household income was $35,979 and the median family income was $46,426. Males had a median income of $33,361 versus $25,375 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,990. About 9.3% of families and 11.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over.

2010 Census

As of the 2010 Census, there were 44,478 people, 18,795 households, 11,081 families living in the city. The population density was. The racial makeup of the city was 69.8% White, 25.4% African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 2.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.6% of the population

Of the 18,795 households 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38% were married couples living together, 16.4 had a female householder with no man present, and 41% were non-families. 34.4% of households were one person and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age of older. The average household size was 2.3 and the average family size was 2.9.

The age distribution was 23.3% under the age of 18, and 12.9% over the age of 65.


Belleville has three St. Louis MetroLink stations connecting it to St. Louis and the network via light rail: Memorial Hospital, Belleville, and College.

Illinois State Highways 15, 159, 177, 13 and 161 all pass through Belleville. Belleville is also adjacent to Interstate highways 64 and 255. I-64 is an east–west highway extending from Wentzville, Missouri to Virginia Beach, Virginia and is the major route from Belleville to downtown St. Louis. I-255 is part of a system of expressways that together form a loop around St. Louis.

Belleville has a bicycle trail that runs through the city from Southside Park to Southwestern Illinois College and Scott Air Force Base; it is mainly used for recreational purposes

Belleville's area airports are Scott Air Force Base and MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, and the nearest major airport with regularly scheduled commercial passenger service is Lambert St. Louis International Airport.

Sister city

Belleville is a sister city to Paderborn, Germany.


Higher education:

  • The Saint Louis University Family Medicine Residency
  • Lindenwood University – Belleville
  • Southwestern Illinois College

Four high schools – two public (Belleville High School-East, Belleville High School-West), and two private (Althoff Catholic High School, Governor French Academy).

Belleville is also home to a relatively large grade school district. Belleville District 118 has 9 elementary schools, (Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Douglas, Franklin, Jefferson, Union, Westhaven, Henry Raab, and Washington) and 2 junior high schools (Central Junior High and West Junior High). Belle Valley School District 119 is also available for public school. Harmony School District 175 includes Ellis Elementary and Emge Jr. High. Signal Hill School is the only school in district 181. Whiteside Elementary School and Whiteside Middle School make up district 115. Parochial grade schools include St. Peter's Cathedral, St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, St. Teresa, Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady Queen of Peace, and Zion Lutheran School.

Notable people

  • Black Beaver (1806–1880), Delaware Native American leader, scout, and rancher
  • Charles Romyn Dake
  • Lea DeLaria
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • Jay Farrar
  • Mary Lynne Gasaway Hill, poet, writer, professor at St. Mary's University, Texas and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
  • Bob Goalby, Professional golfer, winner of the 1968 Masters Tournament
  • Sandra Magnus
  • Darius Miles
  • Edward P. Petri, Illinois state representative, sheriff, and businessman
  • Jeff Tweedy
  • Kevin Von Erich
  • Stephen R. Wigginton, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois from 2010 to 2015.

See also

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