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Decatur, Illinois
City of Decatur
Decatur downtown
Decatur downtown
Country United States
State Illinois
County Macon
Founded 1823
 • Land 42.22 sq mi (109.3 km2)
 • Water 4.69 sq mi (12.1 km2)
677 ft (206 m)
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,969.7/sq mi (760.5/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) EDT
ZIP code
62521, 62522, 62523, 62526
Area code(s) 217

Decatur /dəˈktər/ is the largest city and the county seat of Macon County in the U.S. state of Illinois. The city was founded in 1829 and is along the Sangamon River and Lake Decatur in Central Illinois. In 2015, the city's estimated population was 73,254.

The city is home of private Millikin University and public Richland Community College. Decatur has vast industrial and agricultural processing production, including the North American headquarters of agricultural conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, international agribusiness Tate & Lyle's largest corn-processing plant, and the designing and manufacturing facilities for Caterpillar Inc.'s wheel-tractor scrapers, off-highway trucks, and large mining trucks.


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). Decatur is three hours southwest of Chicago, 40 miles due east of Springfield, the state capital, and two hours northeast of St. Louis by car.

According to the 2010 census, Decatur has an area of 46.91 square miles (121.50 km2), of which 42.22 square miles (109.35 km2) (or 90%) is land and 4.69 square miles (12.15 km2) (or 10%) is water. Lakes include Lake Decatur, formed in 1923 by the damming of the Sangamon River.

The Decatur Metropolitan Statistical Area (population 109,900) includes surrounding towns of Argenta, Boody, Blue Mound, Elwin, Forsyth, Harristown, Long Creek, Macon, Maroa, Mount Zion, Niantic, Oakley, Oreana, and Warrensburg.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 3,839
1870 7,161 86.5%
1880 9,547 33.3%
1890 16,841 76.4%
1900 20,754 23.2%
1910 31,140 50.0%
1920 43,818 40.7%
1930 57,510 31.2%
1940 59,305 3.1%
1950 66,269 11.7%
1960 78,004 17.7%
1970 79,285 1.6%
1980 94,081 18.7%
1990 83,885 −10.8%
2000 81,860 −2.4%
2010 76,122 −7.0%
Est. 2015 73,254 −3.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census 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 per square mile (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 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 unofficial, but popular motto.

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

The city's symbol is the Transfer House, an early-20th-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.

Sister cities

Since 1966, Decatur has been Sister Citied with Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan. In July 1972, the administrations of 19 independent smaller municipalities were merged to form Decatur's second Sister City, Seevetal, Lower Saxony, Germany. The 19 towns and villages forming Seevetal were Beckedorf, Bullenhausen, Emmelndorf, Fleestedt, Glüsingen, Groß Moor, Helmstorf, Hittfeld, Holtorfsloh, Horst, Hörsten, Klein Moor, Lindhorst, Maschen, Meckelfeld, Metzendorf, Ohlendorf, Over and Ramelsloh. The Decatur Sister Cities Committee annually coordinates both inbound and outbound High School students, who serve as ambassadors between the three cities. Since mid-2012, the City of Decatur and City of Camajuaní in the Province of Villa Clara, Cuba have worked to develop Sister City relations. As of March 2013, both governments have approved the relationship, but no formal agreements have been signed.


Between 1829 and 1836 the county commissioners court had jurisdiction as it was the seat of Macon County,. By 1836 the population reached approximately 300, Richard Oglesby was elected president of the first board of trustees. Other members of the board of trustees included Dr. William Crissey, H.M. Gorin and Andrew Love as clerk,.

In 1839 a town charter was granted to Decatur that gave power to the trustees "to establish and regulate a fire department, to dig wells and erect pumps in the streets, regulate police of the town, raise money for the purpose of commencing and prosecuting works of public improvement.",. Those who served as president of the town of Decatur were: Richard Oglesby (1836), Joseph Williams (1837), Henry Snyder (1838), Kirby Benedict (1839), Joseph King (1840), Thomas P. Rodgers (1841), David Crone (1846–47), J.H. Elliott (1848), Joseph Kauffman (1849), Joseph King (1850), William S. Crissey (1851), W.J. Stamper (1852), William Prather (1853–54), and Thomas H. Wingate (1854–55).

In the winter of 1855–56, a special city incorporation charter was obtained. This charter provided an aldermanic form of government and on January 7, 1856 an election was held for mayor, two aldermen for each of the four wards, and city marshal. This aldermanic form of government continued until January 18, 1911 when Decatur changed to city commissioner form of government. The new commissioner system provided a mayor elected at large and four commissioners to serve as administrators of city services: accounts and finance, public health and safety, public property, and streets and public improvements. The mayor also served as Commissioner of Public Affairs,.

The mayor and commissioner system prevailed until a special election on November 25, 1958 in which the present council-manager form of government was adopted. According to the city website, the "City of Decatur operates under the Council-Manager form of government, a system which combines the leadership of a representative, elected council with the professional background of an appointed manager." The mayor and all members of the council are elected at large. Their duties include determining city policy, receiving nominal annual salaries, and as representatives of the city in public ceremonies. The appointed manager handles all city administration and is the council's employee and not an elected official. Since 1959, the following have served as City Managers: John E. Dever, W. Robert Semple, Leslie T. Allen, Jim Bacon, Jim Williams, Steve Garman, John A. Smith (acting), Ryan McCrady, Gregg Zientara (interim), and Timothy Gleason.

Decatur transfer house by douglas grohne
The Decatur Transfer House in the background in downtown's Central Park

As of 17 August  2015 (2015 -08-17), Julie Moore-Wolfe serves as the current mayor of Decatur. Moore-Wolfe was appointed unanimously by the Decatur City Council following the death of Mayor Mike McElroy. She is the first female to be mayor of Decatur. Moore-Wolfe, who had been appointed mayor pro tem in May 2015, became acting mayor after McElroy died on July 17, 2015. McElroy had been mayor from 2009 and had recently been re-elected to a second term as mayor in April 2015. Timothy Gleason has served as city manager of Decatur since March 23, 2015.


Those who served as president of the town of Decatur were: Richard Oglesby (1836), Joseph Williams (1837), Henry Snyder (1838), Kirby Benedict (1839), Joseph King (1840), Thomas P. Rodgers (1841), David Crone (1846–47), J.H. Elliott (1848), Joseph Kauffman (1849), Joseph King (1850), William S. Crissey (1851), W.J. Stamper (1852), William Prather (1853–54), and Thomas H. Wingate (1854–55).

During the winter of 1855–56, a special incorporation charter of Decatur as a city was obtained providing for an aldermanic form of government.

  • John P. Post (1856)
  • William A. Barnes (1857)
  • James Shoaff (1858)
  • Alexander T. Hill (1859)
  • Sheridan Wait (1860)
  • Edward O. Smith (1861)
  • Thomas O. Smith (1862)
  • Jasper J. Peddecord (1863–1864)
  • Franklin Priest (1865–66; 1870, 1874, 1878)
  • John K. Warren (1867)
  • Isaac C. Pugh (1868)
  • William L. Hammer (1869)
  • E.M. Misner (1871)
  • D.S. Shellabarger (1872)
  • Martin Forstmeyer (1873)
  • R.H. Merriweather (1875)
  • William B. Chambers (1876–1877; 1883–1884; 1891–1892)
  • Lysander L. Haworth (1879)
  • Henry W. Waggoner (1880–1882)
  • Michael F. Kanan (1885–1890),.
  • David C. Moffitt (1893–1894)
  • D.H. Conklin (1895–1896)
  • B.Z. Taylor (1897–1898)
  • George A. Stadler (1899–1900)
  • Charles F. Shilling (1901–1904)
  • George L. Lehman (1905–1906),
  • E.S. McDonald (1907–1908)
  • Charles M. Borchers (1909–1911; 1919–1923)
  • Dan Dinneen (1911–1919)
  • Elmer R. Elder (1923–1927)
  • Orpheus W. Smith (1927–1935)
  • Harry E. Barber (1935)
  • Charles E. Lee (1936–1943)
  • James A. Hedrick (1943–51)
  • Robert E. Willis (1951–1955)
  • Clarence A. Sablotny (1955–59)
  • Jack W. Loftus, Acting Mayor, (1959)
  • Robert A. Grohne (1959–1963)
  • Ellis B. Arnold (May 1, 1963 to April 30, 1967)
  • James H Rupp (1966–1977)
  • Elmer W. Walton (1977–1983)
  • Gary K. Anderson (1983–1992)
  • Erik Brechnitz (1992–1995)
  • Terry M. Howley (1995–2003)
  • Paul Osborne (2003–2008) (resigned)
  • Mike Carrigan (2008–2009) (appointed)
  • Mike McElroy (2009–2015)
  • Julie Moore-Wolfe (2015–present) (appointed)


Decatur Municipal Band

The Muni band was organized September 19, 1857 making it one of the oldest nonmilitary bands in continuous service in the United States and Canada. It was originally known as the Decatur Brass Band, Decatur Comet Band and the Decatur Silver Band until 1871 when it was reorganized by Andrew Goodman and became the Goodman Band. In 1942 it was officially designated as the Decatur Municipal Band.


The Decatur Public Library was originally built with a grant from Andrew Carnegie. The original library was built in 1902 and opened to the public in 1903. The building served the community until 1970 when the library moved to North Street at the site of a former Sears, Roebuck & Co. store. In 1999 the library moved to its present location on Franklin Street, which is also an abandoned Sears building. The library is part of the Illinois Heartland Library System. Decatur is one of only a very few communities to have razed an original Carnegie Library. A bank now stands in its place.


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 $15,000 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 is presently scheduled on the first weekend each July.

Professional golf

Decatur hosts the annual Decatur-Forsyth Classic presented by Tate & Lyle and the Decatur Park District. The tournament is traditionally held in June.


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

  • 1981 Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Champions
  • 1984 International Softball Congress (ISC) Champions
Decatur Pride
  • 1994 Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Champions
  • 1999 Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Champions
  • 1999 Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Champions
  • 2000 International Softball Congress (ISC) Champions



  • Herald & Review —Daily owned by Lee Enterprises



AM radio

See also: Template:Decatur Radio
  • WDZ —ESPN Radio
  • WSOY —Talk radio

FM radio

See also: Template:Decatur Radio
  • WBGL —88.1 FM —Christian radio
  • WDCR (FM) —88.9 FM —Relevant Radio
  • WJMU —89.5 FM —Millikin University —Alternative rock
  • WYDS —93.1 FM —Top 40
  • WDZQ —95.1 FM —Country music
  • WXFM —99.3 —Light Hits
  • WZUS —100.9 FM —Talk radio
  • WSOY —102.9 FM —Top 40
  • WEJT —105.1 FM —Adult hits
  • WCZQ —105.5 FM —Hip Hop & R&B
  • WZNX —106.7 FM —Classic rock
  • WDKR —107.3 —Oldies


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

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

The Potawatomi Trail of Death passed through here in 1833.

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 and built in 1911, is located at #2 Millikin Place, Decatur. In addition, the Robert Mueller Residence, 1 Millikin Place, and the Adolph Mueller Residence, 4 Millikin Place, have been attributed to Wright's assistants Hermann V. von Holst and Marion Mahony.

Abraham Lincoln

Statue of Abraham Lincoln on the site of his first political speech, downtown Decatur, IL
Statue of Abraham Lincoln in downtown Decatur on the site of his first political speech. The plaque reads "Abraham Lincoln's first political speech: Lincoln mounted a stump by Harrell's Tavern facing this square and defended the Illinois Whig party candidates near this spot at age 21 in the summer of 1830"

Decatur was the first home in Illinois of Abraham Lincoln, who settled just west of Decatur with his family in 1830. At the age of 21, Lincoln gave his first political speech in Decatur about the importance of Sangamon River navigation that caught the attention of Illinois political leaders. John Hanks, first cousin of Abe Lincoln, lived in Decatur.

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.

Consecutive tornadoes

On April 18 and 19, 1996, the city was hit by tornadoes. On April 18, 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.

Railcar explosion

On July 19, 1974, a tanker car containing isobutane collided with a boxcar in the Norfolk & Western railroad yard in the East End of Decatur. The resulting explosion killed seven people, injured 349, and caused $18 million in property damage.

Jesse Jackson protest

In November 1999, Decatur was brought into the national news when 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.

In popular culture


  • Decatur is mentioned in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. It is mentioned he lives west of Decatur, as well as hunting the streets of Decatur for a vampire.
  • Decatur was studied by sociologists Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz for mass media studies, in "Personal Influence: the Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications", 1955.


  • "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 Krekel's, strong historical ties to Abraham Lincoln, and the Sangamon River.
  • Steve Hunter included two guitar instrumental pieces on his 1977 album Swept Away: "Eldorado Street" and "Jasper St. Viaduct Gitar Rag".
  • Canadian folk singer Willie P. Bennett wrote a song titled "Hearts in Decatur" which he performed live but never recorded.
  • There is a song titled "Decatur" by the indie rock band Seam.
  • The alternative metal, pop punk, electronic rock band Icon For Hire formed there in 2007.
  • The alternative metal band V Shape Mind formed there in 1999.


  • The 1948 Jimmy Stewart film Call Northside 777 mentions a character in the film going down to Decatur.
  • In the 1971 film Shaft, Lt. Androzzi informs Shaft that one of the mob bigwigs coming to the city is from Decatur.
  • In the 1984 film Bachelor Party, Tom Hanks croons that he is from Decatur, Illinois.
  • In the 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Cameron mentions his mother is in Decatur to buy antiques.
  • In the 1992 adaptation of Noises Off it is mentioned that one of the play's performances takes place in Decatur.
  • In the 2008 film Leatherheads starring George Clooney, there is a scene where a man and woman are sitting in the stands at a football game. The woman asks "how owning a football team will help sell corn starch?", then the camera pans the scoreboard and reveals that one of the teams is Decatur.
  • The Informant! is a 2009 film about the Archer Daniels Midland lysine scandal. It is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Matt Damon as the informant Mark Whitacre.


  • In the 1960s TV series The Fugitive, the season two, episode nine entitled "Escape into Black", and airing November 17, 1964, takes place in Decatur.
  • On Comedy Central's television show The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert mentions Decatur and its slogan "We like it here" during his segment "Better Know a District", episode 47, Season 3, Phil Hare.
  • The Lincoln Square Theater located on Main Street in Decatur was featured on Travel Channel's Most Terrifying Places in America.
  • True Life: "I'm Addicted To Caffeine" was filmed in Decatur.
  • In the 1980s TV sitcom ALF; in one episode ALF asks Harry where he is from; he replies "Decatur, Illinois."

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