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Marion, Illinois facts for kids

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City of Marion
Marion town square
Marion town square
Country United States
State Illinois
County Williamson County
Founded August 21, 1839
 • Total 16.21 sq mi (42.0 km2)
 • Land 15.99 sq mi (41.4 km2)
 • Water 0.23 sq mi (0.6 km2)  1.42%
Elevation 518 ft (158 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 17,193
 • Density 1,250.2/sq mi (482.6/km2)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal Code 62959
Area code(s) +1 (618)
FIPS 17-46916
GNIS-ID 1808160

Marion is a city in and the county seat of Williamson County, Illinois, United States. The population was 17,193 at the 2010 census. It is part of a dispersed urban area that developed out of the early 20th Century coal fields.

Today Marion serves as the largest retail trade center in Southern Illinois with its central location along Interstate 57 and Illinois Route 13 (colloquially known as Southern Illinois' "Main Street"). It is home to the Illinois Star Centre mall and the Southern Illinois Miners baseball team, and is in the process of being selected for Illinois' first STAR Bonds District for the proposed Boulder Creek at The Hill development.

The city is part of the Marion-Herrin Micropolitan Area and is a part of the Carbondale-Marion-Herrin, Illinois Combined Statistical Area with 123,272 residents, the sixth most populous Combined statistical area in Illinois. The city is also part of the unofficial Metro Lakeland area.


Following the creation of Williamson County out of the south half of Franklin County by the Illinois General Assembly, three commissioners appointed by the lawmakers met at Bainbridge, Illinois, on August 19, 1839, for the purpose of locating a new county seat as close to the center of the county as possible. The next day, August 20, they laid out a town of 20 acres (81,000 m2) with a public square about one-quarter of a mile east of the county's center, but a point on top of a slight hill of 448 feet (137 m) above sea level. The site sat in a small open grassland known as Poor Prairie. For a name, they chose Marion to honor American Revolutionary War hero General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion.

William and Bethany Benson had entered the quarter-quarter section of land that contained the future site of Marion just the previous year on September 8, 1838. He had lived in the county at least since 1817, and was the first settler to enter land in Poor Prairie. At the time the commissioners platted Marion, he had a small crop of corn and wheat growing over what became the public square.

The Williamson County Court organized in Marion on October 7, 1839, at the Benson log cabin. Overflow crowds had to use pumpkins for stools. The federal government established a post office at Marion on January 30, 1840, and the legislature incorporated the community as a city on February 24, 1841.

1982 Tornado

On May 29, 1982, one of the larger tornadoes in Illinois history, an F-4, hit the city of Marion, Illinois and Williamson County. Ten people died and 200 people were injured after this tornado ripped across a 17-mile (27 km) stretch. The Shawnee Village apartment complex was destroyed, and the Marion Ford-Mercury dealership sustained heavy damage. This tornado caused between $85 million and $100 million in damages. A memorial to the ten people who perished that day was later erected on the Tower Square.


According to the 2010 census, Marion has a total area of 16.217 square miles (42.00 km2), of which 15.99 square miles (41.41 km2) (or 98.6%) is land and 0.227 square miles (0.59 km2) (or 1.4%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 881
1890 1,338 51.9%
1900 2,510 87.6%
1910 7,093 182.6%
1920 9,582 35.1%
1930 9,033 −5.7%
1940 9,251 2.4%
1950 10,459 13.1%
1960 11,274 7.8%
1970 11,724 4.0%
1980 13,824 17.9%
1990 14,545 5.2%
2000 16,035 10.2%
2010 17,193 7.2%
Est. 2015 17,803 3.5%
Decennial US Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 17,180 people. The population density was 1,278.3 people per square mile. There are 8,273 housing units at an average density of 589.0 per square mile (227.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 87.8% White, 7.4% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.5% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 2.0% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.6% of the population.

There were 6,902 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.0% were married couples living together, 12.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.1% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the city, the population was spread out with 22.8% under the age of 18, 8.3% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,364, and the median income for a family was $39,275. Males had a median income of $31,520 versus $22,609 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,073. About 11.2% of families and 14.9% of the population were living below the poverty line, including 22.9% of those under the age of 18 and 10.6% of those 65 and older.

Arts and culture

Downtown Marion is home to the Little Egypt Arts Gallery operated by the Little Egypt Arts Association as well as the Williamson County Historical Society museum and the Marion Carnegie Library. The major arts and culture institution though is the Marion Cultural and Civic Center.

Marion Cultural and Civic Center

In 2004, the Marion Civic Center was awarded the Frank Lloyd Wright Award - Special Recognition from the American Institute of Architects, Illinois Chapter, at the organization's annual ceremony.The 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) facility, designed by White and Borgognoni Architects, was completed in June 2004. After a 1997 fire destroyed the city's former civic center, the new facility was crafted using parts of the old Orpheum Theater building.

The grand opening of the Orpheum Theatre was on January 2, 1922. Built in the southwest corner of the downtown square, she was the flagship of a chain of vaudeville and moving picture theaters constructed to tap into the wealth generated by agriculture and mining in Southern Illinois. The Orpheum Theatre sat over 900, and was ornately decorated in a mix of Renaissance and Neoclassical styles, complete with gold leaf, elaborate plasterwork, and a multicolored terra-cotta facade.

The Orpheum was quite successful until the advent of television. Decreasing profits forced the Orpheum to exclusively be a motion picture theater in the mid-1950s and to close in 1971. The City of Marion purchased the building in 1973 with the intent of constructing a parking lot. The Mayor and the City Council reconsidered their plan when they found that their citizenry was in favor of restoring the old theater for use by the community as a cultural and entertainment center.

During the early morning hours, of March 10, 1997, a blaze quickly raced through the Civic Center, and totally gutted the theater, leaving it a smoldering shell after the blaze was put out. The facade of the Orpheum was salvaged, but the remainder of the theater was razed, and in 2000, it was decided that a new Cultural and Civic Center would be built on the site of the old Orpheum and a couple of other demolished neighboring structures.

Marion, 1910
Marion, 1910


Tourism promotion and marketing in Marion is conducted at the county level with a county bed tax of five percent. Forty percent of that amount goes to the Williamson County Tourism Bureau and the remaining 60 percent to the Williamson County Events Commission for debt service on the bonds used to build the Williamson County Pavilion, a multi-use meeting and convention center immediately north of the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion. That building also houses the tourism bureau.

Over the last decade Marion lodging operators generated on average 97.4 percent of the lodging revenue for the county. Tourists spent $9.1 million in Marion for overnight stays in 2000. That figure has grown steadily to $15.4 million in short-term rentals in 2009. (Long-term rentals of more than 30 days are not taxed, nor included in these figures). Currently, there are 14 hotels and motels inside the city limits as of July 2010. Since 2000, one hotel has closed - the original Holiday Inn closed in January 2004 having last operated as the Executive Inn - and two new hotels opened, Fairfield Inn in August 2004, and Country Inn & Suites in December 2008. Those two and five other hotels together generate nearly 80 percent of the business in the city. The five are Comfort Suites, Drury Inn, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express (originally Budgetel Inn), and Quality Inn (formerly Comfort Inn).

Overall there are 1050 rooms inside the city limits. In addition, there are two additional motels and three small specialty lodging facilities outside the city limits but within the Marion zip code.

In the fall of 2010, a new bed and breakfast Jasones opened in the historic Queen Anne-style Aikman mansion at the corner of Main and Russell Streets. Prior to the current recession, a new Holiday Inn Express had been planned and semi-announced for The Hill, according to the site map on the developer's website. Site work began early in 2011 and the developer took out a building permit with the city on April 11, 2011. A second new hotel, this one a new 65-unit Comfort Inn, broke ground in September 2011. Both new hotels are located off of the new Morgan Avenue interchange at I-57.

Besides the announced Millennium Development, other tourism projects in the works include a new visitors center currently in the planning stages that would be located next to the Marion Chamber of Commerce near the Main Street (Exit 53) interchange just off of Interstate 57.

Marion's first motel was the World War II era Motel Marion on the western edge of the city limits on what was then Illinois Route 13, now Old Route 13 or West Main Street. Later it was joined by the Courts Motel on South Court Street (since torn down for an auto parts store), and the Uptown Motel just off the public square (also torn down and now a parking lot and part of the new Marion Civic and Cultural Center). For a while after World War II, Marion's major hotel was the Hotel State in the former five-story Marion State & Savings Bank building on the west side of the square. That building still stands and is being renovated for offices and residences. An earlier three story hotel, the Williams Hotel on North Market Street is also undergoing restoration as of the summer of 2010.

Marion's modern history as a tourism center began with the development of Interstate 57 in the 1960s and the creation of three hotels and one motel in short order. They were the Egyptian Sands Motor Lodge (later a Travelodge and finally the Heritage Motel before finally closing) located next to the city's first strip shopping center Westmore Plaza (now the Marion Centre), the Ramada Inn (now the Days Inn), and the Holiday Inn (later a Travelodge and the Executive Inn before finally closing). The fourth facility, the 20-unit Gray Plaza Motel, remains open and still operating under the same name.

The Regal 8 (now the Motel 6), Best Inns (now America's Best Inn) and Super 8 were the next three motels to locate in the city in the late 1970s and early 1980s. All were along Route 13 on the west side of Exit 54. Next came Shoney's Inn (now the Econo Lodge) on the east side. Around the same time as the announcement of the Illinois Centre Mall and the city's first use of tax increment financing districts, Drury Inn built a large modern facility on the north side of Route 13. A few years and another TIF district later, developers built the Hampton Inn immediately west of the Drury. A local developer, Henry Mitchell built the first of three hotels on the west side of Exit 53, around the same time as the mall development, starting with a Comfort Inn (now the Quality Inn), then a Budgetel (now the Holiday Inn Express) and finally a Comfort Suites.

Camping facilities in the city include the Motel Marion and the new Marion Campground & RV Park, both located off of Exit 53 on the east side of the interstate.

Major attractions that fill Marion hotels include Southern Illinois Miners' games at Rent One Park, events at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, The Southern Illinois Roller Girls bouts at the Williamson Co Pavilion, the two dozen wineries within a 45-mile (72 km) radius of the city including those on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail and the Southern Illinois Wine Trail, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to the city, Lake of Egypt immediately to the south and the Shawnee National Forest and various state parks that stretch along the Shawnee Hills from river to river.

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