You can’t visit Illinois without taking a trip to one of the many college towns throughout the state. Whether you are headed north, south, east or west, you are bound to find yourself in a small town that relies somewhat on the nearby college to stimulate its economy (think: university hospitals, libraries, festivities, etc.).
You’d be surprised to find just how many college towns there are in Illinois: Carbondale, Champaign-Urbana, Charleston, DeKalb, Edwardsville, Evanston, Lebanon, Macomb, Normal and Peoria. Best thing is, where there’s a college, there’s bound to be tons of shopping, dining and entertainment, all most likely within walking distance.
I plan on writing posts about many of these college towns and will cover everything from history to fun facts and things to do. The first college town on the list is Charleston, home of Eastern Illinois University.
A Brief Town History
Charleston, Ill., is nestled in Coles County. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, the city was settled in the early 1800s and named after its postmaster Charles Morton. President Abraham Lincoln visited Charleston often (before he became our nation’s leader), because his father lived on a farm there. Eastern Illinois State Normal School (aka Eastern Illinois University) was established in 1895. Currently the university employs more than 2,000 faculty and staff and educates about 12,000 students. Aside from professions in education, hospitality and food/cleaning service, the school has also created plenty of jobs in the manufacturing industry.
Fun Facts About Charleston
- Gregg Toland, cinematographer of Citizen Kane and Wuthering Heights (for which he won an Oscar), was born
and raised in Charleston.
- Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, spent all four years at EIU.
- Jeff Gossett, a 16-year NFL player, attended EIU.
- Marty Pattin, MLB player for the California Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals, attended EIU.
- The very first Jimmy John’s sandwich shop was founded in Charleston in 1983. It still stands on the corner of Fourth Street and Lincoln Avenue.
What to do in Charleston
These are just a few suggestions, click here for more information about what to do in Charleston.
222 Madison Avenue, 217-348-0404
At Copper Eagle, you’re sure to find something to bring back home for a loved one. Copper Eagle houses antiques, vintage accessories, unique artwork and other creations from more than 80 vendors.
215 Lincoln Avenue, 217-348-2692
Chubby’s is one of the favorite hangouts of the EIU students. The Chubby Stix are famous in Charleston… a must-have!
Doudna Fine Arts Center
EIU Campus: 7th and Hayes, 217-581-2917
During the school year there’s plenty to do in this building, which boasts a 300-seat theatre, 175-seat studio theatre, 600-seat concert hall, 150-seat recital hall and several gallery corridors. It also houses the school’s departments of art, music and theatre arts.
Dudley House Museum
895 7th Street, 217-345-2934
This Queen Anne-style house contains original 1920s woodwork and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It depicts the history of an affluent family who lived in the rural Midwest during the early 1900s.
Friends & Company
509 Van Buren, 217-345-2380
An avid student hangout, “Friends,” as its name suggests, is a great place to meet people and have fun. The cheap drinks aren’t so bad, either.
Queen Anne’s on 7th St. Bed & Breakfast
899 7th Street, 217-345-1288
Situated in the Historic District, this charming B&B is just three blocks from EIU. It houses three rooms (one jacuzzi suite), each with a private bath, free WiFi and an outdoor pool. You can also choose between free continental breakfasts or gift certificates to local restaurants.
Sweet Tooth Specialties Bakery
605 Monroe, 217-345-4553
From snack-sized, take-away pastries to pre-ordered wedding cakes, Sweet Tooth Specialties promises to satisfy every sugar craving you’ve ever had!
– Carrie Williams
Stay tuned for future posts about Illinois’ college towns, in no particular order. To learn more about Carrie, check out her bio.