ALL AROUND ALTON | Part I: Learning from the Past

written by Mile Markers on January 31, 2013 in Amy Larrick and Illinois History and Mile Markers and Nick Ulivieri with no comments

Travel is something Nick and I enjoy very much. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many worldly destinations, so wrapping our head around “vacationing” in Alton, Illinois was a bit of a challenge at first.  But wow! We were SO impressed with how much this Mississippi River town had to offer!  We experienced rich history, architecture (old and new) and delicious cuisine.

Muralist Euripides "Rip" Kastaris created this piece to celebrates Alton's rich history along the Mississippi River.

Muralist Euripides “Rip” Kastaris created this piece to celebrates Alton’s rich history along the Mississippi River.

Alton, Illinois is a city chock-full of history.  The people we encountered along our journey were full of interesting facts, which added greatly to our overall experience.

Alton is perhaps most famous for being Site #1 on the National Lewis & Clark Trail.  The Lewis & Clark Historic Site is dedicated to telling the Illinois side of the Lewis & Clark exploration. Cindy was a great guide for this hands-on tour! We felt inspired to lift, touch, and explore every detail of this exceptional place. Most impressive was the 55-foot, full-scale “cutaway” keelboat modeled after the original vessel of 1804.  If anything can make you appreciate the modern conveniences of our day, this museum will.

Lewis & Clark’s cutaway Keelboat at the Lewis & Clark Historic Site

*#ILMileMarkers Tip* Be sure to make time to explore the camp site replica located on the back lawn.  The scene they’ve set gives a true sense of how these men lived.

A short distance from the Historic Site is the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower in Hartford, IL. Here we climbed (in an elevator, thankfully) 150 feet and stood above the joining of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. This is the exact point where Lewis and Clark began their journey westward so many years ago on May 14, 1804.

We learned a remarkable fact from our tour guide, Amy. The town of Hartford (population 1,429) privately funded the construction of the entire tower. Through grants and donations, the community came together to create their own monument to history; a five million dollar fundraising accomplishment!

The Confluence Tower and surrounding views via a 500mm telephoto lens.

The Confluence Tower and surrounding views via a 500mm telephoto lens.

*#ILMileMarkers Tip* Don’t discount the view to the east. You’ll see the Conoco Phillips refinery 2.7 miles away. It’s a unique perspective of an industry which catapulted America to the forefront of progress. Whether or not you think this is a “beautiful” view, the functions performed here are an important part of our society’s day to day life.

Our tour guide at the Alton Museum of History & Art, Norm, was a WWII vet and knew details about the history of Alton that could fill volumes. The details he shared painted a vivid picture of the past.  He taught us about the legend of the Piasa Bird; the tallest man ever known, Robert Wadlow; a bit of history about the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858; and so much more.

Riverboat models and Amy standing next to Robert Wadlow.

Riverboat models and Amy standing next to Robert Wadlow.

*#ILMileMarkers Tip* Bonus points if you can find the bell and ring it!

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Stay tuned for more from our adventures in Alton.  Up next: amazing feats of modern engineering!

– Nick Ulivieri and Amy Larrick, Illinois Mile Markers

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Holiday Inn Alton. Want to follow in our Mile Markers’ footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Alton Itinerary in a larger map