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Burlington is a city in and the county seat of Des Moines Countymarker, Iowamarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 26,839 the 2000 census. Burlington is the center of a micropolitan area including West Burlington, Iowamarker and Middletown, Iowamarker and Gulf Port, Illinoismarker. Burlington is the home of Snake Alleymarker, the crookedest alley in the world, and has been called the Backhoe Capital of the World.


Prior to American settlement, the area was neutral territory for the Sac and Fox Indians, who called it "Shoquoquon" (Shok-ko-kon), meaning Flint Hills.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson organized two parties of explorers to map the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark followed the Missouri Rivermarker, while Lt. Zebulon Pike followed the Mississippi River. In 1805, Pike landed at the bluffs below Burlington and raised the United States Flag for the first time on Iowa soil and recommended the construction of a fort. The recommendation went unheeded.

The American Fur Company established a post in the area in 1829, but actual settlement began in 1833, shortly after the Black Hawk Purchasemarker when Samuel (who also went by Simpson) White and David Tothero crossed the Mississippi River from Big Island. According to an account A.T. Andreas wrote in 1875, White erected a cabin in the area later platted to be Front Street between Court and High streets. Tothero went farther inland. Andreas called White and Doolittle the Romulus and Remus of their settlement, referring to the ancient heroes who founded Romemarker — another city surrounded by hills.

A few weeks later, William R. Ross crossed the Mississippi and established a general store. In November and December, he surveyed the settlement for White and Doolittle, and the following spring they allowed the purchaser of the first lot, John Gray, to rechristen the town. For $50, Gray named it after his hometown in Burlington, Vermont.

In 1837, Burlington became the second territorial capital of the Wisconsin Territory. After the Iowa Territory was organized in the following year, Burlington became its first territorial capital. The government used "Old Zion," the first Methodist Church in Iowa (located near what is now Third and Washington streets), to conduct business of the day. Although this building no longer exists, a historical marker may be found at its site.

On May 22, 1849, Maj. William Williams visited Burlington and provided a brief description in his journal:
This town [was] originally called Flint Hill- the Indian name was Shoquokon, Flint or Rock Hill. [It is] beautifully elevated, situated on the west side of the Mississippi River, a place of very considerable business. The town is very well built. Houses are good, generally taste[ful], brick dwellings. A great many handsome residences on the more elevated parts of the bluff. The number of inhabitants between 3,000 and 3,500. ... Was the first seat of government after the formation of the Territory of Iowa. The view of the city is extremely picturesque from the river. The main part of the city is situated like an amphitheater formed by the surrounding hills, beautiful buildings and private residences on the eminences around. From the location of Burlington it must always be a place of considerable trade. The city is well built [in the] modern style, a very intelligent population... The river here is over 3/4 of mile wide and steam ferry boats constantly plying between this and the Illinois shore.

Iowa's nickname "The Hawkeye State" has its roots in Burlington. At Judge David Rorer's suggestion, publisher James G. Edwards changed The Iowa Patriot newspaper's name to The Hawk-Eye and Iowa Patriot in tribute to his friend Black Hawk. Rorer is said to have found the name in The Last of the Mohicans while Edwards proposed the nickname to "...rescue from oblivian [sic] a momento [sic], at least of the name of the old chief."

Burlington was a bustling river port in the steamboat era and home to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. The CB&Q (1848-1970) merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN, 1970-1996), which in turn merged into the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF, 1997-present). Even today, one of the BNSF's main east-west lines crosses the Mississippi at Burlington.

Perhaps the most noted feature of the city skyline, are the number of church steeples that soar into the sky, the highest of which belongs to St. John's Cathedral (which contains a cathedral, and a convent, situated on an entire block of land bordered by Division, and Market Streets to the north, and south, and South 8th, and South 7th Streets to the east, and west), which sits high on a hill overlooking downtown Burlington, the steeple stands over 100 foot above the peaked roof of the cathedral, and has often been used by photographers to take panoramic vistas of the area. The only other structure that stands taller than the spire of the cathedral, is the central pier of the Great River Bridgemarker, which soars over 370 feet above the Mississippi River.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 14.8 sq mi (38.4 km²). 14.1 sq mi (36.4 km²) of it is land and 0.8 sq mi (2.0 km²) of it (5.26%) is water.



The town is served by U.S. Route 34, which is the freeway that goes through the middle of town and U.S. Route 61. Iowa Highways 99 and 406 served the town before they were decommissioned in 2003. The two still exist as County roads.

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Burlingtonmarker, operating its California Zephyr daily in both directions between Chicagomarker, Illinois, and Emeryvillemarker, California, across the bay from San Franciscomarker.

The Southeast Iowa Regional Airportmarker (IATA code BRL), is located about five miles south of downtown. Commercial service is provided through Great Lakes Airlines. This service offers daily flights to St. Louismarker and Kansas Citymarker. Quad City International Airportmarker, the area's large international airport, is approximately 70 miles north of the city, in Moline, Illinoismarker.

Burlington Urban Service (B.U.S.) is a transportation system owned and operated by the City of Burlington. Routes service nearly all areas of Burlington, and nearly 90% of all residents live within 3 city blocks of a bus route. Greyhound Lines and Trailways Transportation System provide daily out-of-town bus service.


As of the census of 2000, there were 26,839 people, 11,102 households, and 7,105 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,910.1/sq mi (737.6/km²). There were 11,985 housing units at an average density of 853.0/sq mi (329.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.6% White, 5.0% African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.66% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.90% from other races, and 1.43% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.06% of the population.

There were 11,102 households out of which 29.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.2% were married couples living together, 12.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.0% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.5% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,770, and the median income for a family was $40,912. Males had a median income of $33,238 versus $23,003 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,450. About 10.0% of families and 12.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.9% of those under age 18 and 8.9% of those age 65 or over.


Burlington's roots are in transportation and manufacturing. Manufacturing plants are among the largest employers in the area, including companies such as American Ordnance LLC, Case Corporation, General Electric, Champion Spark Plugs, Lance Private Brands, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The largest employer in the area is the Great River Medical Center. Wal-Martmarker is the largest retail employer in Burlington. Among one of the oldest businesses in Burlington, is Case Corporation, which has been at its current location on Des Moines Avenue, approximately a quarter mile from the Mississippi River, since 1937. The first backhoes rolled off the assembly line at the Burlington plant in 1967, which is now the only plant in the United States that produces the Case Loader/Backhoe, giving Burlington the nickname "Backhoe Capitol of the World." Over the last several years, several businesses have either left the area, or have relocated elsewhere, these business include Exide, makers of vehicle batteries, CAT Case Corporation's closest competitor in American made construction equipment manufacturing, and Leigh-Leopold, makers of office furniture, this has left some former manufacturing plants around the city empty, but other businesses have moved into them, PPG, makers of auto safety glass have moved into the former CAT plant, and a warehouse has moved into the former Leopold building.


Sister city

Burlington has one sister city, as designated by Sister Cities International:


Burlington is the home of the Burlington Bees baseball team, a member of the Class A Midwest League. The Bees play at Community Fieldmarker, which underwent extensive renovation in 2005.

34 Raceway in West Burlington is host to weekly auto racing events through the spring, summer and fall. The track is a 3/8-mile, semi-banked, clay oval built in 1966 and is owned by Jeff Laue. The raceway has hosted numerous prestigious national events since its inception.

Burlington hosts the Snake Alley Criterium, one of the most physically challenging races in the Midwest. The annual event is held on a 15-block course, with differences in elevation from 555 feet to 678 feet. The course is entirely on city streets, mostly in the downtown commercial area. A one-block- long climb is on the historic brick street named Snake Alley. The 276-foot-long Snake Alley has five switchbacks in a 60-foot climb. The average grade is 12.5 percent in that one block.

Twice, Burlington has been the finishing point for RAGBRAI, the annual bicycle ride that starts with at the Missouri Rivermarker in western Iowa and ends in eastern Iowa at the Mississippi River.


The Hawk Eye is a morning newspaper published seven days a week. The paper was established in 1837 and is Iowa's oldest newspaper.

Burlington's radio stations include WIUW 89.5 FM, KAYP 89.9 FM, KKMI 93.5 FM, KCDM 98.3 FM, KDMG 103.1 FM, KBKB 101.7 FM, KHDK 97.3 FM, KGRS 107.3 FM, KCPS 1150 AM, KBKB 1360 AM, and KBUR 1490 AM. Burlington residents also listen to stations in nearby communities, most notably, the Quad Citiesmarker.

Local news and events can also be found online at

Downtown Burlington

The downtown area is considered quite relaxing, and holds a number of buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, among them are the Burlington Apartments (listed as the Hotel Burlington), the Burlington Railroad Depot, the Des Moines County Courthouse, the Burlington Fire Department central station, the Port of Burlington building, Memorial Auditorium, River Park Place (as Burlington Mercy Hospital), and several others.


Burlington is served by the Burlington Community School District, which has five elementary schools, two middle schools (with a third under construction), one high school and one alternative high school Private education is also available for kindergarten through 12th grade at Notre Dame Catholic School, and Great River Christian School.

The Burlington School District has five elementary schools: North Hill, Sunnyside, Grimes, Corse and Black Hawk. All are new buildings or have been recently completely rehabilitated, the new North Hill building is currently under construction, and is to be filled by the 2009-10 school year, there are no elementary school buildings within the school district that are over 40 years old. The district has two middle schools: James Madison and Oak Street. Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, Oak Street students will begin attending Aldo Leopold Middle School (named in honor of ecologist, and environmentalist, Aldo Leopold, a former resident of Burlington, and author of "A Sand County Almanac"), the new school building, near the corner of Sunnyside Avenue, and Roosevelt Avenue, is a state-of-the-art three story building, intended to replace the aging Oak Street Building (the Oak Street building was completed around 1907). Burlington Community High School was constructed in 1968, and occupied the following year. Prior to that, the high school students were educated at a building located near the downtown business district; the building is still standing, but it remains unoccupied. Notre Dame High School and Elementary schools occupy a building near the Burlington high school. Great River Christian Schools occupies the old Prospect Hill Elementary School building (now closed),426 Harrison St. A third middle school building once existed on the edge of Perkins Park, named Horace Mann, that building was gutted by fire in 2005, and later razed. The school district offices are located near the corner of West Avenue, and White Street, in a large mansion once owned by Railroad tycoon Charles Elliot Perkins, and is nicknamed "The White House," due to the whitewashed facade.

Burlington is also served by Southeastern Community Collegemarker.

In 1975, author Philip Jordan published his book, "Catfish Bend." In its epilogue, he wrote: "Burlington today is both the same and different than it was when first settled. It is ugly and it is beautiful. It is progressive and retrogressive. It is both conservative and liberal." He also noted, "Its bluffs still overlook a magnificent sweep of river dotted with islands which pioneers first noted."

Points of interest

Snake Alley

Notable people

See also



External links

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