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Carbondale, "The Capital of Southern Illinois ™," is a city in Southern Illinois in the midwest of the United Statesmarker. It is located on Illinois Route 13 and U.S. Route 51, miles southeast of St. Louis, Missourimarker, on the northern edge of the Shawnee National Forestmarker. Carbondale is the home of the main campus of Southern Illinois Universitymarker. The city and the university have developed a dynamic economy and diverse population that totals over 45,000. The city is located in Jackson County, Illinoismarker. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 26,367. The city's current mayor is Brad Cole.

In 1971 Carbondale won the All American City achievement award, and was a finalist in the 2009 contest.


In August 1852, Daniel Harmon Brush, John Asgill Conner, and Dr. William Richart bought a 360-acre parcel of land between two proposed railroad sites (Makandamarker and De Sotomarker) and two county seats (Murphysboromarker and Marionmarker). Brush named Carbondale for the large deposit of coal in the area. The first train through Carbondale was on the main line north from Cairo (IL) on Independence Day 1854.

On April 29, 1866, one of the first formal Memorial Day observations was held at the city's Woodlawn Cemetery.. Local resident General John A. Logan gave the principal address.

By the time of the American Civil War, Carbondale had become not only a regional center for business and transportation, but also an educational center with the founding of Carbondale College (which became Southern Illinois College in 1869). Carbondale won the bid for the new teacher training school for the region, and Southern Illinois Normal University opened here in 1874. This gave the town new industry, new citizens, and a model school to supplement public schools. By 1947, the college had obtained full university status and the name was changed to Southern Illinois Universitymarker. SIU is a world-class research university with international impact in numerous fields of higher education, including schools of law, medicine, and dentistry. In 2008, there were almost 21,000 students enrolled in the university.

The Carbondale area is referred to as Little Egypt. Theories about the nickname's origins range from the region's supplying grain to northern and central Illinois during the 1800s famine, to comparing Illinois's southern tip to Egypt's Nile delta region, a fertile agricultural area. SIUC's nickname, the Salukis, references this association, as the saluki was the royal dog of Egyptmarker. Carbondale is home to the Salukies NCAA basketball program of division one basketball.


Carbondale is located at (37.726418, -89.220270) . It is in the watershed of the Big Muddy River, at 415 feet above sea level.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.1 square miles (31.4 km²), of which, 11.9 square miles (30.8 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it is water. The total area is 2.06% water.


As of the census of 2000 , there are 25,597 people, 10,018 households, and 3,493 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,152.0 people per square mile (830.9/km²). There are 11,005 housing units at an average density of 925.2/sq mi (357.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 66.08% White, 23.14% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 6.67% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.42% from other races, and 2.40% from two or more races. 3.05% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. [Race, household, age, and income data does not include corrections introduced through Count Question Review updates that added 4,916 population and 37 households to the official 2000 population count for Carbondale city.]

There are 9,981 households out of which 17.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 22.1% are married couples living together, 10.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 21.5% are non-families. 43.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 6.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.33 and the average family size is 2.78.

In the city the population is spread out with the age distribution, heavily influenced by the presence of SIU, being 15.8% under the age of 18, 35.4% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 12.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 25 years, which is also fairly typical for a university town. For every 100 females there are 106.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 105.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $15,882, and the median income for a family is $34,601. This income data is heavily influenced by the presence of SIUC students. Males have a median income of $30,217 versus $24,114 for females. The per capita income for the city is $13,346. 41.4% of the population and 23.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 32.1% of those under the age of 18 and 13.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. However, traditional measures of income and poverty can be misleading when applied to a community with a large proportion of students, such as Carbondale.


In addition to Southern Illinois University, the city has a variety of unique cultural institutions. PBS and NPR broadcasting stations (WSIU) are affiliated with the university. Carbondale also is home to WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinoismarker, and the Big Muddy Independent Media Center.

There are two daily newspapers, The Southern Illinoisan and the university's Daily Egyptian; two weeklies, the Carbondale Times and the Nightlife; and a bi-weekly Heartland Women.

SIU has a teaching museum on campus, the University Museum, which has 60,000 artifacts in its collection and hosts traveling shows from known artists. In addition to the University Museum, there are an African American Museum and a Science Center. Theater-goers can see both professional and student-produced plays and performances at the university's McLeod and Kleinau Theaters, or attend off-campus productions by The Jackson County Stage Company (Stage Company). In 2007, the Stage Company and Carbondale Community Arts (CCA) partnered to purchase and renovate the Varsity Theater, which had been vacant since 2003, into the Varsity Center for the Arts (VCA). The VCA is now the performing home of the Stage Company and also supports a variety of other fine arts and performances through the CCA.

Civic action is encouraged by groups such as Carbondale Conversations for Community Action (the local implementation of Study Circles). There are several lodges and clubs, such as the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Elks, Rotary, and the A.F.A.M (Freemasons).

The Women's Center, in continuous service since its founding in 1972, was one of the first domestic violence shelters in the United States.

Spirituality finds expression in Carbondale in churches of a variety of Christian denominations, a Unitarian Universalist fellowship, two mosques, a Jewish congregation, a Sufi community, a Hindu community, and two Buddhist organizations — the Shawnee Dharma Group and the Sunyata Center (to open in August 2009). The Interfaith Center provides space for intercultural exchange and personal growth. It is also an education center to help the community become more ecologically conscious, understand how to incorporate better practices into daily life, and set goals for the future.


The city's major shopping center is the University Mall, anchored by JCPenney, Macy'smarker, Kerasotes Theater and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Carbondale also has several other shopping centers. University Place is over 250,000 square feet and has more than twenty-five tenants including Pet Co., Dick's Sporting Goods, Best Buy, Shoe Carnival, and another Keresotes Theater. Adjacent to University Place is Kohls, Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Hobby Lobby.

Murdale Shopping Center is 140,000 square feet with 20+ tenants including True Value, Neighborhood Coop Grocery, and the International Grocery. Adjacent to Murdale is Rural King, CVS Pharmacy, and Walgreen's Pharmacy.

Carbondale is home to many small shops and restaurants, and in the past years, that number has expanded greatly.


Carbondale is known for a number of yearly festivals, including the Lights Fantastic parade in December, the Main Street Pig Out (a September barbecue-and-music festival), the Big Muddy Film Festival (February/March), the Southern Illinois Irish Festival (April), the Indian celebration of Diwali (December), the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta (April), the Sunset Concerts (a summer series of free outdoor concerts on the Southern Illinois University campus and in city parks), and Brown Bag Concerts (a spring and fall series of free outdoor concerts in the Town Square Pavilion).

Outdoor Activities

Hiking/Mountain Biking/Camping/Picnicking/Rapelling/Just enjoying the great city

Located on the northern edge of the Shawnee National Forest, Carbondale has a number of opportunities for outdoor adventure. Giant City State Park, Little Grand Canyon, Piney Creek Ravine, Pomona Natural Bridge, Garden of the Gods, and Trail of Tears State Park are nearby areas that offer hiking, biking, and horseback riding.


Five minutes south of Carbondale is the city reservoir, Cedar Lake, which is open to kayaking and canoeing. The north access features several dramatic rock bluffs and secluded bays. Other lakes nearby include Little Grassy Lake, Devils Kitchen Lakemarker, Crab Orchard Lakemarker, and Kinkaid Lakemarker. Another, more remote location is Cache River, the northernmost cypress swamp in North America. The surrounding areas also offer hiking and mountain biking.


Carbondale boasts three courses within five minutes of the city, and eleven within 20 miles.
  • Hickory Ridge¸ built in 1993, is an 18-hole championship public golf course, designed by William J. Spear. It is a unique course with long fairways, demanding sand and water hazards, and smooth greens. The on-site restaurant can accommodate 100 guests.
  • Midland Hills, designed by Bill Diddel in 1923, is a 9-hole golf course.
  • Stone Creek, an 18-hole golf course designed by Jerry Lemons which opened in 2000, is one of the most scenic golf courses in Southern Illinois and features most of the tree species native to Illinois.

EclipsesThe Carbondale area will experience two solar eclipses in the next 15 years: on August 21, 2017 and April 8, 2024.M This is a rare opportunity for astronomers.

Other Activities

Carbondale has 18 public tennis courts, as well as the Superblock, a sports multi-complex with baseball, softball, soccer, football, and track fields. The Carbondale Park district maintains seven parks and an indoor pool for public use. Southern Illinois University's Recreation Center is open to the public; it provides swimming, rock climbing walls, tennis, basketball, an indoor track, racquetball, weight training, and a variety of exercise equipment.

The Shawnee National Forest is also home to many wineries. The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail visits twelve vineyards in scenic settings, offering local wines and dining facilities. Several of the vineyards are bed-and-breakfasts or offer cabins for close accommodations.


Probably due to the presence of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale residents have a long tradition of political activism. During the Vietnam War, and especially after the Kent State shootingsmarker, massive anti-war demonstrations took place on the SIU campus and on the streets of Carbondale. They resulted in the closure of SIU, more than $100,000 of property damage, more than 400 arrests, and the deployment of the National Guard to restore order.

Several local organizations are concerned with peace, justice, and the environment, including the Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois/Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Shawnee Green Party, the Student Environmental Center, the Southern Illinois Center for a Sustainable Future, and local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sierra Club, and the National Audubon Societymarker.

In 2001 the city was the location for the national Green Party Congress.

Public Transit Services

Amtrak, the US passenger rail system, provides service to Carbondale with three trains daily to and from Chicago, and one train daily to and from Memphis and New Orleans.

Amtrak Train 59, the southbound City of New Orleans, departs Carbondale daily with service to Memphismarker, Jacksonmarker, and New Orleansmarker (with many stations along the way). Amtrak Train 58, the northbound City of New Orleans, departs Carbondale daily with service to Centralia, Effingham, Mattoon, Champaign-Urbanamarker, Kankakee, Homewood, and Chicagomarker. Carbondale is also served by Amtrak Train 390/391, the Saluki, daily in the morning, and Amtrak Train 392/393, the Illini, daily in the afternoon/evening. Both the Saluki and the Illini operate to Chicago, originating and terminating in Carbondale.

The Saluki Express provides bus service around the city. SIUC students, faculty, and staff, as well as the greater Carbondale community, are encouraged to use the service. This system offers eleven routes operating seven days a week while the university is in session, and a "break route" operating during semester breaks.


West End- Home to many middle class Carbondale residents, this neighborhood was mostly a part of the 1950s-60s-70s building boom. The neighborhood is quiet with much foliage and wildlife in the SouthWestern part of town. Houses here are neat and well kept, but not fancy. Crime is low, for the most part.

Tatum Heights- Like the West End neighborhood, many of the houses were a part of the 1950s-60s-70s building boom. Smaller than any other neighborhood in Carbondale, Tatum Heights is surrounded by large Carbondale streets, such as Illinois Highway 13 and Grand Avenue. Crime is a constant problem.

Arbor District- The Arbor District is the only neighborhood that has a formally organized neighborhood association and web site [15031]. It embraces the southwest quadrant of the pre-WWII city, from Oakland Avenue on the west to University Avenue on the east, and Main Street on the north to Mill Street on the south. All homes within the Arbor District are within walking distance of the University, Carbondale Memorial Hospital, downtown and City Hall, and a supermarket. It includes the Historic District, with homes dating to the mid-nineteenth century. Much of the area was subdivided in the 1920s, with streets on the western margins of the neighborhood, between Forest and Oakland, developed in the 1950s and '60s. The Arbor District is probably the most diverse neighborhood in the city, including students from all over the world, families, young professionals, and retirees. It includes areas zoned as single family residential in which the classic homes have been maintained or renovated and which, with their mature tree-lined streets, convey the feeling of a "college town". Much of the neighborhood is zoned multi-family, with apartment buildings predominating in the southern part of the District. Many single-family homes have been converted into rooming houses which are interspersed with owner-occupied homes. The neighborhood association promotes re-conversion of these houses to owner-occupied homes.

Parrish Acres- Parrish Acres, developed in the late 1970s, is a desired neighborhood contains many nicer homes in Carbondale, being home to many middle to upper middle class residents. The New Life Center operated by the Park district, has an indoor swimming pool, large soccer fields, and other recreational facilities, is in this neighborhood.


  • Winner, "All America City," 1971
  • Selected as "Tree City USA," since 1981
  • Selected as one of the “The Best Towns in America,” 1983
  • Winner, "GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award," since 1986
  • Selected as "Best Small City in Illinois," 1990, 1997
  • Winner, "Governor's Hometown Award," 1991, 1992, 2005, 2009
  • Selected as one of the “101 Best Outdoor Towns in America,” 2007
  • Honorable Mention, “City Livability Award,” 2009
  • Finalist, “All America City Award,” 2009
  • Finalist, "Award for Municipal Excellence," 2009

Notable people

Notable natives and residents of Carbondale have included:

Sister Cities



External links

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