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Decatur ( ) is the largest city and the county seat of Macon Countymarker in the U.S. state of Illinoismarker. The city, sometimes called "the Soybean Capital of the World," was founded in 1823 and is located along the Sangamon River and Lake Decaturmarker in Central Illinois. In 2000 the city population was 81,500. According to Sperling's Best Places, Decatur's metropolitan area population is 109,309.

Decatur is a classic Midwest USA small city situated with homes and park areas facing Lake Decatur, and with many historic brick buildings downtown. This city is home of private Millikin University and public Richland Community College and has many scenic tree lined streets and many older restored homes and restored downtown commercial areas, with increasing numbers of upper story residential lofts.

In the transition from a manufacturing to a service economy, Decatur has experienced some population sprawl as new development activity grows to the outer Decatur metro area, seemingly blurring the detectable boundaries of contiguous city limits of neighboring communities Mount Zionmarker, Harristownmarker, Forsythmarker, and Maroamarker.

Decatur and Macon County's most notable resident was Abraham Lincoln, who settled with his family west of town in 1830. He later practiced law in the city after moving to nearby Springfieldmarker.


Decatur is located at (39.851636, -88.944228) . Decatur is 3 hours SW of Chicagomarker, and 2 hours NE of St. Louismarker.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.9 square miles (118.8 km²), of which, 41.6 square miles (107.6 km²) of it is land and 4.3 square miles (11.2 km²) of it (9.42%) is water.Lakes include Lake Decaturmarker, formed in 1923 by the damming of the Sangamon River.

The Decatur, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area (population 109,900) includes surrounding towns of Argentamarker, Bementmarker, Bethanymarker, Boodymarker, Blue Moundmarker, Cerro Gordomarker, Clintonmarker, Dalton Citymarker, Elwinmarker, Findlaymarker, Forsythmarker, Harristownmarker, Illiopolismarker, Kirksville, La Placemarker, Long Creekmarker, Maconmarker, Maroamarker, Monticellomarker, Moweaquamarker, Mount Auburnmarker, Mount Zionmarker, Nianticmarker, Oakley, Oreanamarker, Stoningtonmarker, Sullivanmarker, and Warrensburgmarker.


As of the census of 2000, there were 81,860 people, 34,086 households, and 21,099 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,969.7 people per square mile (760.5/km²). There were 37,239 housing units at an average density of 896.0/sq mi (346.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.59% White, 19.47% African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.66% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.43% from other races, and 1.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.19% of the population.

There were 34,086 households, out of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 11.1% from ages 18 to 24, 26.0% from ages 25 to 44, 22.5% from ages 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 83.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,111, and the median income for a family was $42,379. Males had a median income of $36,920 versus $22,359 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,009. About 12.1% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.1% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.


The Decatur Transfer House in the background in downtown's Central Park
The city's motto is "Illinois' Central City". The old motto was "The Pride of the Prairie". "The Soybean Capital of the World" is the un-official, but popular motto.

Decatur was awarded the All-America City Award in 1960.

The city's symbol is the Transfer House, an early-twentieth-century Victorian structure located originally in the center of town where the city's mass transit lines met. The Transfer House was moved in 1963 to save it from possible destruction as increasing automobile traffic flowed through the highway routed through downtown.

Decatur is a sister city to Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japanmarker and to Seevetalmarker, Lower Saxonymarker, Germanymarker.


Mayor Mike McElroy was elected in April and began duties office in May, to fill out the remaining 2 years of the 4 year term of office.Mike Carrigan served for a year as Mayor, after being selected by the City Council after the unusual circumstances surrounding the abrupt resignation of former Mayor Paul Osborne, following a year of turmoil and leadership crisis.

Former City Manager Steve Garman resigned May 2, 2008 and Mayor Paul Osborne resigned June 1, 2008


  • Charles M. Borchers (1909–1911; 1919–1923)
  • Elmer R. Elder (1925)
  • Harry E. Barber (1935)
  • Charles E. Lee (1937–1942)
  • James A. Hedrick (1945)
  • Robert E. Willis 1953)
  • J. Clayton Povler (1954)
  • Robert A. Grohne (1959–1963)
  • Gary Anderson
  • Erik Brechnitz
  • Terry M. Howley (1995–2003)
  • Paul Osborne (2003-2008 resigned )
  • Mike Carrigan (2008-2009)
  • Mike McElroy (2009-present)

Mike Carrigan, previously an elected Decatur City Councilman and Mayor-Pro Tem, became new Decatur IL Mayor by City Council appointment 2008-06-01 after the previous Mayor Osborne resigned.Carrigan served for a year, declined to run in the election to fill the remaining 2 years of a 4 year term.


Decatur Celebration

The Decatur Celebration is largest free street festival in the state of Illinois. Every year over 150,000 people come to the celebration to enjoy the numerous live bands, vendors offering sales of refreshments and fun activities for the whole family. In the past few years there has been renewed community support from Decatur Memorial Hospital as a corporate sponsor, among other community sponsors amid budget concerns of the festival supporters and organizers, since much of the festival is free of charge.


Decatur is split into different neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods include the inner city area surrounding downtown Decatur, Baker Woods on the east side of the city, north of U.S. Route 36, as well as South Shores, directly south of the downtown area across the lake following U.S. Route 51. South Wheatland Township is on the south side of the lake and west of Illinois Route 48. Southmoreland and Eastmoreland neighborhoods border the lake on the southeast side of the city off Lake Shore Drive. Home Park is located on the west side of the city.

Quality of life

Sperling's Best Places says the city of Decatur, Illinois, on a scale of 1 to 10, has a property crime rate of 7 and a violent crime rate of 6, both of which are above the national average of 3 and is very close to the ratings given to Chicago (both 7). The metro area, however, has a violent crime rating of 2 and a property crime rating of 3.

Sperling's Best Places also reports 200 average days of sunshine for the Decatur metro area, which is near the national average of 205.


The Decatur Public Library was originally built with a grant from Andrew Carnegie, this original library was built in 1902 and opened to the public in 1903. The building served the community until 1970 when the library was moved to a new building downtown on North Street. In 1999 the library moved to its present location on Franklin Street. The library is part of the Rolling Prairie Library System.


Decatur was the original home of the Chicago Bears, from 1919 to 1920. The football team was then known as the Decatur Staleys and played at Staley Field, both named after the local food-products manufacturer.

From 1900 to 1974 Decatur was the home of The Commodores, a minor-league baseball team playing at Fans Fieldmarker.

The USTA/Ursula Beck Pro Tennis Classic has been held annually since 1999. Male players from over 20 countries compete for $10,000 in prize money as well as ATP world ranking points at the Fairview Park Tennis Complex. The tournament is held for ten consecutive days at Fairview Park concluding on the first weekend in August.

Starting in 2007, Decatur has hosted the Rodney T. Miller Lakeside Triathlon. This sprint-distance triathlon presently is scheduled on the first weekend each July.

The MidState Soccer Club is based in Decatur.


The following Decatur men's fast pitch softball teams have won national championships:
Decatur Pride





AM radio

FM radio

  • WCZQ- 105.5 FM – Hip Hop & R&B
  • WJMU– 89.5 FM – Millikin University — Alternative
  • WYDS– 93.1 FM – Top-40
  • WDZQ– 95.1 FM – Country
  • WXFM — 99.3 — Hot AC
  • WZUS- 100.1 FM — Country
  • WSOY- 102.9 FM – Top-40
  • WEJT– 105.1 FM – Classic Hits
  • WZNX- 106.7 FM — Classic Rock
  • WDKR — 107.3 — Oldies



Decatur is well known for its industrial, agricultural processing, and manufacturing strengths, with vast production facilities for Caterpillar Inc., Archer Daniels Midland, Mueller Co., and Tate & Lyle (previously A. E. Staley). The corporate world headquarters for Archer Daniels Midland, the leading agricultural processor and ethanol producer is in Decatur. A large former Firestone factory is currently being used as storage space for Caterpillar Inc..

In 1877 Henry Bachrach opened his first men's clothing store in Decatur. By 2007 Bachrach's operated more than 34 stores in 13 states.



Public schools

K-12 public education in the Decatur area is provided by the Decatur Public School District #61. High school athletics participates in the Big 12 Conference.

Private schools


Local Macon County park resources include Lake Decaturmarker, Lincoln Trail Homestead State Memorialmarker, Rock Springs Conservation Area, Fort Daniel Conservation Area, Sand Creek Recreation Area, Griswold Conservation Area, Friends Creek Regional Park, and Spitler Woods State Natural Areamarker.


Decatur Airportmarker is served by three daily commercial flights on Beech 1900s to and from Lambert-St. Louis International Airportmarker on Great Lakes Airlines. The airport facility has hosted notable visitors Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, Vice-President Dan Quayle, and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev (at the invitation of his long-time friend, Dwayne Andreas, former CEO of Archer Daniels Midland).

Interstate 72, U.S. Route 51, U.S. Route 36, Illinois Route 48, Illinois Route 105, and Illinois Route 121 are key highway links for the area, as well.

A bus-trolley system operates in the downtown and college campus areas.

Trolley transfer station in its original location at the intersection of Main and Main streets; from a postcard sent in 1906


The city is named after War of 1812 naval hero Stephen Decatur, Jr.

Decatur has become an affiliate of the U.S. Main Street program, in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Post No. 1 of the Grand Army of the Republic was founded by Civil War veterans in Decatur on April 6, 1866.

The Edward P. Irving House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wrightand built in 1911, is located at #2 Millikin Place, Decatur. In addition, the Robert Mueller Residence, 1 Millikin Place,and the Adolph Mueller Residence, 4 Millikin Place, have been attributed to Wright’s assistants Hermann V. von Holst and Marion Mahony.

Abraham Lincoln

Decatur was the first home in Illinois of Abraham Lincoln, who settled just west of Decatur with his family in 1830. Lincoln gave his first political speech in Decatur about the importance of Sangamon River navigation that caught the attention of Illinois political leaders. As a lawyer on the 8th Judicial Circuit, Lincoln made frequent stops in Decatur, and argued five cases in the log courthouse that stood on the corner of Main & Main Streets(Decatur has a north south Main and an east west Main that intersect). The original courthouse is now on the grounds of the Macon County Historical Museum on North Fork Road. A popular local restaurant in Decatur is the Lincoln Square Lounge, which was built on the site where he gave a speech to the people in Decatur while campaigning for President. There are 5 statues of Lincoln located in Decatur. One is at Lincoln Square, one in front of the current countycourthouse, two are at the Macon County History Museum and one at Millikin University.

On May 9 and 10, 1860, the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur. At this convention Lincoln received his first endorsement for President of the United States as "The Railsplitter Candidate." In commemoration of Lincoln's bicentennial the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel on June 6 & 7, 2008.

ADM price-fixing case

In early November, 1992, the high-ranking Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) executive Mark Whitacre confessed to a Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker (FBImarker) agent that ADM executives, including Whitacre himself, had routinely met with competitors to fix the price of lysine, a food additive.

The lysine conspirators, including ADM, ultimately settled federal charges for more than $100 million. ADM also paid hundreds of millions of dollars [$400 million alone on the high fructose corn syrup Class Action case] to plaintiffs/customers that it stole from during the price-fixing schemes. Furthermore, several Asian and European lysine and citric acid producers, that conspired to fix prices with ADM, paid criminal fines in the tens of millions of dollars to the U.S. government. Several executives, including the Vice Chairman of ADM, did federal prison time.

The investigation and prosecution of ADM and some of its executives has been reported to be one of the "best documented corporate crimes in American history". The events were the basis of a book named The Informant as well as a film, also named The Informant!.

Jesse Jackson protest

In November 1999, Decatur was brought into the national news when the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition protested the expulsion and treatment of several African American students who had been involved in a serious fight at an Eisenhower High School football game. Jackson was arrested and detained briefly; however, charges were later dropped.

Firestone Tire problems

In May 2000, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contacted Firestone Tire about the high incidence of tire failure on Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers, and Mazda Navajos fitted with Firestone tires. Investigators found that several models of 15" Firestone tires (ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT) had very high failure rates, especially those made at Firestone's Decatur plant. The plant opted to pay off the lawsuits rather than recall the tires. This was one of the leading factors to the closing of the Decatur plant.

Tornadoes in a Row

On April 18 and 19, 1996, the city was hit by tornadoes. On the 18th an F1 tornado hit the city's southeast side, followed by an F3 tornado the following evening on the Northwest Side. The two storms totaled approximately $10.5 Million in property damage.


Notable people

Inventions in Decatur

  • Spiral Screwdriver Decatur Coffin Companies' Early Spiral Screwdriver
  • Photo Timer Robert Faries' Pneumatic Photo Timer
  • Flyswatter invented by Robert Montgomery, who holds the patent from c. 1900
  • Radar Gun Law enforcement radar invented by Bryce K. Brown of Decatur Electronics
  • On April 24, 1923, US Patent #1452956 was issued to Arthur W. Cash of Decatur. Mr Cash assigned the patent to Harvey A. Sellers owner of the Hi-Flier Manufacturing Company of Decatur. The patent was for the design of an inexpensive paper kite which dominated the children's kite market from the 1920s to the 1960s.

References in popular culture


  • "Decatur, Or, Round of Applause For Your Step Mother!" is a song by Sufjan Stevens on his album Illinois. The song refers to several locations and events associated with Decatur, including the Caterpillar factory, Greenwood cemetery, the chicken mobile from Krekels, strong historical ties to Abraham Lincoln, and the Sangamon River, (which is mispronounced as "Sang-a-man.")
Canadian folk icon, Willie P. Bennett wrote a song titled "Decatur" which he performed live but never recorded.


  • The Informant! is a 2009 film about the Archer Daniels Midland lysine scandal. It is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Matt Damon as the informant Whitacre.
  • In the 1971 film Shaft, Lt. Androzzi informs Shaft that one of the mob bigwigs coming to the city is from Decatur.
  • In the film Bachelor Party, Tom Hanks croons that he is from Decatur, Illinois.
  • In the 1993 film So I Married an Axe Murderer, a map of Illinois with Decatur featured prominently is displayed in the background behind Harriet (played by Nancy Travis) in the film's closing scenes.
  • In the 1972 film The Goob, John Stevens drives to Decatur to pick up his dog.
  • The 1948 Jimmy Stewart film Call Northside 777 mentions a character in the film going down to Decatur.


  • On Comedy Central's television show The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert mentions Decatur and its slogan "We like it here" during his segment "Better Know a District".
  • On Saturday Night Live, the expulsion of seven African American students from Eisenhower High School was parodied, based on Jesse Jackson's protests that it was a "racist act".
  • In a flashback scene that occurs on the episode entitled 'My Back Pages' during the third season of the television show 'ALF', Willie Tanner (the father figure) states that he is from Decatur, Illinois when asked where he is from.
  • The Lincoln Square Theater located on Main Street in Decatur was recently featured on Travel Channel's "Most Terrifying Places in America".


  1. Freeman, Huey, "City manager to step down May 2; Steve Garman says he would like to focus on finding another job", Herald & Review, April 23, 2008, Page A1.
  2. Associated Press, via Chicago Tribune. Garman was somewhat of a controversial figure in local government, Ex-Mayor Osborne recently wrote a newspaper article which said that "While Garman was controversial, there were never 4 votes to oust him." A local citizen group called ChangeDecatur circulated a petition to abolish the City Manager position, and although the proposed change in form of government failed, Mr. Garman left office. Decatur mayor set to resign. May 31, 2008.
  7. Ingram, Ron, "Ties to Lincoln draw state GOP convention to Decatur", Herald & Review, Decatur, Illinois, Thursday, July 14, 2007,
  8. [1]
  9. [2]
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  12. [5]
  13. [6]
  15. Article: Firestone pulls out of Decatur--The Public i
  17. LaToya Bond Playerfile
  18. Herald & Review Archives | News: WNBA player LaToya Bond scores big points with children at YWCA's after-school program
  19. Kot, Greg: "Bridges to Babylon". Guitar World Acoustic, No. 25. Retrieved from on 2006-05-13.
  20. Mannlein, Arelene: "Relatives of Jars of Clay member — and many, many more — plan to gather". Herald & Review, Decatur, Illinois, Thursday, August 4, 2005, 5:10 PM CDT. Retrieved from [7] on 2006-05-13.
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