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Rock Island is the county seat of Rock Island Countymarker, Illinoismarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 39,684 at the 2000 census. It is one of the Quad Citiesmarker, along with neighboring Molinemarker, East Molinemarker, and the Iowamarker cities of Davenportmarker and Bettendorfmarker. The original Rock Island, from which the city gets its name, is the largest island in the Mississippi River and is now known as Arsenal Island.

The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad was founded here in 1851 and was known as the Rock Island Line. The railroad was liquidated in bankruptcy in 1980.

Rock Island is also home to the Rock Island Arsenalmarker on Arsenal Island. It is an active factory producing ordnance and weapons components for the U.S. Army. The Arsenal provides 6,000 civilian jobs for the local area.

The south shore of Rock Island, on the Rock River, is where the former village of Saukenuk was located, the birthplace of the warrior Black Hawk. The Black Hawk State Historic Sitemarker includes much of the site of the original village of Saukenuk. The park includes a museum and a number of hiking trails along the Rock River and in surrounding woods.

Due to its geography, Rock Island has a rich history of bridge-building.

The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River was built between Arsenal Island and Davenportmarker in 1856. Steamboat pilots of the day, fearful of competition from the railroads, considered the new bridge “a hazard to navigation”. Two weeks after the bridge opened, the steamboat Effie Afton rammed part of the bridge and set it on fire. Legal proceedings ensued—with a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln defending the railroad. The lawsuit was appealed went to the Supreme Courtmarker, and was decided in favor of Lincoln and the railroad. Although the original bridge is long gone, a monument exists on Arsenal Island marking the Illinois side. Bridge Street, in Davenport, is the location of the Iowa side.

Lock and Dam No.marker 15marker and the Government Bridgemarker are now located just southwest of the original bridge site. The Government Bridge, completed in 1896, is notable for having two sets of railroad tracks above the car lanes. It is one of only two bridges in the world with this feature. Lock and Dam No. 15, completed in 1934, is the largest roller dam in the world. The dam is only designed for navigation, not flood control. During flood season, the rollers are raised, unleashing the full flow of the water.

Three other bridges span the river between Rock Island and Davenport. The Crescent Rail Bridgemarker is a railroad-only bridge, completed in 1899. The Centennial Bridgemarker was completed in 1940 for autos only. The newest bridge is the Interstate 280 bridgemarker, completed in 1973.

On the south side of the city, overlooked by the Black Hawk State Historic Sitemarker, is a crossing of the Rock River to Milan, Illinoismarker. This set of bridges also crosses the historic Hennepin Canalmarker.

A new bridge was completed in 2007 between 3rd Street Moline/southeast Rock Island and Milan, Illinois. It expedites the trip to Milan, the airport, and points south on U.S. Route 67.


Rock Island is located at (41.489083, -90.573154).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.1 square miles (44.4 km²), of which, 15.9 square miles (41.2 km²) of it is land and 1.2 square miles (3.2 km²) of it (7.11%) is water.


As of the census of 2000, there were 39,684 people, 16,148 households, and 9,543 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,492.0 people per square mile (962.4/km²). There were 17,542 housing units at an average density of 1,101.6/sq mi (425.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.13% White, 17.17% African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.75% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 2.41% from other races, and 2.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.90% of the population.

There were 16,148 households out of which 26.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.2% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.9% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,729, and the median income for a family was $45,127. Males had a median income of $32,815 versus $23,378 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,202. About 10.9% of families and 14.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.5% of those under age 18 and 8.4% of those age 65 or over.


Rock Island is served by the Rock Island/Milan School District. There are also several private schools.

Elementary schools

  • Audubon Elementary(closed as of end of 2009 school year)
  • Denkmann Elementary
  • Earl Hanson Elementary
  • Eugene Field Elementary
  • Frances Willard Elementary
  • Hawthorne Irving Elementary (closed)
  • Rock Island Center for Math and Science
  • Immanuel Lutheran School
  • Jordan Catholic School
  • Lincoln Elementary (closed)
  • Longfellow Elementary
  • Morning Star Academy (Christian)
  • Ridgewood Elementary
  • Villa de Chantal (Catholic, closed in 1978, building destroyed by fire in 2005)
  • Grant
  • Thomas Jefferson Elementary

Middle schools

  • Edison Junior High
  • Franklin Junior High (closed)
  • Jordan Catholic School
  • Washington Junior High

High schools


Points of interest

Rock Island, Illinois is home to the Quad City Hindu Temple, a Hindu shrine dedicated chiefly to the deity Venkateswara. The temple opened in 2007. Prior to the construction of the temple, Hindu worshippers had to travel to St. Louismarker or Peoriamarker to participate in Hindu festivals and worship.



Rock Island is the location of the WHBF television station. Until 1963, WHBF was one of only two television stations in the Quad Cities area. (The other is WOCmarker on the Iowa side of the river.)

Film, theater, and literary references

  • Rock Island is mentioned in Jack Kerouac's book On the Road on pages 12, 18, 37, and 223. Sal (Jack Kerouac) says that in Rock Island "for the first time in my life that I saw my beloved Mississippi river dry in the summer haze."

  • Part of the film Road to Perdition (2002) takes place in Rock Island. The movie was based on the life of Rock Island gangster John Looney.

See also

External links



General references

  • Spencer, J. W. and Burrows, J. M. D., The Early Day of Rock Island and Davenport The Lakeside Press, 1942
  • Wickstrom, George W., The Town Crier J. W. Potter Company, 1948

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