Rock Island, Illinois

Rock Island, Illinois

Motto: Rock Solid, Rock Island

Location in the State of Illinois
Coordinates: 41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W / 41.48917°N 90.57306°W / 41.48917; -90.57306Coordinates: 41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W / 41.48917°N 90.57306°W / 41.48917; -90.57306
Country United States
State Illinois
County Rock Island County
Incorporated 1841
  Mayor Dennis Pauley
  City 17.87 sq mi (46.3 km2)
  Land 16.85 sq mi (43.6 km2)
  Water 1.02 sq mi (2.6 km2)
Population (2010[1])
  City 39,018
  Density 2,417.7/sq mi (933.5/km2)
  Metro 381,342 (134th)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
  Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Interstate Spurs I-280

Rock Island is a city in and the county seat of Rock Island County, Illinois, United States.[2] The original Rock Island, from which the city name is derived, is the largest island on the Mississippi River. It is now called Arsenal Island.[3] The population was 39,018 at the 2010 census. Located on the Mississippi River, it is one of the Quad Cities, along with neighboring Moline, East Moline, and the Iowa cities of Davenport and Bettendorf. The Quad Cities has a population of about 380,000.[4] The city is home to Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the US, which employs 6,000 people.[5]

There's a wide variety of housing available in Rock Island including historic homes, new downtown condos, new construction in the heart of the city, and wooded retreats. The Rock Island-Milan School District, Rockridge School District (southwest portion of city) along with private schools, serve the city. The District (Downtown Rock Island) has art galleries and theaters, nightclubs and coffee shops, and restaurants of all flavors. Golf courses, parks, a casino, botanical center, marina, historic tours, bike paths, and festivals offer entertainment opportunities.

In 2015 Rock Island was ranked the 32nd "Best Small City" in the country based on economic health, affordability, and quality of life.[6]


Rock Island in 1865.

This area has been a fortuitous place first for settlement and then for steamboat traffic, bridges, and railroads.

Saukenuk, a Sauk village

Various Indian tribes occupied this area for thousands of years before settlement. By the early nineteenth century, it was occupied chiefly by the historic Sauk tribe. Their major village of Saukenuk was located on the south side of Rock Island, along the Rock River. After the War of 1812, the United States built Fort Armstrong on the island for defensive reasons in 1816.

Saukenuk was the birthplace of the Sauk war chief Black Hawk, for whom the Black Hawk War of 1831–1832 was named. Fort Armstrong served as the US military's headquarters for the war. Today the Black Hawk State Historic Site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 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.

Railroads and development

The Harper House

The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad was founded here in 1851. It was informally known as the Rock Island Line. As part of later nineteenth-century development, two first-class hotels: the Harper House (opened in February 1871) and the Rock Island House were built in town.[7] Rock Island Arsenal has manufactured military equipment and ordnance for the U.S. Army since the 1880s. The railroad was liquidated in bankruptcy in 1980.


Due to its geography, Rock Island has a rich history of bridge building, including the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi (now gone), an unusual two-track railroad bridge, and the largest roller dam in the world.

The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River was built between Arsenal Island and Davenport in 1856. Many steamboat pilots felt that the bridge had been intentionally positioned to make it hard for them to navigate, and this conflict reflected a larger rivalry: St. Louis and its steamboats against Chicago and its railroads.[8] Two weeks after the bridge opened, the steamboat Effie Afton collided with the bridge, caught fire, and damaged the bridge.[8] The owner of the Effie Afton sued the bridge company for damages, and Abraham Lincoln was one of the lawyers who defended the railroad.[8] This test case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the railroad in 1872.[8] Although the original bridge is long gone, a monument exists on Arsenal Island marking the Illinois side. On the Iowa side, the bridge was located near where 4th and Federal streets intersect with River Drive.

The Rock Island Line shipped goods from west of the Mississippi, across the bridge at Rock Island, east to Chicago. This map shows the railroad's extent in 1965.

Lock and Dam No. 15 and the Government Bridge are located just southwest of the site of the first bridge. The Government Bridge, completed in 1896, is notable for having two sets of railroad tracks above the car lanes. There are only two bridges in the world with this feature.

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

Lock and Dam No. 15, completed in 1934 as a federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, is the largest roller dam in the world. The dam is designed for navigation, not flood control. During flood season, the rollers are raised, unleashing the full flow of the water.

On the south side of the city, overlooked by the Black Hawk State Historic Site, is a crossing of the Rock River to Milan, Illinois. This set of bridges also crosses the historic Hennepin Canal and Sears Dam (this was named after the entrepreneur David B. Sears, who previously built the Sears Dam between Arsenal Island and Moline.) In 2007 a new bridge was completed between 3rd Street Moline/southeast Rock Island and Milan. It expedites the trip to Milan, the airport, and points south on U.S. Route 67.


Rock Island is located at 41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W / 41.48917°N 90.57306°W / 41.48917; -90.57306 (41.489083, -90.573154).[9]

According to the 2010 census, Rock Island has a total area of 17.872 square miles (46.29 km2), of which 16.85 square miles (43.64 km2) (or 94.28%) is land and 1.022 square miles (2.65 km2) (or 5.72%) is water.[10]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201538,620[11]−1.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]

As of the census[13] 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 per square mile (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.


Largest employers

According to the City's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[14] the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Rock Island Arsenal 8,500
2 UnityPoint Health 1,500
3 Rock Island-Milan School District 41 900
4 County of Rock Island 510
5 Augustana College 500
6 Jumer's Casino & Hotel 450
7 Performance Food Group 450
8 Modern Woodmen of America 440
9 YRC Worldwide 400
10 Dohrn Transfer Company 300


The majority of the city is served by the Rock Island/Milan School District with portions of the southwest area falling under the Rockridge School District. The Rock Island-Milan School District is currently home to thirteen schools. One high school, two junior high schools, nine elementary schools, and one alternative education center. Several private schools also serve Rock Island including Jordan Catholic Elementary School and Alleman Catholic High School.

High schools


Former schools, now closed

Points of interest

The Quad City Hindu Temple
Longview Park

Rock Island, Illinois is the site of the Quad City Hindu Temple, a Hindu shrine dedicated chiefly to the deity Venkateswara. The temple opened in 2007. Prior to its construction, Hindu worshippers had to travel to St. Louis or Peoria to participate in Hindu festivals and worship.[15][16]

Cultural organizations


The first football game in what was to become the National Football League was played at Rock Island's Douglas Field in September, 1920. It was hosted by the Rock Island Independents(1907-1926), who were a charter NFL franchise in 1920.[17]

The Rock Island Islanders were a minor league baseball team that played for 37 seasons between 1901 and 1948. The Islanders played at Douglas Park and were affiliates of the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia A's.

The Rock Island Legion Post 200 baseball team won the 4th State Championship in its history in 2011 in Galesburg, Illinois. Post 200 would finish 4th that year in the Great Lakes Regional.

Karters flock to Rock Island every year for the prestigious Rock Island Grand Prix on Labor Day weekend, which attracts competitors from across the United States and the world. With exception to 1997, when the annual race was canceled due to legal liability issues, the Rock Island Grand Prix has been held every year since 1994.

Rock Island High School has won state championships in basketball, girls and boys track, and wrestling. Additionally the football and basketball programs are perennial powerhouses. Rock Island Public Schools Stadium has an artificial surface and has a seating capacity of over 15,000.


Main article: Quad Cities Media

Rock Island is the location of television station WHBF-TV. Until 1963, WHBF was one of only two television stations in the Quad Cities area. (The other is WOC-TV on the Iowa side of the river.) Rock Island was also the longtime former home of WHBF-TV's former sister radio stations, WHBF and WHBF-FM, although it does remain the licensed city of those stations.

Also, National Public Radio member station WVIK is licensed to and located in Rock Island on the campus of Augustana College.

Film, theater, and literary references

Notable people

See also




  1. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 10, 2015. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  2. Archived January 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011" (CSV). 2011 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. April 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
  4. "Rock Island Arsenal". Retrieved October 13, 2008.
  5. "Best Small Cities in America". Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  6. Diane Oestreich, "Harper House Hotel, 2nd Avenue and 19th Street", 2002, Rock Island Preservation. Retrieved August 18, 2010
  7. 1 2 3 4 Tweet, Roald D. The Quad Cities: An American mosaic. East Hall Press. 1996.
  8. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  9. "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  10. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  11. "Census of Population and Housing". Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  12. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  13. Joni Conrad, "The Quad-City Hindu Temple provides a place to share religious, cultural and culinary experiences", Rock Island News, no byline, accessed Dec. 24, 2008
  14. "NFL History by Decade". 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2016-02-04.
  15. Rock Island Trail at IMDB.
  16. Jack Kerouac, On the Road, New York: Penguin 1999, 12.
  17. "The Speeches". Blues Brothers Central. Retrieved 2016-02-04.
  18. "Green Bay Packers Find Players and Wins in Rock Island Illinois | Packers 101". Sports Media 101. Retrieved 2016-02-04.
  19. Chris Minor (2014-08-07). "Former pro football player says Rock Island will always be home". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  20. "EVANS, Lane Allen, (1951 - )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  21. "SCHILLING, Bobby, (1964 - )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  22. "Rock Island rated 3rd most exciting city in Illinois by national real estate firm". Retrieved 29 April 2014.

General references

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rock Island, Illinois.
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