Centralia is a city in Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, and Washington counties in the U.S. state of Illinois with the largest portion being within Marion County. The city is the largest in three of the counties; Clinton, Marion, and Washington, but is not a county seat of any of them. The population was 13,032 as of the 2010 census, down from 14,136 in 2000.
Location of Centralia within (clockwise) Clinton, Marion, Jefferson, and Washington Counties of Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
|Coordinates: 38°31′31″N 89°7′57″W|
|Counties||Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, Washington|
|Townships||Centralia, Brookside, Grand Prairie, |
|• Mayor||Herb Williamss|
|• Total||9.23 sq mi (23.90 km2)|
|• Land||8.19 sq mi (21.22 km2)|
|• Water||1.03 sq mi (2.67 km2)|
|Elevation||535 ft (163 m)|
|• Density||1,534.29/sq mi (592.36/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|Wikimedia Commons||Centralia, Illinois|
Centralia is named for the Illinois Central Railroad, built in 1853. The city was founded at the location where the two original branches of the railroad converged. Centralia was first chartered as a city in 1859.
In the southern city limits is the intersection of the Third Principal Meridian and its baseline. This initial point was established in 1815, and it governs land surveys for about 60% of the state of Illinois, including Chicago. The original monument is at the junction of Highway 51 and the Marion-Jefferson County Line Road; today there is a small easement situated in the northeast corner of this intersection, which contains a monument and historic marker.
Production of the PayDay candy bar began here in 1938. Michael Moore's documentary, The Big One (1998), opens with the closing of this candy bar plant in the late 20th century. It addresses similar economic woes in other cities.
The town of Centerville, Washington was renamed as Centralia, Washington to avoid being confused with another Centerville in that state. The suggestion came from a former resident of the Illinois town.
Centralia is located approximately 60 miles (97 km) east of St. Louis, Missouri. Most of the city, including its downtown, is in southwestern Marion County, but the city extends west into Clinton County and south 5 miles (8 km) into Washington and Jefferson counties. The city is 10 miles (16 km) north of exit 61 of Interstate 64 and 9 miles (14 km) west of exit 109 of Interstate 57. Centralia is one of three Illinois cities with portions in four counties, the others being Barrington Hills and Aurora. Because of its unique location within multiple counties, portions of Centralia are associated with different Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs). The Centralia Micropolitan Statistical Area includes all of Marion County. The Clinton County portion of the city is considered part of the St. Louis, MO–IL Metropolitan Statistical Area, while the Jefferson County portion lies within the Mt. Vernon Micropolitan Statistical Area. The portion of Centralia in Washington County is not considered part of any metropolitan or micropolitan area.
According to the 2010 census, Centralia has a total area of 9.223 square miles (23.89 km2), of which 8.19 square miles (21.21 km2) (or 88.8%) is land and 1.033 square miles (2.68 km2) (or 11.2%) is water.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 14,136 people, 5,784 households, and 3,568 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,884.4 people per square mile (727.7/km²). There were 6,276 housing units at an average density of 836.6 per square mile (323.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 71.50% White, 25.34% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.73% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 1.71% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.20% of the population.
There were 5,784 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.3% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.0% 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 2.95.
In the city the age distribution of the population shows 24.3% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 85.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,905, and the median income for a family was $39,123. Males had a median income of $30,511 versus $21,967 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,174. About 11.2% of families and 14.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.1% of those under age 18 and 8.6% of those age 65 or over.
On March 25, 1947, the Centralia No. 5 coal mine explosion near the town killed 111 people. The investigation team sent by the Mine Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor found that "a blownout shot of explosives that was stemmed with coal dust or an underburdened shot of explosions could have ignited the coal dust that was raised by preceding shots of explosions."
- blown-out shot
- a blast in which the explosive action breaks little or no coal or rock
- insufficient burden of rock in relation to the explosive charge, resulting in a blown-out shot or a premature shot through shock of a neighboring charge of a blast pattern, often yielding less work than expected.
At the time of the explosion, 142 men were in the mine; 65 were killed by burns and other injuries, and 45 were killed by afterdamp. Eight men were rescued, but one died from the effects of afterdamp.
The story of the 1947 disaster is memorialized in folk singer Woody Guthrie's song "The Dying Miner". Guthrie's recording of the song can be heard on the Smithsonian-Folkways CD recording Struggle (Smithsonian Folkways, 1990). Songwriter and labor scholar Bucky Halker recorded a very different arrangement of "Dying Miner" on his CD collection of Illinois labor songs Welcome to Labor Land (Revolting Records, 2002). Halker also recorded "New Made Graves of Centralia", a song he located on an obscure recording without the name of the author or recording artist. Halker's recording appears on his CD Don't Want Your Millions (Revolting Records, 2000).
Parks and Recreation
Centralia's Foundation Park is a scenic 235-acre (0.95 km2) park that features hiking trails, an exercise trail, an ice skating pond and two fishing ponds stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. The park also sports a restored prairie, a 27-hole disc-golf course, a Chapel in the Woods, the Hall Shelter, the Sentinel Shelter, The Bowl (an outdoor amphitheatre), Moose Oven, and the Miner's Memorial.
The Centralia Recreational Complex is a 60,000 square foot recreational facility equipped with walking track, indoor basketball courts, competition and leisure swimming pools, weight rooms, and exercise classrooms.
The Centralia Community Youth Center provides after-school tutoring services, sports clubs including wrestling, chess, dance, Double Dutch jump roping, basketball, and karate. Their mission is to “is to help our community's youth from falling into the traps of today's society: crime, drugs, and gang activity. We do this through positive reinforcement and programs in the most grassroots style of community activism.” They also hosts concerts, camps, and community dinners.
Two lakes near Centralia offer water sport and fishing recreation. Raccoon Lake is a 970 acre man-made lake. It was built in 1942 and is a water reservoir. Boating and fishing are permitted on Raccoon Lake, with the appropriate licenses and permits.
Centralia Lake is a 412 acre man-made lake, constructed in 1910, and is both a water reservoir and location for water sport activities such as boating and fishing. It has an average depth of 10 feet. It is located slightly northeast of Centralia. Largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish populate the lake. Fishing licenses and boating permits are required. Fishermen are limited to two pole and line fishing. Largemouth bass fishing tournaments are held on Centralia Lake, with 28 tournaments being held in 2018.
Foundation Park is the site of the annual Balloon Fest. Recent events have had about forty balloons and drew 40,000 visitors. The Annual Centralia Balloon festival was the event in which the second "Space Shuttle" hot air balloon crashed and burned due to a fuel line defect.
In addition to Foundation Park, the Centralia Foundation also supports the Centralia Carillon. Completed in 1983, with 65 bells, it is ranked as the eighth-largest in the world. The largest bell, Great Tom, weighs 5½ tons. The current Carillonneur is Roy Kroezen.
One of only two remaining 2500-class steam locomotives from the Illinois Central Railroad is preserved on static display at Centralia's Fairview Park. The locomotive is maintained by the Age of Steam Memorial non-profit organization. A 9415 caboose and a rare Republic F-105 Thunderchief aircraft are also on display in the park.
Centralia’s downtown features historic architecture, and has seen recent development with of the addition of a Splash Pad near the Centralia Carillon, the renovations of the Illinois Theater, and new restaurants including RAIL Coffee House and Fire Wok Asian Cuisine.
Commercial Historic District
In 2012 the downtown area of Centralia was added to the National Park Service's Nation Register of Historic Places. Notable historic buildings include the former Langenfield Hotel, Centralia House restaurant, Old National Bank buildings, Sadler Opera House, Centralia Sentinel Building, and the Illinois Theater.
The Langenfield Hotel was "established in 1912 by John Langenfield" and "became the premier hotel in the area." Images of the Lagenfield have been used for postcards featuring Centralia. The name Langenfield was also connected to the historic Langenfield Motor Company buildings.
The Centralia House restaurant has been functioning for over 100 years. It is located directly across from the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and has a long history of catering to the travelers who would pass through Centralia on the train.
The Centralia Sentinel building houses the Centralia Morning Sentinel newspaper and features Egyptian Revival style architecture. This may be connected to Southern Illinois' nickname of "Egypt," or "Little Egypt."
The Illinois Theater in downtown Centralia used to be a vaudeville and movie theater and is currently undergoing renovations that will enable it to seat 500 and hold professional entertainment performances.
The Centralia Area Historical Museum
The Centralia Area Historical Museum is free to the public and contains three stories of photographs and artifacts from Centralia's extensive history as a major railway hub and mining town. The museum accepts items either as donations or through loans. In addition to the displays, the museum also contains the George Ross Library which holds city history books, newspapers and periodicals, as well as family histories and genealogies.
A farmer’s market is held every Saturday from 7 am to 11 am during the spring and summer at the corner of South Locust Street and Second Street. New restaurants and coffee shops have been developing in recent years. Coffee shops include RAIL Coffee Room and Java Joe’s. RAIL has an industrial railroad theme, hearkening to Centralia's Illinois Central Railroad days, and serves specialty coffee drinks, desserts, and sandwiches.
Arts and Culture
The Centralia Cultural Society is a non-profit community arts center located on East Rexford near Foundation Park. Its mission is to “to connect arts with the community and the community with the arts.” The Cultural Society is home to the Centralia Philharmonic Orchestra, the Little Theatre Players, the Choral Society, Bronze Expressions Handbell Ensemble, and hosts periodic galleries by the Light and Lens photography club, and Palette and Brush club. Centralia High School also holds student art shows at the Cultural Society.
The Centralia Philharmonic Orchestra is a non-professional orchestra which performs regular spring, fall, holiday, and winter concerts. Orchestra membership is open to the public.
The Little Theatre Players is a community theatre organization established in 1961. They perform both straight plays and musicals. Past shows have included productions of GREASE, Pinocchio, and Steel Magnolias.
Public elementary schools in Centralia include Jordan Elementary (PK-1st grade) Schiller Elementary (2nd-3rd grade), and Centralia Junior High School (4th-8th grade). According to the 2018-2019 Illinois Report Card for school districts, Jordan Elementary scored as a Lowest Performing school, Schiller Elementary as a Commendable school, and Centralia Jr. High as an Underperforming school.
Private elementary schools in Centralia include Trinity Lutheran School (K-8), affiliated with Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Mary School (Preschool and K-8), affiliated with St. Mary Catholic Church, and New Horizon Christian School (Preschool and K-8), affiliated with Greenview Christian Church.
Centralia's public high school is Centralia High School. Its sports teams are called the Orphans and Annies. The Centralia boys basketball team won its 2,000th game during the 2007–08 season, making it the high school basketball team with the best record in the US. The Centralia Orphans were the State Runner-Up in the 2011 Class 3A.
The Orphans got their unique nickname during the early 1900s when the boy's basketball team made it to the state tournament. The school was low on funds at the time, and the team was forced to pick its uniforms from a pile of non-matching red uniforms. At the state tournament, an announcer commented that the team looked like a bunch of orphans on the court because of their mismatched uniforms. The name stuck. Previously, the team had gone by nicknames such as the Reds and Cardinals. In 2013 and 2014, the Centralia Orphans were recently named the Most Unique Mascot in the nation by USA Today.
The private Christ Our Rock Lutheran High School first opened its doors in August 2004 with nine students. As of 2013, the student body has grown to over 100 students. Christ Our Rock is the home of the Silver Stallions.
Post-secondary education is available at Kaskaskia College, a community college serving the Centralia region. Kaskaskia College has extension centers in the surrounding towns of Vandalia, Salem, Greenville, Trenton and Nashville. The Crisp Technology Center in located on the east side of Centralia and houses occupational and technical programs. Kaskaskia College and its extension centers also offer non-degree community education courses on subjects such as photography, gardening, and beekeeping.
IL 161 runs east and west directly through Centralia. A portion of IL 161 near Crooked Creek and Shattuc Road has been closed for repairs to the Crooked Creek bridge since January 1, 2019. This has created the need for commuters who rely on IL 161 to take detours via Route 51, either north to Sandoval or south to Interstate 64. The road was scheduled to be opened again on December 1, 2019, but opened ahead of schedule on November 29.
The City of Centralia owns and operates the Centralia Municipal Airport, a general aviation facility that can accommodate corporate and private aircraft. The runway is 5001 feet long. Airgo, Inc. is the fixed-base operator at the Centralia Municipal Airport.
Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Centralia. Amtrak Train 59, the southbound City of New Orleans, departs Centralia at 12:25 am daily with service to Carbondale, Fulton, Newbern-Dyersburg, Memphis, Greenwood, Yazoo City, Jackson, Hazlehurst, Brookhaven, McComb, Hammond, and New Orleans. Amtrak Train 58, the northbound City of New Orleans, departs Centralia at 4:10 am daily with service to Effingham, Mattoon, Champaign-Urbana, Kankakee, Homewood, and Chicago. Centralia 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 between Chicago and Carbondale.
The Centralia Correctional Center is a medium security prison for adult males with an operating capacity of 1,572. As of June 20, 2019 its current population was 1,281. Education programs available to inmates are Adult Basic Education (ABE) and General Education Development (GED). Inmates may also work in the recycling shop or the sewing shop, and literacy and chaplaincy services are available. The Correctional Center is located on the west side of Centralia on Shattuc Road.
The facility was opened in October of 1980.
- Chad Beguelin, American playwright and four-time Tony Award nominee
- Warren Billhartz, state legislator, businessman, and lawyer
- David Blackwell, statistician and first black member of National Academy of Sciences
- James Brady, press secretary to President Ronald Reagan
- Roland Burris, Illinois Attorney General, comptroller, United States senator
- Brian Dinkelman, second baseman with the Minnesota Twins
- Dike Eddleman, small forward with the Tri-Cities Blackhakws/Milwaukee Hawks and Fort Wayne Pistons
- Bryan Eversgerd, pitcher with St. Louis Cardinals and coach
- Dwight Friedrich, state legislator and businessman
- Gary Gaetti, third baseman with the 1987 World Series champion Minnesota Twins and five other MLB teams
- Dick Garrett, guard with Southern Illinois and NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, Buffalo Braves, New York Knicks, and Milwaukee Bucks
- Mary Lee, actress
- Jean Madeira, opera singer
- Bobby Joe Mason, basketball player, Bradley University and Harlem Globetrotters
- Ken "Preacher" McBride, Harlem Globetrotter
- Ora A. Oldfield, Illinois state senator and businessman
- Gene Paulette, infielder for four Major League Baseball teams; born in Centralia
- Smiley Quick, golfer with the PGA Tour
- Kirk Rueter, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants
- Nancy Scranton, golfer with the LPGA Tour
- June C. Smith, Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court
- Tom Wargo, golfer with the Senior PGA Tour
- Dottie Wham, Colorado state legislator
- Robert Wham, lawyer and Colorado state legislator
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