The History of Aurora Illinois

Around 1900, waves of new immigrants arrived in Aurora, bringing various skills and optimism. In this time, many Aurorans lived on a hill called Pigeon Hill, a neighborhood that was built over the shops of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad. Many residents recount tales of the hospitable nature of their neighbors and how they were welcomed into the community. But what made Aurora such a diverse city?

Joseph G.

In 1899, Aurora incorporated and was known as the City of Saint Nicholas. The city’s first newspaper, the Aurora Daily Beacon, was established by John C. Hendrickson, an assistant pastor at St. Nicholas church in Aurora. The newspaper was founded in July 1898. At the time, it was a Protestant congregation. Today, it is known as the Aurora Daily Beacon.


The Stolp history of Aurora, Illinois, started when Joseph G. Stolp migrated from Marcellus, New York, to Illinois in the late 1700s. His uncle had claimed an island in the Fox River, and he was looking to make his fortune by starting his own woolen mill. While some of the Stolps settled in Illinois, others moved further west. Today, the Woolen Mills Store and Dye House remain, as do many family grave sites.


Leap Day was an important day in Aurora Illinois. It was a day when Aurora’s women changed the city government. Women were now allowed to propose marriage to unmarried men. The change may have surprised some men, but it made Aurora famous nationwide. Until then, men had to endure being single. However, that all changed in 1932. The Aurora Historical Society has more about Leap Day and why it is important to know about it.


In the 1840s, the town of Aurora was a Native American village located on the banks of the Fox River. The area eventually became a center for manufacturing heavy-machine building equipment. In 1856, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad established railcar repair shops in Aurora. Located on the east side of town, these businesses provided jobs for four generations of European immigrants. Over time, other immigrants, mostly from Yankee stock, began to settle in the area. After a few years, the village was incorporated with the building of a post office in 1837.


The Rialto Theatre was built in 1919. It opened with the performance of Wallace Reid in “Double Speed.” This theatre, which was previously a Sylvandale Dance Hall, was capable of seating 2,250 people. In addition to a beautiful pipe organ, the Rialto also had a bowling alley in the basement. Unfortunately, the Rialto burned down in 1928. In its place, the Paramount Theatre was built. The theatre is a wonderful example of Art Deco architecture. It is still open for live performances and other events.


The Rustic eatery at the Roundhouse in Aurora, Illinois, serves up modern pub grub and signature beers. The storied railroad roundhouse has been repurposed into a rustic eatery. You’ll feel right at home here with its cozy interior, replete with antiques and vintage furniture. If you’re in the area, you’ll want to visit this restaurant for its ambiance and tasty fare.

Leland Tower

If you want to see the best of Aurora and the surrounding area, consider staying at the Leland Tower in Aurora, Illinois. At 347.5 m (1140 ft) tall, the Leland Tower is the tallest building outside of Chicago. It was designed by Chicago architects Anker Sveere Graven and Arthur Guy Mayger. It was once the tallest building in Illinois outside of Chicago. Its sky club was a popular hangout for Chicago blues musicians and is now home to the Leland Legends Pub and Grill. The sky club’s history is still very evident today, as the restaurant’s logo features images of blues musicians.

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