Aurora, Illinois The "City of Light" Shines Brightly

 Aurora is known as the City of Light, a homage to the fact that the city was the  first city in the nation to install electric streetlights. Though overshadowed  by its big brother Chicago, Aurora can easily stand toe-to-toe with the Windy  City.  

 The second largest city in Illinois, the 112th largest city in the nation, and  once a mid-sized manufacturing city, Aurora has grown tremendously due to urban  sprawl during the past 50 years. Aurora itself is the center and heart of an area that includes 10 cities and  towns unique in their own charm, yet unified by the flowing Fox River that  rolls throughout the valley. With Aurora at the center, other notable  communities nearby are Batavia, Big Rock, Hinckley, Montgomery, North Aurora,  Plano, Sandwich, Sugar, Grove and Yorkville. Only 37 miles west of Chicago, and  easily accessible by highway and public transport, the Aurora area stretches  out to parts of Kane, Kendall, Will and DuPage counties and offers savory  dining, unique architecture, exciting attractions, shopping, and dozens of  other options for a truly unique visitor experience.  

 In 2012, Aurora is in the midst of several celebrations to mark major milestones  and improvements. The city celebrates its 175th anniversary along with 100  years of fresh farmer’s markets. The RiverEdge Park development, a unique entertainment and  recreational destination along the river is a catalyst for investment and  development. The highly successful Paramount Theatre, a renovated movie palace  heads into another year of successful productions of beloved Broadway shows.  Expansion at the Hollywood Casino Aurora will create the largest poker venue in  Illinois. The award-winning Fox Valley Park District plans to add more  amenities and the Chicago Premium Outlets, one of the largest shopping meccas  in Illinois, has announced its expansion plans.  

 Humble Beginnings

 All of this exciting development is a long way from Aurora's humble beginnings.  Before European settlers arrived, there was a Native American village in what  is today downtown Aurora. In 1834, following the Black Hawk War, the McCarty  brothers arrived and initially owned land on both sides of the river, but sold  their lands on the west side of the river to the Lake brothers who opened a  mill. The McCarty's loved and operated a mill on the east side of the river. In  1837, a post office was established which effectively created Aurora, which at  the time was essentially two villages, East Aurora, incorporated in 1845 and  West Aurora, formally organized in 1854. In 1857, the two towns officially  joined and incorporated as the city of Aurora. The two sides couldn't agree on  which side of the river should house the public buildings, so as a compromise,  most public buildings were built on or around Stolp Island in the middle of the  Fox River.  

 As the city grew, many factories opened bringing workers to settle. In 1856, the  Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad located its roundhouse and locomotive  shop in Aurora, which became the town's largest employer until the 1960s. Many  heavy industries were located on the east side providing employment for  generations of European immigrants. Many immigrants flocked to the city, mainly  from Great Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, Luxembourg, Germany, France, and  Italy. The combination of these three factors—a highly industrialized town, a sizable river that divided it, and the local  shops—accounted for much of the dynamics of Aurora's political, economic, and social  history. The city was inclusive and tolerant, and welcomed a variety of  immigrants and openly supported abolitionism prior to the American Civil War.  Mexican migrants began arriving after 1910. Socially, the town was progressive  in its attitude toward education, religion, welfare, and women. The first free  public school district in Illinois was established in 1851 and a high school  for girls came four years later.  

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