Princeton, Illinois

For communities with a similar name, see Princeton (disambiguation).
View of South Historic Main Street district in Princeton, Illinois.
Official name: City of Princeton
Country United States
State Illinois
County Bureau
Townships Princeton, Dover
Elevation 780 ft (237.7 m)
Coordinates 41°22′43″N 89°28′1″W / 41.37861°N 89.46694°W / 41.37861; -89.46694Coordinates: 41°22′43″N 89°28′1″W / 41.37861°N 89.46694°W / 41.37861; -89.46694
Area 7.48 sq mi (19.4 km2)
 - land 7.48 sq mi (19 km2)
 - water 0.00 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 7,700 (2014)
Density 1,024.1/sq mi (395.4/km2)
Settled 1830s
 - Incorporated, City 1884
Government Council-Manager
Mayor Joel Quiram
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Zip codes 61356
Area code 815
Location of Princeton within Illinois

Princeton is a city in and the county seat of Bureau County, Illinois, United States.[1] The population was 7,700 at the 2014 census.

Princeton is part of the OttawaStreator Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included within the Chicago-Naperville Combined Statistical Area. Due to its location where Interstate 80 meets the Amtrak system, as well as its well-preserved main street and historic housing stock, Princeton has become a popular satellite town for Chicagoland and the Quad Cities.


Bureau County was a New England settlement. The original founders of Princeton consisted entirely of settlers from New England. These people were "Yankees," descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s. They were part of a wave of New England farmers who headed west into what was then the wilds of the Northwest Territory during the early 1800s. Most of them arrived as a result of the completion of the Erie Canal.[2] When they arrived in what is now Bureau County there was nothing but a virgin forest and wild prairie, the New Englanders laid out farms, constructed roads, erected government buildings and established post routes. They brought with them many of their Yankee New England values, such as a passion for education, establishing many schools as well as staunch support for abolitionism. They were mostly members of the Congregationalist Church though some were Episcopalian. Culturally Bureau County, like much of northern Illinois, would be culturally very continuous with early New England culture, for most of its history.[2][3][4] During the time of slavery, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad at the home of Owen Lovejoy.[5][6]

The name of Princeton was supposedly determined by drawing from a hat:

"The naming of the township of Princeton was the privilege of the three trustees, Roland Moseley, John Musgrove and John P. Blake. When these men came together to act upon the subject of christening this new legal division of land, each one had a favorite name to present. It is only natural when one wanders away from the scenes of his early life that he should feel a longing for something that looks or sounds like home, so it was with the school trustees of what is now Princeton. They each presented the name of their choice, but could come to no agreement; finally it was decided that is should be settled by lottery. Each man was to write the name of his choice upon a piece of paper and place it in a hat, and a stranger, being blind-folded, should make the drawing. Mr. Musgrove, coming from New Jersey, and being loyal to his classic institution, wrote upon his slip Princeton, and as it had been agreed that the first name drawn should settle the question, there was quite a little excitement in the preparation for the deciding contest. Matters were finally arranged and the bandage placed over the eyes of the drawer and he was led up to the hat wherein the papers had been placed and with outstretched hand he stood ready to decide the great and momentous question of christening the first born of the future Bureau county. At last the word was given, the drawing was made, while those interested stood with bated breath, awaiting the result which was soon announced by the declaration that upon the slip of paper drawn by the blind-folded man Princeton was plainly written, and so we today have the classic name of Princeton for the legal center of Bureau county. Princeton, for many years has enjoyed the distinction of being one of the literary centers of the state. She has the proud record of organizing and putting in successful operation the first township high school in Illinois. It is surely a city of quiet and pleasant homes."
George B. Harrington, Past and Present of Bureau County, 1906

Princeton's former nickname was "The City of Elms" because of the large number of elm trees the city had during the middle of the 20th century. However, an epidemic struck the elm trees of Princeton and killed off almost every elm. The current slogan, "Where Tradition Meets Progress", was adopted in the mid 1960s by a contest among the city's elementary school students. The student who submitted the winning slogan was Maybeth Monroe. (photograph available)


Princeton is located at 41°22′43″N 89°28′1″W / 41.37861°N 89.46694°W / 41.37861; -89.46694 (41.378481, -89.466924).[7]

According to the 2010 census, Princeton has a total area of 7.48 square miles (19.37 km2), all land.[8]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20157,594[9]−0.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[10]
South historic Main Street district in Princeton, Illinois.

As of the census[11] of 2000, there were 7,501 people, 3,263 households, and 1,987 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,114.6 people per square mile (430.3/km²). There were 3,513 housing units at an average density of 522.0 per square mile (201.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.81% White, 0.9939% African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.43% from other races, and 0.64% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.24% of the population.

There were 3,263 households out of which 27.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.6% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.1% were non-families. 35.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 23.6% from 45 to 64, and 21.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 85.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $39,622, and the median income for a family was $50,018. Males had a median income of $38,908 versus $20,784 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,632. About 5.6% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.


View of north historic Main Street district in Princeton, Illinois

Princeton's major employers include L.W. Schneider, Inc. Firearms Components Manufacturer, Ace Hardware Retail Support Center, LCN Closers, (a division of Allegion), MTM Recognition, formerly Josten's, makers of several world championship rings including the 2005 Chicago White Sox, all of the Chicago Bulls Championships, and the 1985 Chicago Bears. Champion Pneumatic manufactures top notch air compressors, Pioneer Hi-Bred International (DuPont Co) and Perry Memorial Hospital.[12]

Princeton's Main Street is lined with independent shops, bars, and restaurants. The south end, or downtown, is the historic retail center of town and still contains the city's only movie theater (The Apollo), the courthouse, historic library, main bank offices, as well as more service-oriented businesses. The north end, also referred to as The Art District, is located about a mile uptown and contains its own business district, park, and the city's train station. In the past several years this area has undergone a transformation with the addition of upscale clothing stores and the restoration of a historic hotel (will become Hotel Knox upon opening).

Major event

Each year the city of Princeton holds its annual Homestead Festival the second weekend in September. There are usually over one hundred entries in the parade. The homestead festival hosts a play that is held throughout the weekend, a beer garden with local bands, children's events, craft show, and tasting booths.[13]


Princeton is located on the south side of Interstate 80 some 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Chicago. U.S. Route 6, U.S. Route 34, and Illinois Route 26 all run through Princeton.

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Princeton, operating the California Zephyr, the Illinois Zephyr, the Carl Sandburg and the Southwest Chief each daily in both directions between Chicago and points west from Princeton (Amtrak station).[14]


Princeton is home to Princeton High School, the oldest township high school in the state, founded in 1867.[15] Its mascot is the Tiger. The high school enrollment fluctuates between 550 and 650 students. The school recently finished adding on an addition to meet the students' needs. The new addition houses a larger library as well as several new classrooms.[15] The school is home to the Frank and Marion Rathje track which hosts high school football and track and field teams from around the region.

Princeton's most famous tradition is the Homestead Festival, which began in 1971, as a celebration of the restoration of the Owen Lovejoy Homestead, and now comprises a weekend of food, celebration, and the famous Homestead Parade, which lasts for over an hour with local floats and performances by outside groups, including the South Shore Drill Team and the Jesse White Tumbling Team.


Princeton's library history dates back to March 1886 when a location for the library was decided upon and secured. The first library was located at the building at what now is 529 South Main Street. In 1890 the Matson Public Library, located on South Main, was first opened for use by the public. It remained in use for 22 years. In 1912 the construction of larger Matson Public Library building was begun. It was located at 15 Park Avenue East. On March 21, 2006, a referendum was passed for the renovation of 698 East Peru Street, formerly known as Bogo's, to become Princeton Public Library. Princeton Public Library opened on August 1, 2007, replacing an older facility, the Matson Public Library, and has a book collection of 45,000 items, with about 27,000 square feet (2,500 m2) of usable space. The library is located on East Peru Street (U.S. Route 6). In March 2009, the Princeton Public Library was one of only three libraries in the state of Illinois to host Between Fences, an exhibit sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibits Service (SITES) and the Illinois Humanities Council. Additional exhibits include Bookstock: Celebrating 40 Years of Woodstock, and Cherry Mine Disaster Revisited, a showcase commemorating the lives lost during the Cherry Mine Disaster of 1909.

Notable people


  1. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  2. 1 2 Bradsby, Henry C. (1885-01-01). History of Bureau County, Illinois. Unigraphic.
  3. Matson, Nehemiah (1872-01-01). Reminiscences of Bureau County [Illinois] in Two Parts. Republican book and job office.
  4. Harrington, George B. (1906-01-01). Past and Present of Bureau County, Illinois: Together with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Prominent and Leading Citizens and Illustrious Dead. Pioneer Publishing Company.
  5. History of Princeton
  6. Past and Present of Bureau County, Illinois: Together with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Prominent and Leading Citizens and Illustrious Dead, Volume 1 by George B. Harrington page 103
  7. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  8. "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  9. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  10. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  11. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  12. "City of Princeton - Major Industries". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  13. "Amtrak - Stations - Princeton, IL (PCT)". Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  14. 1 2 "Princeton High School Student Handbook". Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  15. "Parr Builds a Mission With Words and Technology". Bureau County Republican. 2009-12-28.
  16. "Joseph Ruklick". Retrieved December 3, 2012.
Wikisource has the text of a 1905 New International Encyclopedia article about Princeton, Illinois.
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