Marseilles, Illinois 

Becoming a Destination!

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Marseilles, Illinois

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Lovell Kimball arrived at the area along the Illinois River known as the Grand Rapids in 1833 from Watertown, New York. Kimball, aware that the Illinois-Michigan Canal Bill had passed and the canal would eventually reach the rapids, hired a surveyor to lay out a town. Kimball called the town Marseilles in reference to the French city of Marseille as he hoped it would become a similar industrial center in Illinois. Marseilles, pronounced the same as the French city, was officially platted on June 3, 1835; the plat was revised twice for railroad and canal right-of-ways.[6]


In 1921 the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) built an eight-story corrugated cardboard box production plant in Marseilles, the largest industrial building in the state (outside of Chicago) at the time, and the first air-conditioned factory in the Midwest. Nabisco was a major employer in the area but ceased production at the plant in 2002.[7]

Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial

In 2004 the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial was dedicated to the service men and women who gave their lives fighting in US wars anywhere in the Middle East.[8] The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial is the first US memorial to servicemen dedicated while an actual war was ongoing. Currently, the earliest names on the wall are from 1967 commemorating the deaths during the USS Liberty incident.[9]

Andrew Bacevich, American historian, felt that all presidential candidates should visit Marseilles, commenting that "Just as there are all-but-mandatory venues in Iowa and New Hampshire where candidates are expected to appear, why not make Marseilles, Illinois, one as well. Let all of the candidates competing to oust Donald Trump from the White House (their ranks now approaching two dozen) schedule at least one campaign stop at the Middle East Conflicts Wall, press entourage suitably in tow." Andrew Bacevich lost his son in Iraq, his son's name is included in the monument.[10]


In 2016, Marseilles resident Seattle Sutton founded a community museum, located in the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad building. Its collection includes historical items from the Nabisco factory, other Marseilles businesses, and archived recordings of Marseilles war veterans.[11]

Illinois and Michigan Canal 

The Illinois and Michigan Canal connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. In Illinois, it ran 96 miles (154 km) from the Chicago River in BridgeportChicago to the Illinois River at LaSalle-Peru. The canal crossed the Chicago Portage, and helped establish Chicago as the transportation hub of the United States, before the railroad era. It was opened in 1848. Its function was partially replaced by the wider and deeper Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900, and it ceased transportation operations with the completion of the Illinois Waterway in 1933.

Illinois and Michigan Canal Locks and Towpath, a collection of eight engineering structures and segments of the canal between Lockport and LaSalle-Peru, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.[1][3][4]

Portions of the canal have been filled in.[1] Much of the former canal, near the Heritage Corridor transit line, has been preserved as part of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.

In the 1800s Canals were an important mode of transportation. The Illinois and Michigan Canal connected the Mississippi Basin to the Great Lakes Basin. The potential canal route influenced Illinois's north border. The Erie Canal and the Illinois and Michigan Canal cemented cultural and trade ties to the Northeast rather than the South. Before the canal, agriculture in the region was limited to subsistence farming. The canal made agriculture in northern Illinois profitable by opening connections to eastern markets.

Many towns in Northern Illinois owe their existence directly to the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Lockport, Morris, Ottawa, and LaSalle were platted by the Canal Commissioners to raise funds for the canal's construction. 


The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Depot in Marseilles, Illinois is a historic train station built in 1917. It was in operation as a rail depot until 1974. The depot was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

The Marseilles Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Depot was constructed in 1917 after citizens in the city won a 40-year battle with the railroad and a U.S. circuit court ordered a new station be built. The 1917 station replaced a smaller, wooden station built in 1867. The station was in operation until 1974 and was sold to a private business owner in 1984.[2]

Since 2016 the depot is home to the Marseilles Museum. Several museum exhibits are dedicated to depot history.