Springfield urban issues
Here you will find articles about land use, zoning and building regulations, traffic engineering, urban renewal, economic development, parks and green spaces, and cityscapes in Illinois's capital city.
People who don't know it should be aware that "Springfield" is an urban-ish agglomeration of some 120,000 people, of which the City of Springfield is the largest part. Often classed as a medium-sized city for analytic purposes, it is in fact a small city even by U.S. standards. Thus its enduring political tension: Should Springfield stay a small town or turn itself into a proper city? Its many immigrant small-towners from elsewhere Downstate seem to prefer that it stay a small town (albeit one with jobs and better shopping), while its sizable faction of cosmopolites (many of them professionals and public servants who have emigrated from bigger places) wish it to be more urban. The problem is that Springfield is too big to be a good small town and too small to be a good city, so nobody's happy.
I wrote about urban issues in the capital for 40 years. (It was my exasperation about a plan to rebuild Capitol Avenue that enticed me to resume columnizing for Illinois Times after a 15-year hiatus.) Nothing I wrote made any difference, which a visit to the city will confirm.
In part because of a lack of a consensus about the ends of growth, development policy has been left by default to the town's developers. Sprawl is apparently unstoppable; the city occupies nearly three times more land than it did four decades ago, having spread out from 21.5 square miles in 1960 to 67.2 square miles in 2020, during a period when population grew by only 37 percent. Springfield may never become the big city that its boosters once dreamed of, or a better one, but it was becoming a wide one. Since then the city has stagnated in every other way.
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The new Capitol Avenue doesn’t get us where we want to go
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times July 30, 2009
Road to nowhere: Part II
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times August 6, 2016
Cities don’t make floods but they make them worse
"Prejudices" Illinois Times July 21, 1993
Union Square Park in not-quite-urban Springfield
Illinois Times August 6, 1987
A 1924 plan for building a new Springfield
"Prejudices" Illinois Times April 28, 1993
Why Springfield is helpless to stop the UP
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times September 17, 2009
Can a roundabout stop accidents at Lawrence and MacArthur?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times December 3, 2009
Springfield’s lazy, hazy, razing days of summer
"Prejudices" Illinois Times July 24, 1981
State government makes Springfield safe for cars
"Forum" Illinois Times January 15, 1976
God approves more parking for Springfield
“Prejudices” Illinois Times July 21, 1978
A step toward a new downtown Springfield
“Prejudices” Illinois Times August 12, 1977
Springfield un-malls the town square
“Prejudices” Illinois Times September 26, 1991
The Y Block: A saga of undevelopment
Springfield’s grandest hotel dies prematurely
"Prejudices" Illinois Times December 7, 1978
The end of the Hotel Abraham Lincoln
"Prejudices" Illinois Times December 22, 1978
Planning for a courts complex that won’t be built
“Prejudices” Illinois Times October 8, 1981
How to turn the Y block into a “why not?” block
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times July 17, 2014
Why not a Y block wetland?
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times September 4, 2014
Is the city smart enough to pull off the Y block deal?
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times September 22, 2016
The newest idea for the Y block is the worst yet
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times February 2, 2017
The latest Y block plans are revealed
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times May 25, 2017
Soft alternatives to soft-headed flood control
“Prejudices” Illinois Times July 29, 1993
Why Springfield street improvements seldom were
“Prejudices” Illinois Times August 13, 1992
Building highways out of habit
“Prejudices” Illinois Times November 30, 1979
A bigger, not better, capitol complex
“Prejudices” Illinois Times September 15, 1983
The state moves in. There goes the neighborhood
“Prejudices” Illinois Times February 22, 1980
Building walls and street spaces in Springfield
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times May 2, 2013
Lost vistas in the capital city
"Prejudices" Illinois Times February 4, 1988
Spot zoning nibbles away at the capital city
"Prejudices" Illinois Times December 8, 1988
Civic ugliness as economic development issue
"Prejudices" Illinois Times May 5, 1983
Cars wage war on buildings in the capital city
Illinois Times November 12, 1976
Making a new down of Springfield's old buildings
“Prejudices” Illinois Times February 18, 1993
Springfield's downtown gets out of bed, walks
“Prejudices” Illinois Times October 29, 1981
The frontier impulse unsettles metropolitan Springfield
Illinois Times June 29, 1979
Downtown Springfield tries respectability
“Prejudices” Illinois Times May 15, 1981
Panhandling as protected speech
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times August 27, 2015
How might Illinois towns boost population growth?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times January 12, 2017
The noise from boom cars is confusing Springfield aldermen
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times May 20, 2010
The newest draft city plan is a good one
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times January 4, 2018
Can a city planner make Springfield love planning?
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times May 21, 2015
Aldermen call Bluffstone’s bluff
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times June 25, 2015
Anti-urban Urban Renewal
Horace Mann's HQ looks better at 39 than its neighborhood
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times July 28, 2011
Enticing trained brains back to Springfield
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times October 13, 2011
Springfield parking lots are looking (a little) better
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times November 17, 2011
Making Springfield’s center a neighborhood
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times February 23, 2012
Will a transit center take Springfield where it wants to go?
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times March 29, 2012
Building real urbanism in the medical district
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times May 10, 2012
Downtown redevelopment in its metropolitan context
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times June 21, 2012
What does it really cost to commute?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times August 25, 2011
Who pays for Springfield’s low-priced housing?
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times February 3, 2011
Might an informal “street” network help heal South MacArthur?
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times October 18, 2012
What to do when White Oaks is gone
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times June 14, 2012
Was rezoning for another supermarket in the city's interest?
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times June 28, 2012
Good for the City of Springfield, Yes, but for the City?
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times July 26, 2012
Should Griffin Woods be spared “development”?
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times July 12, 2012
The SMTD and the American bias against experts
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times September 27, 2012
The Springfield Rail Improvements Project gets stuck on a siding
“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times October 11, 2012
Who pays for Springfield’s low-priced housing?
Illinois Times February 3, 2011
Hope v. reality regarding Springfield growth
“Prejudices” Illinois Times April 21, 1978
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Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.
One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.
See Home Page/Learn/
Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.
The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.
The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.
A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.
Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."
Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards, posters, and videos.
The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.
“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered."
The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like.
The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly.
An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than
Southern Illinois University Press 2017
A work of solid history, entertainingly told.
author of Abraham
Lincoln: A Life
One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.
Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018
A lively and engaging study . . . an enthralling narrative.
The Annals of Iowa
A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians
as well as local historians generally.
Journal of Illinois HIstory
A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.
A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.
Journal of the Illinois
State Historical Society
to read about
to buy the book
SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.
The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more. Of particular note are its Prairie State Books, quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.
The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to
The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.
Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order
by book title.
Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.
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