Historic Macomb in McDonough County, Illinois

Macomb and McDonough County have played a significant role in the history of the state of Illinois and to the history of agriculture, academics, architecture, manufacturing and even the law.

One of the first places you should visit is the Western Illinois Museum at 201 S. Lafayette, just a block away from Macomb's historic courthouse square in downtown Macomb. Learn about current and past exhibitions, the artifact of the month and see upcoming events and educational programs. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am - 4pm. For more information, call the museum at (309) 837-2750.

One of our best-known historic buildings is City Hall. Tourists appreciate the vintage photographs and turn-of-the-century architecture.

The courthouse, still in use today, is on the Register of Historic Places and is an example of Second Empire Revival architecture and is built with limestone and red brick. The original Mansard Roof was replaced in 1890.

In fact, the whole town square is being preserved as an historical district. There are many shops, restaurants and bars to keep you entertained, well fed and to quench your thirst during your stay.

Downstate Illinois History

Macomb was founded in 1830 as the McDonough county seat and was named after General Alexander Macomb, a general in the War of 1812.

The town began to grow when the Northern Cross Railroad was built, connecting Macomb to destinations all over the Midwest, in 1855. Later, the Macomb and Western Illinois Railway began service January 1, 1904, connecting the towns of Littleton and Industry, a providing transportation for livestock and goods.

Over the years, the railroad owned 7 locomotives, 8 freight cars and 4 passenger cars. Traces of the old railroad are still visible. An historic railroad depot, built in 1913, is located just north of Chandler Park.

Western Illinois State Normal School was founded in 1899 on land donated by Illinois Freemason's Lodge #17 and eventually became a teacher's college and ultimately Western Illinois University. Today WIU offers a wide variety curricula among its four colleges, 71 undergraduate majors and 51 degree programs.

There are numerous ghost stories associated with residence halls at WIU! Simpkins Hall is believed to be haunted by a young boy or girl and also “Harold,” supposedly a former janitor graduate assistant.

Macomb's Tinsley Flour Mill was known for the quality flour they produced, which was sent distributed across the Midwest, particularly in St. Louis. Brick manufacturing and a woolen mill were early Macomb industries.

Historic Barn Tours

Agriculture has played a major role in Macomb's history and historic barn tours are popular with many visitors and make a great activity for anyone passing through or staying in the area. You can spend an hour on the tour or make it a weekend!

Almost thirty barns dating from the early part of the 20th century remain standing today. While some have been well maintained and restored others stand in silent tribute to an era when butter was churned on the porch and dirt roads were for getting to and from.

Round Barns, Gambrels And Other Styles

The barns are of various styles from gambrels, to half pitch, to stick. A true round barn is very unusual and we have a great example of one that is on the National Historic Register. The Clarence Kleinkopf Round Barn, near Colchester, was built in 1914 and is featured on our Historic Barn Tour.

Since many of the barns are on private property, we ask all to respect the owner's privacy and take photos from the road. The barns are part of self-guided tours and may be done anytime during the year.

To get a copy of the Historic Barn Brochure contact our office via email: macvb@macomb.com. We'll need your name, and address. The historic Barn Tour is a great option for tour buses and school buses!

Macomb Trivia - Notable Macombians

Actors John Mahoney (Frasier) and Michael Boatman (Spin City, Arli$$) hail from Macomb. Boatman attended Western Illinois University, while Mahoney taught English at WIU in the early 1970's.

Authors Joe Garner, Michael Norman and Dr. Henry Wells paths included stays in Macomb, as has writer Todd Purdom, who went on the write for Vanity Fair and the New York Times. Screenwriter Marcus Dunston was born in Macomb and worked in the local movie theatre, which no-doubt influenced his career choices.

Jazz tenor, saxophonist and bandleader Al Sears was born in Macomb, and his life and career is celebrated annually at the Al Sears Jazz Festival and Gazebo Arts Festival in September.

Civil rights leader and author C.T. Vivian attended high school and college in Macomb.

If you find yourself hungry after taking in historical Macomb, you'll find this list of restaurants in Macomb useful! We have dining for all tastes and budgets!

Looking for more fun in Macomb? Check out our list of Events. There's almost always something going on!

More of what to do in Macomb? Click here!

Need a hotel room for the night or two? Click here for Macomb overnight accommodations.

Make It Macomb!