We arrived at my sister's house in Springfield, Illinois Sunday night. We're staying with her and her family - husband Joey and kids Sarah, Jack, and Natalie - as we explore some towns in Illinois. It's great to see them all again. We took a drive through a nearby nature preserve at dusk and saw a number of deer and raccoons.
This twin set of towns came up as a Best Place to Live in some research. Almost everyone around here we mention it to immediately offers, "You could work for State Farm." The insurer is based in Bloomington as are Illinois State University, and Illinois Wesleyan. We found a decent downtown with some older houses for good prices ($110,000-$130,000). There is also a busy mall/retail drag with many office parks. On the edge of the area by the I-55 are new construction homes that run $200,000-plus. Overall, a pleasant place. We didn't see anything to dissuade us, nor anything to get us really excited.
As we came in from the East on I-74 the landscape dropped down to accommodate the Illinois River Valley and a skyline arose in the distance. As we drove through downtown, it looked healthy. There was redevelopment, including a new minor league baseball stadium that the Bradley University baseball team also shares. As we began to look at housing, we found a bluff overlooking the river with a handful of mansions. After that, everything we looked at was poverty-stricken. We kept searching for healthy neighborhoods but had little success. After initial hope, we added Peoria to the Not Interested list.
Just southwest of Peoria is a smaller town where I used to go with my Dad as a kid for his high school team's holiday basketball tournaments. Pekin has renamed its high school mascot The Dragons replacing an inappropriate moniker tied to similarity of their town name to Beijing, China's old name, Peking. There's a nice park on the Illinois River and a classic downtown. However, no college.
Today we'll explore more of Springfield.