History of Downtown Carbondale

Growth Chart of Carbondale


Comments from:

Former City Manager Jeff Doherty

In the late 1970’s, the City received a federal grant to acquire property in Downtown Carbondale that would be granted to a private developer for a hotel conference center. In addition, the City planned a parking garage to support the hotel conference center. The hotel conference center was planned on the block now occupied by the City Hall/Civic Center and the Walnut Baptist Church. The City’s parking garage was planned on the block to the south bordered by Walnut, Illinois Avenue, University Avenue and Elm Street.  Read More ........

Comments from 1990-2000 Downtown Committee Member Gail White

The IC Division Office building burned in 1986 as a result of an arsonist. My understanding was that someone left Tres Hombres, went across the street and set fire to the building. We were out of town that night, returning home rather late. As we drove towards Carbondale from the east, the sky was brightly lit up by the blaze. The building was of wood-frame construction. The original 1899 building was expanded - the following article indicates that construction of the expansion was underway in 1922. Read more .......


In August 1852, Daniel Harmon Brush, John Asgill Conner and Dr. William Richart bought 360 acres of land along the right-of-way for the Illinois Central Railroad with the intention of founding a new town. The site chosen was conveniently located between Marion and Murphysboro and between proposed railroad stations at Makanda and DeSoto. The town was platted on November 27, 1852. Not only was the railroad the determining factor in the location of Carbondale, it was to be of great importance in the development of the town and of Southern Illinois. Read More on the Railroad and its part in the development of downtown.......

The Following is a chart showing the growth of several Southern Illinois communities (See legend at right within graph) from 1850 - 2010.


Downtown Home Page>

Quick Facts

 Photo circa 1990 in front of the ICRailroad Warehouse

The 1990-2000 Downtown Master Plan is avaible in (pdf) to view.


  • Combine the city hall and civic center into an integrated structure on Parcel A at Illinois and Walnut. Develop a garage as part of the complex after conducting a feasibility study to determine its size and means of financing.
  • Reserve Parcel B for construction of a new hotel; reserve the option to expand Parcel B, if required by the hotel developer/operator.
  • Rehabilitate the old depot for retail/restaurant use; encourage additional retail activities on the east side of Illinois between Walnut and Monroe, and on the west side between Monroe and Main Street; market the retail complex as an intown "period" shopping complex.
  • As local market conditions permit, consider providing a recreation/ entertainment center-a nonalcoholic gathering place for juveniles and young adults. Also encourage development of an arts and crafts center to contain both studio and retail space in proximity to the hotel.
  • Create an "Old Town Square" in the four parcels at the intersection of the Illinois Central Railroad and Main Street. Develop the square with park land and well-landscaped parking lots.
  • Install street lighting using fixtures with a historic theme in the downtown area north of Elm to reinforce the historic character of buildings, and contemporary lighting fixtures south of Elm compatible with the character of the retail area serving the university community.
  • Undertake a street improvement program through planting of street trees, installation of unifying canopies, and reconstruction of damaged sidewalks. Special attention should be given to improving "entrance" intersections with special street paving and street trees/landscaping. Brick sidewalk pavements should be used to link key downtown focal points, such as the city hall/civic center and the Old Town Square complex.
  • Utilize the excess railroad right-of-way for a linear vehicular parking system served by crossing streets and a continuous pedestrian/bicycle path from Grand to Oak.
  • If parking demands in the South Illinois corridor remain unmet, encourage the development of a parking garage with ground-level retail space by the private sector, the City, and the university.
  • Designate a permanent civic body to guide implementation of the downtown development plan
  • Emphasize development of high-priority, Phase 1 projects: the city hall/civic center complex, Old Town Square, the garage adjacent to the city hall/civic center complex, and parking in the South Illinois corridor.
  • Promote use of the Enterprise Zone to encourage private investment in property development and rehabilitation.
  • Explore the use of a variety of other financing tools to provide funds for investment in the public infrastructure and stimulation of private development.


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