Quincy, Illinois, known as the “Gem City”, is a city on the Mississippi River and county seat of Adams County, Illinois, United States. As of the 2000 census the city had 40,366 people. The community is a river city and was built on top of the bluffs. Quincy serves as the economic and cultural hub of West-Central Illinois and is the primary city of the Quincy, IL–MO Micropolitan Statistical Area.
During the 1800s the city was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It also sheltered hundreds of Mormons during their exile from Missouri. Today, Quincy is a thriving mid-sized industrial city that prides itself on its German heritage as well as its artistic expressions.
Quincy sits on the banks of the Mississippi River. For centuries the site was home to Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo Native American tribes.
Quincy’s European-American founder, John Wood, came west from Moravia, New York, in 1818 and settled in the Illinois Military Tract. Wood purchased 160 acres from a veteran for $60. The next year he became the first settler in what was originally called “Bluffs”, and by 1825 would be known as Quincy. Wood was elected Lieutenant Governor of Illinois in 1856. He became Governor in 1860 upon the death of elected Governor William Henry Bissell.
In 1825 Quincy became the Adams County seat, both named in honor of the newly-elected U.S. President, John Quincy Adams. The town square was originally named John Square (to complete the name John Quincy Adams) on April 30, 1825, but was eventually renamed Washington Square.
Quincy’s earliest 19th century settlers were primarily from New England, Yankees who moved west in a continuing search for good land. They brought a culture of progressive values, such as support for public education. In the 1840s they were joined by a wave of German immigrants, who left Europe after the Revolutions in German provinces. The new residents brought with them much needed skills for the expanding community.
Over the past several decades, the city has worked to redevelop Quincy while holding onto its German roots. It has identified several historic districts within the city and created an extensive park system. Quincy is known for having a large population of dogwoods and has been a member of Tree City USA since 1986. Quincy is the home to many performing arts organizations including the Quincy Symphony Orchestra, Quincy Community Theater and the Muddy River Opera Company.
As Quincy’s population exploded during the mass migration from Germany, its culture was changed by the new immigrants, who brought styles of their home country. The South Side German Historic District has much of the city’s historical architecture. Other significant buildings exist: Temple B’nai Sholom is one of America’s earliest Moorish Revival synagogues. The Quincy Museum located on historic Maine Street was featured on a cover of National Geographic as one of the ten most architecturally significant corners in the United States. From 14th to 24th streets, Maine Street is notable for the number of restored homes dating back to the 1800s.
The Villa Katherine Castle is a small Moroccan-styled castle situated on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. It is a rarity to find an example of Mediterranean architecture in the Midwest.
The “Gem City” has been twice recognized as an All-American City. It has a range of architecture, including several Gothic style churches. The city is home to Quincy University, a Catholic Franciscan College founded in 1860, John Wood Community College, and several other smaller colleges.