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Alton's rich history

From its notable people in music and height, to a history filled with underground railroads and haunts

ALTON, Ill — Join the Today in St. Louis team at Alton Post Commons on Feb. 7 at 8 a.m. for TISL Town!

Things have a way of slowing down in the winter time. The cold tends to do that. But it’s the cold and what it brings, that has people flocking to Alton. The city is nestled along the tranquil Mississippi River.

From its notable people in music and height, to a history filled with underground railroads and haunts.  

From downtown St. Louis, it’s about a 30 minute drive. 

The Clark Bridge will drop you in Alton, which is home to 28,000 people. You can’t miss the big welcome with the American flag painted on the side of Ardent Mills. Inside, some 90 workers knead through over 2 million pounds of flour a day for pizza, cookies, crackers and more. Right next door is the Argosy Casino where gamblers have been testing their luck for almost 30 years. 

This time of year though, it’s the eagle watchers who win big. The Locks and Dam is a great place to spot one. Why is there such a huge concentration of bald eagles in Alton? Well, the open waters from the Missouri, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers coming together make it a prime location for the migrating eagles looking for fish.   

Brett Stawar with Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau says, “We actually have the highest concentrations of wintering eagles throughout the united states.” 

If you enjoy going for a drive, then you must cruise down Great River Road. The scenic route goes for 33 miles with stunning views of the mighty Mississippi and breathtaking limestone bluffs. When you’re there, be sure to stop to read about the Piasa Bird. Legend has it - the dragon like creature devoured men hundreds of years ago.  

Alton has earned the title of one of America’s most haunted small towns. People have reported hearing and seeing strange things at the old McPike Mansion, Milton School and First Unitarian Church. 

You can see for yourself by taking a haunted tour or you can go below ground to explore the underground railroads that helped slaves escape to their freedom. In fact, Alton was home to abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy. Lovejoy was a journalist and minister who was shot and killed by a pro-slavery mob in 1837. 

Some other notable people who were born in Alton include jazz musician Miles Davis and Robert Wadlow. Wadlow was the world’s tallest man and stood at 8 feet, 11 inches tall. 

One place that is a staple of the city is Fast Eddies. It is known to have the coldest beer in town. If you’re into the craft beer, you’ll want to check the Old Bakery Beer Company. 

There are so many reasons to come to Alton. The Riverfront Amphitheater, the marina, a future riverboat cruise and a downtown that’s making a huge comeback thanks to some dedicated locals and $75 million from the Simmons’ family. 

The Simmons’ and Alton Works are dedicated to revitalizing the city into a destination. The Simmons’ donated the beautiful Old Post Office building to Hugh Halter who transformed the historical space into a coffee and brunch ‘living room’ as he calls it. It even has a beautiful event space. 

Halter said, “I’ve seen people walk in the door and start crying because they remember what it was. I don’t know if there will be a town in the Midwest, maybe in the country that is on the upswing like Alton. I think Alton is going to be the place to be at least in this area.” 

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