Sometimes called "The Soybean Capital of the World" for its significant agricultural production, Decatur is nestled between rich farmland and the shores of Lake Decatur and the Sangamon River. It is the largest city in Macon County, where it serves as the county seat. Founded in 1823, Decatur is named after Stephen Decatur, Jr., the naval hero of the War of 1812.
Decatur's population is about 77,000, with the larger Decatur metropolitan area totaling more than 100,000. The city is moderately diverse, with African Americans and other minorities comprising almost a quarter of the population. The median age of Decatur's residents is 37 years, with 23 percent of adults holding bachelor's degrees or advanced degrees.
Decatur's most famous former resident is Abraham Lincoln, who lived and practiced law here in the 1830s before starting his political career in Springfield. Lincoln argued five cases in the old log courthouse that is now exhibited on the grounds of the Macon County Historical Museum. There are five statues of Lincoln throughout the city.
Decatur has been home to several other famous residents:
The city has a mostly urban population of 76,674 people. The estimated rural population of the city is around 260. The city accommodates around 37,260 houses with 34,130 houses occupied. Renters occupy around 11,445 houses and owners occupy about 22,680 houses. The average housing density for the city is 900 houses per square mile.
Decatur has experienced the same developmental sprawl issues as any other small city. Fortunately for those in the downtown area and on college campuses, a bus-trolley system offers a viable alternative to sitting in traffic. The vibrant downtown area, with its restored older homes and scenic, tree-lined streets, retains its historic charm. The community comes together every year for the downtown Decatur Celebration, the biggest free street festival in the state of Illinois, with live music, food stands, and family games and activities.
In addition to the downtown area, Decatur is made up of several neighborhoods:
Decatur's biggest corporate citizen is Archer Daniels Midland Co., the giant producer of agricultural chemicals and feed that is headquartered here. Tate & Lyle, another international feed and food ingredients major, also has a base in Decatur. Caterpillar builds heavy-duty off-road trucks at its Decatur plant. In the medical sector, Decatur Memorial and St. Mary's hospitals are regional leaders in health care.
Decatur, the original home of the Chicago Bears from 1919 to 1920, is a city with a great appreciation for local sports and outdoor recreation of all sorts. The MidState Soccer Club is based here, and the local men's fast-pitch softball teams have won several national championships. Every July, residents compete in an annual sprint-distance triathlon, and later in the season, male tennis players come from all over the world to compete in the USTA/Ursula Beck Pro Tennis Classic.
Scenic spots in the region include Lake Decatur, Lincoln Trail Homestead State Memorial, Rock Springs Conservation Area, Friends Creek Regional Park, and Spitler Woods State Natural Area.
Several publications serve Decatur residents: the daily Herald & Review, weeklies Decatur Tribune and The Voice, and the bimonthly Decatur Magazine.
Decatur is home to private Millikin University (with about 2,400 students) and public Richland Community College (with about 3,500 students).
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