A far-western suburb of Chicago, St. Charles is an affluent community that straddles the Fox River. Affection for the river runs deep-the city's official slogan is "Pride of the Fox." Several festivals and other events are held on the riverfront each year. The development boom came somewhat late to St. Charles. While many cities experienced a housing boom post World War II, St. Charles had not extended for more than a mile in any direction from its historic center as late as 1970. By the 1980s and 1990s, however, St. Charles had been discovered, and subdivisions sprouted up on both sides of the Fox River as well as to the north and south of the city center. The population-which had been 9,269 in 1960-had almost tripled to 27,896 by 2000. Today, the city has an estimated population of more than 32,000.
About 69 percent of St. Charles housing is occupied by owners, with another 26 percent occupied by renters. Many renters live in St. Charles's Historic Center, an area filled with smaller historic homes built before 1939. This area is a treat for history buffs; the city managed to retain dozens of its early homes and businesses, with several structures dating from the 1800s. Many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This historic neighborhood straddles the Fox River and tends to be pedestrian-friendly, with an artsy vibe and clusters of antique shops and boutiques. The city's more expensive homes cluster on the north side. The large Novak Park/Five Island Park area on the city's northwest side holds quiet neighborhoods with houses of at least three bedrooms and on the newer side, with most homes built after 1970. This family-oriented area is mostly filled with single-family homes. The city's northeast side, on the east side of the Fox River, has a similar makeup to the city's northwest side, although it does tend to have more renters and occupants of more mixed ages with fewer families. The Rainbow Hills area of the city, in its southwestern corner, has mostly smaller single-family homes with one or two bedrooms. The quiet neighborhood attracts owners and renters who tend to be of mixed ages. The city's southeastern corner, on the east side of the Fox River, is quiet and family-oriented and mostly comprised of medium-sized houses occupied by owners.
In contrast to its current wealthy inhabitants, early St. Charles residents were largely drawn by the abundant factory work in the city. Many mills and factories once lined the Fox River, taking advantage of its waterpower. The factory work drew hundreds of Swedish immigrants, as well as a significant number of Lithuanians, Belgians, and Danes. Since then, of course, major economic changes have come to St. Charles. The factories have disappeared and made way for a largely service-based economy. More than 2,100 businesses currently call St. Charles home and employ more than 34,000 people. The largest area employer is the local school district; other employers include System Sensor, R.R. Donnelley, Omron Automotive Electronics, and Armour Eckrich St. Charles.
City residents are largely white (almost 94 percent) with almost 2 percent African American and nearly 2 percent Asian. Generally speaking, residents also tend to be quite wealthy. Per capita income was nearly $34,000 in 2000; this equates to an annual income of more than $135,000 for a family of four. St. Charles boasts a mixed white- and blue-collar workforce. However, its population is also very well-educated, with 43 percent of the residents having at least a college degree. Statistically, St. Charles workers tend to work in sales, in office jobs- or as managers. St. Charles is popular with families-about 36 percent of residents have children under 18 living with them. The average family size is 3.13. St. Charles enjoys a great deal of age diversity, with almost 55 percent of the population ranging from 25 to 64 years old.
River View Miniature Golf: The 18-hole mini golf course features an interactive babbling brook, a lighthouse, bridges and-of course-the mini-golf staple, the windmill. The course also offers scenic views of the Fox River.
Skate Parks: The St. Charles Park District has two skate parks, each featuring several trick surfaces. One park also allows bikes on certain days of the week.
St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboats: Daily sightseeing trips glide up and down the Fox River.
Shopping: St. Charles is widely known for its antiques shops and specialty boutiques, and the historic downtown area has many with charming specialty stores. The Kane County Flea Market is open monthly, and St. Charles is conveniently located near the Charlestowne Mall in Geneve, the Geneve Commons and the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall.
Pride of the Fox RiverFest: This festival spreads throughout downtown as well as on the riverfront, and features various entertainment, including water ski shows and sand sculptures.
Kane County Fair: Held each July at the Kane County Fairgrounds, this traditional county fair features demolition derbies, rodeos, rides and more.
Scarecrow Festival: Attendees of this October festival vote on scores of handcrafted scarecrows in dozens of categories.
St. Charles Fine Art Show: This yearly event features original artwork by artists from around the country.
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