The original village of Utica grew along the north bank of the Illinois River near the site of the Native American village of the Kaskaskia. At one time, the town was named Science, Illinois, however, with the construction of the Illinois-Michigan Canal in the 1830s and the regular river flooding, businesses and residents relocated closer to the new waterway. This new area was called North Utica, which is the proper, but little used, name of the present village. Locals refer to it as simply Utica.
With the completion of the hand-dug, 96-mile I&M Canal, in 1848, trade opened up new opportunities for many entrepreneurs. The I&M Canal stretched from present-day Chicago to LaSalle, and was one of the reasons that North Utica began to grow through the sale of such natural resources as clay, St. Peter’s sand and hydraulic limestone. Brick making also became an important early industry of North Utica because of valuable clay and sand deposits.
Nestled along the Illinois River, Utica has long been a place to enjoy nature. It is located minutes away from three (3) State Parks: Starved Rock State Park, Buffalo Rock State Park and Illini State Park. Native Americans lived along the banks of the river near Utica for thousands of years. French Explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette told stories of the area when they visited the Kaskaskia tribe in their Great Village.
Utica experienced an F3 tornado on April 20, 2004 and 8 people lost their lives during the storm. The storm did heavy damage to the town too, and clean up and rebuilding took many years to complete.
Local attractions include Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort, Starved Rock State Park, The Hegeler Carus Mansion, The Reddick Mansion, The Illinois Waterway Visitor Center and The LaSalle Canal Boat. Many visitors enjoy the local shopping, area wineries and ample selection of local restaurants.
Utica is the location of the annual Burgoo Festival on Columbus Day weekend in October. The Burgoo Festival is a fundraising event hosted by the LaSalle County Historical Society. Over 350 vendors set up booths to sell their wares and over 35,000 people attend the annual event. This year, Utica’s annual Burgoo Festival will be held on Saturday, October 12, 2019 (limited vendors), with the main event being held on Sunday, October 13, 2019. For more information about Utica’s Annual Burgoo Festival, click HERE.
Additional history of Utica and the surrounding region can be studied at the Utica Public Library located at Mill and Grove Streets and at the LaSalle County Historical Museum housed in a former I&M Canal warehouse located at Mill & Canal Streets, both in the heart of downtown Utica.
Visit the Village of Utica, Illinois’ website.