Tuesday, October 26, 2010

City of Lights

Paramount Theatre-Aurora, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.

Aurora is the second largest city in Illinois, and is located along the Fox River about 30 miles from Chicago. Officially incorporated in the 1850's, Aurora was one of the first cities in the country to implement all-electric street lighting, and gave itself the nickname "The City of Lights". The city grew quickly, attracting manufacturing and becoming a bit of a railroad hub, featuring a large Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy shop complex, as well as being one of the termini for the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin interurban. The CB&Q roundhouse still stands, as part of the Aurora Transportation Center.

In common with many larger cities, manufacturing started to leave Aurora in the 70's, hastening a decline of the downtown area as shoppers left to go to outlying malls. In 1993 a riverboat casino was built, which started an economic resurgence of the area, particularly around Stolp Island, a resurgence that has continued today.

Pictured here are downtown Aurora's signature buildings-the Paramount Theatre, and the Leland Tower. The Paramount was built in 1931, and was designed by noted theater architects Rapp & Rapp. Over the years it featured stage plays, films, live music, comedy acts, and a variety of other shows, and in 1980 was added to the National Register Of Historic Places.

The Leland was completed in 1938, and was at one time the tallest building in Illinois outside of the city of Chicago. It stands 22 stories and dwarfs everything in the downtown historic district. Originally a hotel, the Leland featured all the amenities of the time, including telephones in every room! The topper-literally and figuratively-was the Sky Club, a luxuriously fitted out dinner and dancing club. It proved to be quite popular, with people coming out from Chicago to enjoy the views afforded by the club's height. By the 1960's the hotel had closed down, and the Leland ultimately became a building of apartments, many of which have those spectacular views of the Fox River Valley that made the Sky Club so popular.

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