Friday, May 17, 2013

This Is Quincy, Illinois

Quincy IL.  I'd never even heard of this town until I went searching for a half marathon in this state and found the Bridge the Gap Half Marathon, benefiting Quincy Catholic Charities MedAssist Program.  It's a nice loop course, walking distance to a hotel, walker-friendly (which would mean that even for us slow runners, the course won't shut down before I get to the finish line); not too small, not too big.  I'd eliminated several other IL races, ones that were up closer to Chicago, and settled on this one. 

So now here I am, in a town I'd never heard of before but which has plenty of charm and history. 

I left home Wednesday early morning and made it as far as Joplin MO for the night.  The next morning I didn't need to get such an early start, as I was only little more than 300 miles from my destination - Quincy IL.  However, I did view my estimated time of arrival - both the Garmin GPS calculation and the mapping softward calculation - with a heavy dose of skepticism.  After all, I would only be on the interstate for the first 100 miles and those remaining 200 miles looked like they'd all be on secondary roads through rural Missouri.  But I was quite pleasantly surprised when US 54 turned into a limited-access divided highway once I got a few miles north of Lebanon MO.  I made good time. 

Then my route took me north on state highway H.  Oh, the irony!!  Here I am in a big SUV - albeit a Mazda zoom zoom SUV - and I'm driving 20 miles on one of the best motorcycle roads in the area!  Dips, whoops, blind corners, quick S-curves, elevation changes.

Then it was a rather pedestrian drive on US 36 to US 24 until I crossed the Mississippi River on a kick-butt bridge and was dropped into the center of downtown Quincy. 

I did a little exploring of the downtown area and walked down to the river to get some photos of these two bridges.  We'll be running across these two bridges in the race on Saturday. 

The race route immediately sends us across this bridge into Missouri

Our race route will then immediately bring us back into town on this bridge

Washington Square - the town square in center of town.
This town was first settled by a New Yorker in 1818 and by the mid-1800's was a key hub for river and rail traffic.  It played a role in the Civil War as a Union army transport center and as a key Underground Railroad starting point for slaves escaping neighboring Missouri.  It also offered safe shelter to thousands of fleeing Mormons who were driven out of Missouri.  Brief History of Quincy.

So because of the age of the city, there is some fantastic architecture in the downtown area and a beautiful town square - formerly Adams Square, now Washington Square - that was platted as a square from the very beginnings of the town.

Beautiful art deco building on northeast corner of town square.

Old cinema on north side of town square

Masonic Temple

canopies on this building feature green leaded glass,
the same type of leaded glass that appears on the
Masonic Temple front canopy. 

During the Civil War, Quincy became the first stop along the Underground Railroad in Illinois, as slaves fled across the river from Missouri to escape their bondage in a slave state. 

A block south of the town square is an historic house built by Dr. Richard Eels, an active abolitionist in the 1840's.  The home is on the National Park Service's Underground Railroad trail and his story is here.

Dr. Richard Eels House


Friday morning I got in my car and drove to another historic district in town, the East End Historic District, where a treasure trove of beautiful architectural jewels still reside.  Big stately homes set on large swaths of lawn and shaded by mature deciduous and evergreen trees.  The corners of Maine St and 16th is purported to be the epicenter of this district.  Here are three of the homes located at this intersection.

I had lunch at a little brew pub on the square, O'Griff's Grill and Brewhouse.  A great italian pasta soup and some not-so-great chicken wings that were drowning in sauce and pretty much inedible. 

After lunch I walked down to another historic district, the Southside German Historic District, not too far from the hotel.   The old Dick Brothers Brewery is located in this district.  It is said that in its heydey, Dick Bros Brewery was larger than Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis.  Many things - prohibition, depression, war - led to the downfall of Dick Bros and it closed in 1951.  It's a neat pile of old red brick today and I was really taken by how each building was purpose-built.  Note the brick names at the top of each building (click on each picture for larger view).
Dick Brothers Quincy Brewery Co.

Bottle House

Brew House & Storage House

Stock House
After this little walk south of the hotel, I turned around and continued to north of the town square to the Kroc Community Center to pick up my race packet, then returned to the hotel to relax for the rest of the afternoon.

Tomorrow morning:  Race day!!


  1. I too had never heard of Quincy before but it sounds as though it is really steeped in history. In a good way since connected to the underground railroad.

    Thanks for the tour - the old home and brick are gorgeous.

  2. You said and I'm driving 20 miles on one of the best motorcycle roads in the area!

    Time to get that Mini and you won't feel so guilty when you are driving around the county for your runs. Nice read and pic