Alton Museum of History & Art
MUSEUM TEMPORARILY CLOSED
The City of Alton has been a crossroads of history for many centuries. Before America, Native American tribes lived in the future Alton area for thousands of years; the Native Illini purportedly fought a mystical winged creature called the Piasa Bird long before the arrival of Europeans. A French settlement was built in 1783 by Frenchman Jean Baptiste Cardinal and Alton was a jumping point for both the expedition upriver by Pere Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673 and the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804. The town was an important stop for travelers during the American westward expansion in the covered-wagon era and later a hub of business during the industrial revolution as both a junction for burgeoning rail systems and river transport- as well as being a major producer of industrial products like steel, bricks, glass, limestone, and flour.
Famous writers like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Alan Poe came to Alton and had friends in the area, as well as influential politicians like Abraham Lincoln, Lyman Trumbull, and Stephen A. Douglas. Alton was the location of Lincoln's House Divided speech and was the location of Elijah P. Lovejoy's abolitionist newspaper and the place of his death. The city is home to one of the few northern confederate cemeteries and a Civil War prison and was a base for the Union in its fight against Missouri confederates in St. Louis. Many of the buildings in the city were used to ferry escaped slaves from Missouri to freedom using the Underground Railroad system and many early civil rights advocates lived in the area.
Alton is the birthplace of the World's Tallest Man, Robert Wadlow, the famous composer and musician Miles Davis, and, in more recent history, Netflix's Jessica Jones writer Leslie Frye, actor and director Brian Jun, and 1999 MTV's Real World: Hawaii Teck 'T-Money' Holmes- along with others.
The Alton Museum of History and Art is located in historic Loomis Hall, the oldest continuously used educational building in Illinois. Peruse multiple exhibits dedicated to Alton's vibrant history. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to fully explore the museum. Call ahead for tour group information.