12 Facts About Aurora That You Probably Didn’t Know!
  1. City of Lights: Aurora earned the nickname “City of Lights” because it was one of the first cities in the United States to implement an all-electric street lighting system in 1881.
  2. Second Largest City in Illinois: Aurora is the second most populous city in Illinois, after Chicago. Its population is over 200,000, making it a significant urban center in the state.
  3. East vs West:  East Aurora High School and West Aurora High School first met on the gridiron in 1893 and have met annually in all but two seasons since! It’s the longest continually played rivalry in Illinois.  The two schools met in all but two years (1894 and 1897) since 1893, including two games in 1896 and 1898, with all but a handful of games prior to 1953 taking place on Thanksgiving Day.
  4. Stolp Island: Stolp Island is a natural island, but it was used as “neutral ground” when the city was first started. Aurora began as two villages: East Aurora, incorporated in 1845 on the east side of the river, and West Aurora, formally organized on the west side of the river in 1854. Three years later, the two towns joined, incorporating as the city of Aurora. However, representatives could not agree which side of the river should house the public buildings, so most of them were built on or around Stolp Island…right in the middle.
  5. Architectural Gems: In Aurora you can find many great examples of Victorian era buildings, Lustron homes (prefabricated houses made of porcelain-enameled steel that were produced after World War II as a solution to the housing shortage and are now considered rare architectural gems), Sears Mail-Order Houses (homes ordered from the Sears-Roebuck catalogue in the early 1900s and assembled like a jigsaw puzzle, but were surprisingly  high quality). There are many great examples of outstanding architecture!
  6. The Northgate Sign: You may not know the Northgate Sign in front of the Northgate Shopping Center on Lake Street is a protected historical landmark. It was designated because of its unique qualities and as an icon from the 50s that has transcended its conventional role as simply an identifier for vehicles.
  7. Grand Army of the Republic:  The city’s strategic location along the Fox River facilitated the transportation of goods and troops to the front lines. Additionally, Aurora’s manufacturing capabilities supported the production of essential war materials, including uniforms, firearms, and other supplies needed by Union forces. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Aurora Post 20 was founded in 1820 to honor and serve veterans of the Civil War and their families. Fred Otis White, a veteran of the 36th Illinois Infantry, proposed the city should build something that could be utilized for more than just displaying names of soldiers. Memorial Hall was completed in 1878 for the sum of $7,184.54 – with over $1,700 donated by the Ladies Monument Association. The GAR museum on Downer Place in downtown Aurora tells the stories.
  8. The Roundhouse: The Roundhouse is not just a local monument, but it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed in 1856 with the outer walls made of limestone from Batavia. The roundhouse was instrumental in the fabrication and movement of rail in Illinois, but as automobiles took over the roundhouse’s importance faded, becoming abandoned for 21 years before it was put on the list of historic places in 1978. In 1995, an investment group headed by Bears great Walter Peyton brought it back to life.
  9. Famous Faces: Many celebrities called Aurora home at one time or another. Locally, the Skilling brothers are native Aurorans, attending West Aurora High School. Tom started an illustrious meteorological career at a renowned local radio station (😇), and his younger brother Jeff, well…did some things too. The voice of Nemo in Finding Dory was Hayden Rolence, who was 12 at the time the movie was recorded. After farm living in Kentucky was a bit too much, Jackie DeShannon and her parents moved to Aurora. DeShannon would go on to sing  “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart“, and write of “When You Walk in the Room” and “Bette Davis Eyes“, which became hits for The Searchers and Kim Carnes, respectively. Aurora boasts a Pulitzer Prize-winner in Vernon Louis Parrington, who was born in 1871. Aurora is/was home to many elite athletes, including Olympic gymnastics team member Anna Li, who attended Wabaunsee Valley HS. And that’s just a few of MANY!
  10. Isaac2/Swimming Stones: There are four 12-foot tall, 4,000 lb. granite structures, with the tops being balanced on water! The Swimming Stones were sculpted by internationally acclaimed artist Christian Tobin in 2001, showcasing the hydro-static force of water. The art installation was built in 2001 and can be seen on Benton Street.
  11. Animals For Everyone For a Long Time!: Established in 1915, Phillips Park Zoo is the second oldest zoo in the state of Illinois (behind Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo which started in 1868). It started as a free zoo with many exotic animals like monkeys and giraffes, but focused more on native species when Brookfield Zoo opened in the 30s. It continues to operate free of charge for residents to check out their collection and mastodon museum.
  12. Ice Skating on the Fox River: Back in the day, it would get cold enough long enough to freeze the river, and residents would gather to skate under the New York Street bridge!