Alton | St. Louis Public Radio

Alton

Flood waters in Alton, Illinois almost reached the levels of the Great Flood of 1993. City officials blocked water from entering part of the downtown area.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Just beyond the closed Alton Visitor Center, a building surrounded by water, stands a temporary flood wall that protects the city’s downtown.

The Mississippi River crested on Friday here at 39.01 feet, the second highest behind the all-time historic record of 42.7 feet set during the Great Flood of 1993. Yet most businesses remain open.

At Chez Marilyn, a restaurant that debuted six years after the big flood, employees and volunteers work to keep the water out and keep customers coming in.

May 31, 2019 - The Mississippi River reaches 36 feet, its highest level in Alton since 1993. The river is forecast to rise about three more feet before cresting above the 39-foot mark on June 5, about three feet below the record.
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Yet again in communities along the Mississippi River, residents and business owners are filling sandbags and holding their breath as the water creeps higher.

On Friday, the river was expected to crest in Quincy at just over 31 feet, less than a foot from the historic record set in 1993.

Mayor Kyle Moore said volunteers have helped fill 45,000 sandbags, some of which have gone to neighboring areas. He said while most homes are far above the reach of the river, the longer the water remains high the more damage it could do, including to the city’s water-treatment plant near the river.

The main levee in Winfield failed May 4, 2019, near the Pillsbury grain elevator on Pillsbury Road.
File Photo | Winfield Foley Fire Protection District

Updated: 8:50 p.m. May 5 — with information about flood damage to an Illinois American Water plant.

Floodwaters have continued to rise over the weekend in areas along the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers.

In St. Louis, the Mississippi River had reached nearly 41 feet by 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning — more than 10 feet above flood stage. The National Weather Service predicts the river will crest at 41.6 feet Monday morning.

Kaci Dalton helped residents fill sandbags on Starling Airport Road in Arnold in May 2017.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Civic leaders along the Mississippi River are bracing for near-record flood levels in the coming days and weeks.

Mayors in Missouri and Illinois say federal programs that aim to prevent flood damage need more funding to adequately support river towns that face evacuation and income loss.

Flooding in Alton is expected to crest next week at 35.2 feet, the fifth-highest flood level on record, according to the National Weather Service. The river at Grafton is expected to reach the fourth-highest flood level on record for the city. River levels at both Illinois towns are expected to exceed levees and rise within 10 feet of historic levels reached during the Great Flood of ’93.

The Lincoln-Douglas Square in Alton commemorates one of the city's claims to fame. It also welcomes visitors to the town of almost 27,000 people. March 21, 2018.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

When Lauren Pattan and James Rogalsky started looking for a building to house their brewery, they didn’t plan to move from St. Louis to Alton, where they’d both grown up. But they found the perfect building on Landmark Boulevard, right near the riverfront and off Alton’s old Antiques Row on East Broadway, and it swayed them.

The downtown stretch of Broadway, Rogalsky said, had been “neglected for the last several decades.” But in the last few years, new businesses have opened on the street. Established food staples moved from the city’s traditional main street to Broadway. A tattoo parlor opened at the same intersection as beauty and art supply shops, and a self-serve craft beer bar cropped up.

Robert Wadlow on tour with the International Shoe Company. Crowds of thousands would flock to Wadlow wherever he went.
Alton Museum of History and Art

Feb. 22, 2018, marks the centennial of the birth of Robert Wadlow, the tallest man who ever lived, and a lifelong resident of Alton.

Wadlow was normal size at birth, but a growth on his pituitary gland caused him to grow rapidly and never stop. By kindergarten, he was 5 feet 4 inches. He grew to 8 feet 11, and 490 pounds, by the time he died at age 22.

Head Start teacher Chea Wyatt guides Kennydi Harris through an exercise June 23, 2017 at the East St. Louis Kindergarten readiness camp.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time this school year, Illinois public schools statewide are required to measure and report how prepared their kindergartners were for school.

The state board of education is collecting the data to better understand what regions are lacking preschool access.

However, area school districts are concerned the reporting process is time consuming. Several expressed doubt that the information will be useful.

Freida L. Wheaton, Denise Ward-Brown and Sun Smith-Floret.
Mary Edwards | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, contributor Steve Potter discussed Jacoby Arts Center’s multi-platform artistic exploration entitled “Social Justice: Both Sides of the River,” which opened earlier this July.

Alton school board finance committee director Chris Norman said though negotiations went long, a teachers strike would have still been weeks away.
Courtesy Alton Community School District #11 Facebook

A teachers strike in the Alton School District has likely been averted, and a new two-year contract for teachers is one step closer to being approved.

At a special meeting Friday morning, the school board's finance committee tentatively approved a counter proposal from the Alton Education Association, which is representing district teachers.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

There’s no reason  for fans of the man who “defined cool” to be “Kind of Blue” this weekend as the Miles Davis Memorial project plans to unveil its sculpture of the renowned jazz musician in Alton.  A musical celebration that will put a swing in the step of local jazz aficionados will accompany the unveiling.

via Flickr\Orbspiders

What is art?

That is the question Alton, Ill. residents and council members debated after the owner of a tattoo parlor, Grand Piasa Body Art, proposed relocating his business to East Broadway Street, in the city’s historic downtown district.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Miles Davis once said, “Always look ahead, but never look back.” Yet some Alton residents believe looking back is a matter of pride.

The Miles Davis Memorial Project maintains a varied fundraising approach in its effort to erect a statue in Davis’ honor. The group has held events, started Indiegogo campaigns and gathered donations.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Governmental and religious officials rallied Thursday for the Illinois Department of Transportation to build a high-speed rail stop in East St. Louis. 

IDOT working on a high-speed rail line connecting St. Louis to Chicago. Construction is already underway on rail improvements between Joliet and Alton, where a station is under construction. 

Efforts Underway To Erect Statue Of Miles Davis In Alton

Aug 23, 2013
Brickstreet Design in Alton, IL

Plans are in motion to erect a bronze statue of jazz musician Miles Davis at his birthplace in Alton, Ill.  The city council of Alton gave its approval in July, and sculptor Preston Jackson has been commissioned to build the statue.

Jackson's design was selected out of a pool of ten. A professor emeritus from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Jackson is also a musician and lover of jazz music.

Alton continues longest-running Memorial Day Parade

May 28, 2012
Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

The small town of Alton, Ill. boasts of having the longest consecutive Memorial Day Parade in the country. The community has honored the sacrifices of its sons and daughters in uniform for 145 years. 

Korean War veteran Harry Kortcamp says he was a boy the first time he marched in Alton’s Memorial Day Parade.

“When they had victory in Germany, I marched in that parade," he said. "When they had victory in Japan, I marched in that parade as a member of the Alton Legion Drum and Bugle Corps.”

LaHood to announce $44M for Illinois road, rail

Dec 15, 2011
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

More than $44 million in federal transportation money is headed to Illinois for two projects in the Chicago area and one in Alton in southern Illinois.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is to announce the funding Thursday at a Chicago "L" station with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It's part of more than a half-billion dollars in federal transportation funding for 46 projects in 33 states.

An Alton, Ill. soldier was awarded the Army's Silver Star, the third-highest military award for valor while on his fourth tour of duty.

Army Sgt. 1st Class John P. Fleming, 32, received the honor after tending to wounded soldiers and directing aircraft fending off enemy gunfire so the injured could be evacuated, the News Democrat reports. The incident is described in more detail: 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 26, 2009 - In 1972, I first saw the sign in Alton, at the site of the historic debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. The commemorative marker was a white wooden board on which was inscribed in black letters Site of Lincoln-Douglas Debates

It was seated unceremoniously in a clump of weeds by a garbage container on the side of the street.

Geo caching with the eagles

Jan 5, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 5, 2009 - The Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau is putting a new twist on that pastime that's become a winter tradition in the St. Louis area: eagle watching.

Thanks to the CVB, eagle watchers can use their GPS units to find geo cached treasures with an eagle slant in a new sport called eagle-caching.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 23, 2008 - As his first assignment for the Alton Evening Telegraph, my grandfather, Robert Graul, took a photo of Alton High School's Class of 1936. Town giant Robert Wadlow was a graduate. After that experience piqued his fascination, Graul spent the next four years capturing the man in family, social and political settings all around Alton. By the time of Wadlow's death in 1940, my grandfather had managed to accrue the largest collection of original Wadlow photographs in the world.

Alton Telegraph resists subpoena for Web posters' names?

Oct 16, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 16, 2008 - The Alton Telegraph is fighting a subpoena from a Madison County grand jury seeking the identities of anonymous Web posters who may have information about a murder case. First Amendment experts say the case could break new legal ground.

The Great Rivers National Scenic Byway 2008
Courtesy, Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 29, 2008- The Loading Dock Bar and Grill in Grafton, Ill., is all concrete and steel. Utilities hover above, the walls are really garage doors, and the view brings customers from far and near to sit and sip where the Mississippi and Illinois rivers meet.

It's also a symbol of lessons learned.