When visiting or driving through Alton, plan a stop at the Alton Visitor Center. The friendly staff can provide you with suggestions for attractions, activities, dining and lodging in the Great Rivers & Routes tourism region as well as maps, brochures, Visitor Guides and souvenirs. The Alton Visitor Center is also a passport stamp location for the National Park Service Passport program. Public restrooms are also available.
For more information:
- 8th Judicial Circuit
- Friends of Lincoln
- Good for Kids
- Guided/Self-Guided Tours
- Historic House
- Historic Site
- Lincoln-Douglas Debate
- Passport Site
- Top Destination
- Underground Railroad
- Visitor Information
- Wayside Exhibit
Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau
200 Piasa St Alton, IL 62002
When visiting or driving through Alton, you must plan a stop at the Alton Visitor Center. The friendly staff can provide suggestions for activities and restaurants in the Great Rivers & Routes region. You can shop for souvenirs and pick up maps. Public restrooms also available.
The Alton Visitor Center also hosts a free eagle meet and greet every Saturday in January during the Alton Eagle Watching season.
Alton Museum of History & Art
2809 College Avenue Alton, IL 62002
Winged monsters, explorers, riverboats and a gentle giant. The Alton Museum of History & Art shows the crossroads of American history right here in Alton. The museum is located in the historic Loomis Hall across from the Wadlow statue. Loomis Hall is the oldest building in the state of Illinois continuously utilized for education. One of the most popular rooms, the Wadlow Room, pays tribute to Alton's Gentle Giant" and the World's Tallest Man. The Pioneer Room explores the history of Alton from the Lewis & Clark Expedition to the Civil War with exhibits on Elijah Lovejoy, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates and the "Alton Route" on the Underground Railroad. Allow 45 to 60 minutes to explore this museum.
Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library
401 State Street Alton Alton, Illinois 62002
The Hayner Public Library District provides a variety of genealogy-related services to support research efforts. Information from various states in addition to Illinois and other countries is available. The digitized newspaper collection is a wonderful resource for genealogy research. The lobby of the Hayner Genealogy and Local History Library contains an original piece of the printing press which was broken and thrown into the Mississippi River by an angry mob who destroyed the press and murdered Elijah P. Lovejoy in November, 1837. The yoke, which served as a framework for the press, is black metal and weighs half a ton. Lovejoy published newspapers in St. Louis and Alton that advocated the abolition of slavery.
William Street & Broadway Street Alton, IL 62002
In just three years, more than 11,700 Confederate prisoners passed through the gates of the Alton Prison and were held captive with its walls. The Alton Prison, opened in 1833 and closed in 1860, was the first Illinois State Penitentiary. In December of 1861, after inspecting the facilities, Major General Henry Halleck, Commander of the Department of the Missouri, prepared to have the prison re-opened as a the Alton Federal Military Prison.
On Feb. 9, 1862, the first prisoners arrived at the prison. Inmates of the prison included Confederate soldiers, citizens imprisoned for treason acts, and bushwackers or guerillas imprisoned for acts against the government. Much of the time, the prison was overcrowded, prisoners were malnourished and had inadequate clothing.
Under these dilapidated conditions, prisoners were exposed to influenza, dysentery and small pox. The small pox epidemic grew in numbers, and the official military death toll listed 1,354 deceased. A monument dedicated to those who perished can be found at their burial site in the Confederate Cemetery.
After the war, the prison was privately purchased and building blocks were removed. The remaining small portion of the wall was restored in 1973 and may be visited today.
Alton's National Cemetery
600 Pearl St. Alton, IL 62202
Fought on American soil, the Civil War was the deadliest war in American history. More than three million men fought in this “war between the states” that claimed the lives of more than 620,000 soldiers. An estimated 263 Union soldiers are buried in Alton’s National Cemetery. The men either died of disease at the Alton Hospital or onboard steamboats passing up the Mississippi River.