How well do you know Mt. Vernon? Discover these fun facts to learn more about the unique history and trivia behind Mt. Vernon, Illinois!
The Great Cyclone
It was an unusually warm day on February 19, 1888, when an F-4 tornado tore through the city leaving it in shambles. The tornado paved a 64-mile path across southern Illinois, killing roughly 30. More than 300 homes and 50 businesses in Mt. Vernon were damaged or destroyed leaving over 1,000 homeless. The Jefferson County Courthouse, itself, was left completely destroyed. The 1888 cyclone is still the 4th deadliest tornado in Illinois. However, the city of Mt. Vernon proved resilient. Within five years, Mt. Vernon doubled in population and tripled the number of businesses in town.
A Visit from Clara Barton
Following the 1888 tornado, founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton, was sent to Mt. Vernon to aide in recovery efforts. Barton set up an emergency makeshift hospital at the Appellate Courthouse.
The Appellate Courthouse in Mt. Vernon is the only courthouse, still in operation, where Abraham Lincoln, himself, argued a case in 1859. Lincoln successfully lowered the tax for the Illinois Central Railroad. Soon to be General of the Union Army, George B. McClellan, also witnessed Lincoln’s courtroom arguing that day. Visit the courthouse today and get your picture with the 9-foot-tall, bronze Abraham Lincoln statue on the front lawn.
While visiting his sister in Benton, IL in 1963, Beatles member, George Harrison, bought a Rickenbacker guitar from Fenton’s Music store in Mt. Vernon. The guitar was used in the Abbey Road Studios recording of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”.
RARE Dining Experience
RARE Chop House in Mt. Vernon ensures an exquisite culinary experience. In 2014, RARE received the Illinois Office of Tourism’s “Enjoy Illinois: Delicious Destination” Award, and won the 2014 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, after only being open for 10 months. The fine dining restaurant features a wine room with 1000+ wines from around the world.
Cedarhurst Center for the Arts was recently featured in the Chicago Tribune’s list of 20 must-see cultural attractions in Illinois. The Tribune is celebrating Illinois’ Bicentennial by releasing a Bicentennial Bucket List featuring 200 things every Illinoisan should do. Their latest installment includes 20 must-see cultural attractions in Illinois, with Cedarhurst at number 10 on the list. Cedarhurst Center for the Arts is nationally accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Only 3% of museums nationwide receive this honor.
Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!
Veteran’s Park was once home to a Mt. Vernon zoo that kept lions, monkeys, and even zebras. The zoo was shut down in the 1950s, but the Mt. Vernon waterpark, the Aquatic Zoo, is named in its honor.
World War II
The Mt. Vernon Car Manufacturing Company built freight cars for railroads for more than 60 years. During World War II, these Mt. Vernon car shops provided a considerable quantity of bombs for the war in Europe. After the war, in 1944, the company was sold and dismantled.
Mt. Vernon is full of historic value and one of a kind places. Know of any other fun facts we left out? Share them on our Facebook page, Enjoy Mt. Vernon!