Two hundred is just a number. It's not much different than 199 or 201, until we attach significance to the digits.
Two hundred years ago: On March 10, 1814, the territorial legislature decided to move the St. Clair County seat from Cahokia to a more central location. They were meeting at the homestead of George Blair on Compton Hill, and Blair donated an acre of his home for a public square and another 25 adjoining acres for the new county seat.
Blair was allowed to name the new city. He chose "Belleville," French for beautiful city.
The significance that we attach to this 200th anniversary is that Belleville exists because someone gave something away, something that they thought was going to be special. As the city plans a celebration with a gala, parade, concerts, big bratwurst and souvenirs, we thought it especially apt that planners hope to emulate Blair's giving spirit.
Two hundred is the number of public service projects the bicentennial folks are hoping to record by year's end. At this arbitrary mark, we have a chance to make the city a better place and to get involved with civic life.
This mark is also an opportunity to learn about our city, from beer to Jelly Bellies, from Gustave Koerner to Buddy Ebsen, from shoes to stoves. We should spend this year getting to know the beautiful city on the hill Blair hoped his home would become, and to ponder how we can grace that vision.