Belleville's heart: Public Square turns 200

News-DemocratMarch 9, 2014 

Historian Bob Brunkow talks about the Belleville public square.


Monday, 200 years ago, Belleville got its start.

And that start began with the city's heart, Public Square.

The territorial legislature in December 1813 decided the Cahokia Courthouse was not centrally located and appointed a commission to investigate a move. The commission started meeting on Jan. 25, 1814, at farmer George Blair's house. At their fourth meeting on March 10, 1814, Blair donated an acre for the town square plus 25 adjoining acres for the new county seat.

Blair was allowed to name his gift and called the town Belleville, French for "beautiful city."

The county courthouse was initially a log cabin in Belleville. The current structure is the fifth courthouse to be built in the city, anchoring the square.

Other pieces of the square changed over the two centuries: livestock, parks, parking, businesses. For most of its history the square featured a fountain.

Public Square is the gathering spot for the city's celebrations and significant events. JFK and LBJ both spoke there. There was a lynching there. The city turned out to celebrate the end of World War II there. Parades and festivals regularly use the space.

For more on the heart of Belleville's history, visit us at to see the second episode of "Bicentennial Belleville," a video with local historian Bob Brunkow.

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