About StreatorThe influence of the Native American Indian, the explorer, and the settler has unfolded in LaSalle County since the late seventeenth century. In an area near Starved Rock, approximately 20 miles from Streator, was the largest Native American Indian village in the early United States with a population of 10,000 - 20,000. This was a confederation of several migrating tribes including the Illini and the Pottawatomie, the latter of which was said to have a winter campground along the Vermilion River in an area that was to become Streator.
Explorers such as Father Jacques Marquette together with the Native Americans established a mission on the north side of the Illinois River near Starved Rock in 1675. Others such as LaSalle and Tonti established Fort St. Louis at Starved Rock in 1682-83. This area and its river system was a bastion of the early French empire in North America until the English took possession after the Treaty of Paris in 1763.
The first settlers in the Streator area were farmers and merchants who came in the 1820's possibly in response to Father Marquette's seventeenth century description of the prairies around Streator. "We have seen nothing like this river for the fertility of the land, its prairie, woods, wild cattle, stag, deer, wild cats, swans, ducks, parrots, and even beaver."
Streator's early heritage is that of a coal mining community with the discovery of outcroppings of coal along the Vermilion River. In 1866, Colonel Ralph Plumb (sponsored by Dr. Worthy Streator) who would become the most influential person in Streator's development, arrived to purchase land and develop newly found coal deposits. He built the first railroad to link the coal fields to the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad. He plotted the city and was its first mayor, as Streator was incorporated in 1868. He built a high school and donated it to the city. He also erected an "Opera House' and established the Streator National Bank. In 1884 he was elected to Congress and was re-elected in 1886.
Because of the immediate availability of coal deposits and the nearby mining of silica sand, Streator became the ideal location for the production of glass products. In 1880, a window-glass manufacturing plant was established. When this enterprise demonstrated that glass could be produced profitably, a glass bottle company was organized in 1881. Streator's glass industry grew rapidly and was soon to be known as the "Glass Bottle Capital of the World." As Streator continued to grow, it became a hub for seven railroads and the discovery of rich clay deposits led to the manufacturing of brick and tile products. The twentieth century saw the further development of manufacturing in Streator when production of automobiles, metal fabrication and food service industries were established. Streator's economy continues to produce glass containers, and manufacturing and agriculture remain the backbone of Streator's economy.
Streator's history is showcased in the Streatorland Historical Society Museum, and the Streator Public Library building is a structure of unique design funded by Andrew Carnegie, and is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Streator's location in the heart of Northern Illinois offers convenient access to the advantages of major metropolitan areas, but its distinct rural atmosphere has the friendly security and comfort of the neighborhood where we grew up. Streator is located 90 miles southwest of Chicago, 60 miles north of Bloomington, and 60 miles northeast of Peoria with convenient access to three Interstate Highways: I-80 is 15 miles north; I-55 is 18 miles east; and I-39 is 12 miles west.