We’re the only town in the world that can claim Popeye the Sailor Man as a resident. That’s because cartoonist and Popeye creator E.C. Segar was born and raised right here in Chester, with many of the Popeye characters inspired by Chester people, and so we proudly celebrate Segar’s legacy all over town.
Since 1977, a six-foot bronze statue has welcomed visitors to the picturesque Segar Memorial Park, near the entrance to the Chester Bridge. We’ve been building the Popeye and Friends Character Trail since 2006, with a new statue being added every year until 2020, so you can tour our town while visiting everyone from Olive Oyl to Bluto. The real Popeye enthusiasts will find a treasure trove at the Spinach Can Collectibles and Museum on State Street, where shelves are lined with Popeye artifacts and memorabilia.
Best of all, every September the town comes together for the Popeye Picnic, which we think represents the very best of small-town America. Thousands of people—both Chester residents and visitors who travel hundreds of miles from all over Illinois—enjoy three days of Popeye-themed family fun, including a parade, live music, a 5k run/walk, a fireman’s obstacle course, arts and crafts, and more. Spinach-eating is optional, but a reliable source told us it makes you strong …
The history of the Chester area is the history of the United States. Buildings from French Colonial and British Colonial times still stand, and you can visit the site of a fort that played a key role in the Revolutionary War. We’ve worked hard to keep the area’s important historical structures intact so that present and future generations can continue to enjoy them.
The Pierre Menard Home, built for Quebec-born businessman and politician Pierre Menard in the early 1800s, is one of North America’s best examples of French Colonial architecture. Visitors are welcomed by guides to tour the home, which sits on the banks of the Mississippi River and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Farther up the bluff, overlooking Pierre Menard Home, you’ll find Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site, which commemorates a long-vanished frontier town established by French colonists. During the Revolutionary War, American Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark mounted a daring raid on July 4, 1778 to take Kaskaskia from the British. The bell the townspeople rang to celebrate their liberation became known as the Liberty Bell of the West, and can be visited at Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial.
Buena Vista National Bank proudly provides banking services to the people of Randolph and Macon County, offering the same range of products as any “big bank” with the added benefit of personalized, one-on-one service. With a rich company history that spans over 100 years, Buena Vista is home to eight thriving locations. The bank's experienced professionals are committed to community involvement, and in 2014, they participated in over 40 community events. At Buena Vista, building meaningful relationships with the public is paramount, and it's this devotion to customer satisfaction that earns the bank so many lifelong clients.
Beautiful though our town is, it can’t compete with the gifts of nature that surround us—and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Just five miles northeast of Chester you’ll find the Randolph County State Recreation Area: 1,101 acres of rolling hills, shaded picnic areas, glorious hiking trails and verdant forest. The crystal-clear Randolph County Lake is stocked with catfish, redear, bluegill sunfish, walleye, saugeye and rainbow trout, and anglers will also find largemouth bass, green sunfish, bullhead and crappie on the end of their lines. There's no shortage of dove, deer, squirrel, rabbit, quail and woodcock for game hunters, while horseback riders will revel in 11.6 miles of scenic trails.
The Middle Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 2000, protects the river’s floodplain habitat, on which a variety of migratory birds rely. Bring your binoculars, because here you’ll see majestic bald eagles, colorful prothonotary warblers, unmistakable red-headed woodpeckers, and many more who stop to rest and feed during spring and fall migrations. Viewing areas have been set up for tourists and locals alike enjoy take in the view, and the more adventurous can take a canoe out on to the mighty Mississippi for a closer look.
Views of the magnificent Mississippi River can be enjoyed from high on the bluffs in Chester, but sometimes you want to get down close to the water. Our historic City Steps provide a charming walk down to the riverfront, and the 100-step path was recently returned to its former glory through the efforts of city government and local volunteers. Once your reach the riverfront, there’s no better way to stroll along the river than the path at Smith’s Landing—the park named both for the man who founded Chester in 1829, Samuel Smith, and for the original name he gave the town, Smith’s Landing. The park is 300 feet long, with a beautiful boat-shaped flowerbed, and offers picnic tables to sit and watch the boats go by. Or, if you want to get out on the water, the riverfront has a boat ramp that invites you to get out there and enjoy the majesty of the Middle Mississippi.
We believe in the power of learning and the power of community, and our public library stands as testament to both. Chester had a library system as early as 1891, and built the core of the current building, an impressive stone Neoclassical structure, in 1928.
The philanthropist who paid for the construction of Chester Public Library, Charles Briggs Cole, passed away shortly before the library opened. But in the nearly 90 years following Mr. Cole’s death, we’ve honored his gift by making the library a center of community life in Chester, and it’s been so popular that we added an additional wing in 1990.
Today, Chester Public Library is home to not only tens of thousands of books, it also offers access to e-books, movies, periodicals, newspapers, internet access and more. Most importantly, the library is a hub of community activity. Two different book discussion groups meet once a month, there’s an expert speaker series. Art from the Mississippi Valley Art Guild is always on display, with a new artist every month. The library also runs story hours and lapsit reading programs for children, as well as a full calendar of children’s entertainment. Last but not least, the First Books Room houses our collection of valuable books, including a Bible from 1605, the 1865 sheet music for “Picket Guard” and a wealth of historical information about our town.
Young or old, there’s no excuse for not staying active in Chester. And it’s all thanks to the generosity of Gordon “Bud” Cohen, a local real estate millionaire who left the city $2 million in his will when he passed away in 1983. After much debate, we used that gift to build an outstanding set of connected sports and recreation facilities, which we of course named the Gordon “Bud” Cohen Recreation Complex.
Today, the complex features two baseball diamonds, three softball fields, tennis courts, workout stations, soccer fields sitting above the complex on what we’ve dubbed “soccer hill,” and a 3,800-foot walking path that goes around the exterior and is shaded by trees. Ample parking makes a visit to the recreation complex stress free, as do the picnic tables for those who want to enjoy the weather and watch the action unfold.
Memorial Hospital has been providing quality health care to the Chester community since 1962, and has been awarded the Gold Seal of Approval by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. For more than half a century, Memorial has combined the array of specialties and services you’d expect from a hospital in a bigger city, with the friendly small-town welcome and care that you only find in a place like Chester. Memorial’s 25-bed Critical Access Hospital and 24-hour, physician directed emergency care are always there for the community, while the hospital’s wide range of specialists have access to the latest digital technology.
After recent investments, all kinds of injuries are treated at the Therapy and Sports rehab center, featuring cutting edge exercise equipment and a new aquatic rehab pool. But it’s not all about expertise and technology; Memorial also provides emotional strength to the community through regular support groups, helping those battling grief or chronic diseases, and providing free prenatal classes to expectant parents. Though Memorial Hospital is Chester’s largest health care provider, residents also take advantage of a variety of private clinics and practices located in town, and this combination of options keeps our town healthy and happy.
There's a saying at Chester Medical Group: “Caring is our commitment.” Established in 1934 as Chester Clinic, the practice has been providing medical services to the community for 80 years. The group oversees two rural health clinics, located in Chester and Steeleville, and strives to serve the public with a sense of pride, with professionalism, with courtesy and with a commitment to excellence.
CMG specializes in consultation, evaluation and management of family health care. The clinic's primary care physicians offer services to neonates through geriatrics, and as a convenience to CMG patients, the clinic has a well-equipped medical laboratory on site. No matter what health issues you're facing, CMG's experienced family practice physicians and midlevel providers are there to support, comfort and care for you and your loved ones in any way they can.
Serving Randolph County and the surrounding communities since 1962, Memorial Hospital is committed to providing patients with access to state-of-the-art technology, experienced medical professionals and superior health care services.
Memorial offers 24-hour, physician-directed emergency care, as well as Convenient Care. In addition to an active staff of family practice medicine and general surgery, the hospital is home to a number of medical specialists, and its 18 outpatient specialty clinics offer a wide range of diagnostic and surgical procedures. Memorial is the only hospital in the county with a certified diabetic program, and it also features a chemotherapy and infusion center, allowing Chester residents to receive treatment here at home rather than traveling to a larger city.
With a low crime rate that’s almost half the national average, Chester is as comfortable and safe as you’d expect a successful small town to be. It’s also a town where citizens and the police force work in unison, not in opposition. That’s because, in 2008, the Chester Police Department adopted a new model of policing called the Crime Prevention Project. The idea was for the people of Chester to partner with police in preventing crime, through Neighborhood Watch programs and more interaction. The dedicated police force now does more than just patrol the streets; they walk the neighborhoods on foot, talking to residents and business owners, and are a familiar, trusted sight all over Chester, keeping us safe.
Centrally located in Randolph County, Christ Our Savior Lutheran High School offers a faith-centered, academically excellent education. The nationally accredited school boasts an enviably low student-to-teacher ratio, guaranteeing students a level of personal attention, mentorship and guidance that larger institutions aren’t able to provide.
Within its daily operations, Christ Our Savior incorporates a Biblical worldview in all aspects—from instruction of students, to the code of discipline, to the ethics by which the staff goes about its daily routines. Teachers move all students forward, whether they are gifted or have learning differences. With ACT averages historically higher than the state average and early college credit offered, COS graduates are well-prepared to pursue their post-high school endeavors in college, the military or the work force.
Every first weekend in December, Popeye happily steps aside for the one guy who's more popular: Santa Claus. The three-day Christmas on the River event is a celebration of everything that makes the holiday season so magical. With the entire town decorated for Christmas, festivities begin with the Grand Illumination of the community Christmas tree. Christmas on the River includes the glorious Lighted Parade through town, smiling faces, more hot cocoa than you ever thought possible, a gingerbread-house-building contest and, best of all, Santa’s arrival in Chester not by sleigh, but by boat, as he sails down the Mississippi River to applause from the crowd. The three days of happiness and goodwill highlight all the best things about Christmas, and all the things that make Chester such a great place to live.
Education in Chester is all about options. Our town is home to four schools—two public and two parochial—so parents and students can choose between a public and private education.
St. John’s Lutheran School and St. Mary’s Catholic school both offer student:teacher ratios of approximately half the state average, and both schools stress the dual importance of religious and academic excellence.
Our public schools are Chester Community Grade School and Chester Community Public High School, known as the Junior Jackets and Yellow Jackets respectively. Both schools offer a wealth of student athletics and activities, with Chester High fielding more than 20 athletic teams, from trapshooting to basketball, and a variety of student organizations to broaden young minds, including the excellently named and 100 percent student-staffed school newspaper, The Sting. Alongside an extensive school curriculum, Chester High students can choose to take additional college classes online through the Southwestern Illinois College, or vocational classes through the Career Center of Southern Illinois.
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1037 State Street Chester, IL 62233