Aurora is located in the beautiful Fox River Valley, along the East/West I-88 High Tech Corridor, 40 miles west of Chicago. Most of Aurora is situated in Kane and DuPage Counties, with smaller portions in Kendall and Will Counties.
The beautiful Fox River, which flows through the center of Aurora and the fertile valleys, attracted the Native American Indians. One of the tribes was the Pottawatomie, headed by Chief Waubonsee.
The first permanent settler was Joseph McCarty, a 24-year-old millwright from Elmira, New York who arrived in 1834. He staked out a 400-acre claim on the east bank of the river, and soon after bought an adjoining 400-acre tract for his younger brother, Samuel. The brothers built a sawmill in 1834-35, and gristmill next to it in 1836-37, so the settlers could grind their grain into flour.
The settlement, which had been called McCarty’s Mills, needed an official name in 1837, when application was made for a U.S. post office. The name Aurora was chosen, after a town in New York– a state many of the early residents had called home, including the McCarty’s. In addition to the river, another major factor in the development of Aurora was when it was chosen as the birthplace of the mighty Burlington railroad. The railroad began as a 12-mile branch line from Aurora. Through mergers, it became the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy (CB&Q). Aurora was chosen as the site for the railroad’s major car shops, and soon employed over 350. In the 1860s, the shops built the first American diner car. At its height, the shop complex covered over 70 acres and employed 2,500. The shops closed in 1974. All but three of the buildings were demolished. The former machine shop is now the downtown commuter station, and the roundhouse was recently remodeled and opened by former Chicago Bear and football Hall of Famer, Walter Payton as Payton’s Roundhouse Complex, a restaurant/entertainment complex.
Aurora, which means luminous bands of light, 1ived up to it’s name when in 1881, the town became the first to have electric streetlights. Five years later when the contract expired, the city built and operated its own electric plant, the first municipality in the world to do so. Aurora has other firsts: first free school in the state, first YMCA building to be constructed in Illinois, and in 1995, the first large city in the United States to connect all its schools to the Worldwide Web.
Aurora, a city of 117,000, is the third largest in Illinois, behind Rockford and Chicago, and is expected to be the second largest, soon after the turn of the century.
Aurora operates under the Mayor/Aldermanic Council form of government, with twelve (12) Aldermen sitting on the City Council. Each of the City’s ten (10) wards elects an Alderman with another two (At-Large) elected citywide to serve on the Council. The City of Aurora has a full-time Mayor. Aldermanic positions are considered part-time, and most hold outside employment. The telephone number to the Aldermen’s Office at 60 E Downer Place is (630) 844-3619.
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