The Waterloo Historic District includes the majority of central Waterloo, Illinois. The district includes 271 buildings, of which 182 are contributing buildings to its historic character and 83 have been evaluated as possessing special architectural and/or historical significance. The center of the district includes Waterloo’s town square, the site of the Monroe County Courthouse, as well as a two-block section of Main Street which forms the city’s commercial core. The predominant architectural styles in the residential parts of the district are local adaptations of the Federal style and a German cottage style developed by the city’s German immigrants in the 19th century. The district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 1, 1978.
Monroe County Courthouse
In 1832, the first official Courthouse was completed in the center of Waterloo where there now stands a community bandstand. The construction quality was lacking, and the building had to be replaced. In 1853, a new Courthouse was completed – a solid brick 2-story building. That building is now the center portion on the west side of the current Courthouse. Since then, it has been added on two times – the north and south wings in 1908 and the newest east wing in 1995.
Historic Downtown Building Self-guided Walking Tour
Take a self-guided walking tour of the historical buildings that make up Waterloo’s vibrant downtown. Along the way you will discover stunning architecture, beautiful murals, unique boutiques, plenty of opportunities for fantastic food and drink, and lots of friendly faces!
The Peterstown House is a saltbox building constructed in the mid-1830s. Emory Peter Rogers, for whom the house and surrounding neighborhood were named, was the first owner of the building. The building served as an inn and stagecoach stop along the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail. The Peterstown House is the only intact inn which still stands along the trail. In the late nineteenth century, the Peterstown House became a local social hall. In 1973, it was scheduled for demolition but was spared when concerned citizens formed the Peterstown Heritage Society and saved the building. It is now an interpretive museum. There are three historic cabins on the property as well.
Near this marker stood the boyhood home of Thomas Ford, the eighth governor of Illinois. He held many public offices before serving as Governor in 1842. This monument is also one of the original markers of the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail, placed by the Monroe County Historical Society in 1975.
Ditch’s Tavern/Roger’s Seminary
Ditch Tavern was the first hotel in Waterloo. It was a beautiful two story log cabin operated by David and Hannah Ditch. David owned the land on which Waterloo was built until it was purchased by George Forquer in 1818. The county seat was moved to Waterloo from Harrisonville in 1816 because of continual flooding. There were no county buildings, so meetings were held at Ditch’s Tavern until the Courthouse was built.
Also in this same block of Waterloo was Roger’s Female Seminary, which was one of the early educational institutions of Monroe County, opening in 1872.
Waterloo Historic Complex
History Museum of Monroe County
The History Museum of Monroe County in Waterloo offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience history through a variety of permanent exhibits and changing displays in the Kueker, Wm. Zimmer and Allscheid-Metzger galleries. A broad span of eras and interests is anchored by the gifted “Edd & Violet Kueker Collection”. Loaned and donated artifacts represent transportation, agriculture, several wars, local commerce (including a General Store from the 1860s), the settlement of the west, a local archaeological exhibit dating back to the Stone Age and much more. Interesting programs are presented in the “theatre” area.
Bellefontaine House and Spring
Bellefontaine was one of the first American settlements in what is now Illinois. The earliest settlers included families of Revolutionary War veterans who had served with George Rogers Clark. During this period of time, the Monroe County Illinois area was a County of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In 1778, James Moore was ordered, by George Rogers Clark, to lead expeditions to the Illinois Country, establish a military post and to serve as Captain of that company.
By the spring of 1782, James Moore and his family, along with a band of pioneers, Revolutionary War Soldiers and their families, had arrived at this site. The French had called the site, “La Bellefontaine,” meaning the beautiful spring.
The 1800 federal census showed that Bellefontaine, with 286 inhabitants, had become the third largest community in the Illinois territory.
James Moore Cabin
Due to the lack of funds after the Revolutionary War, Patrick Henry, the Governor of Virginia at the time, issued land grants to the soldiers who had served. This is when James Moore, Captain under George Rogers Clark, decided that this site was where his family was to settle. In this cabin, James Moore’s sixth child (of eight total) Enoch Moore was born in 1783. Enoch was a delegate to the convention that framed the first Illinois constitution. Five generations of Moores called this homestead their home.
Moore Cemetery is where many of the Moore family are buried. A plaque honoring the service of Revolutionary War soldier James McRoberts is also located in this cemetery, along with gravesites of several other Revolutionary War heroes. Just north of the cemetery is a “potter’s field” where many men, women and children were buried in unmarked graves dating back to 1897.
Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail Remnant with Stone Arch Bridge
This stone arch bridge dates back to 1877 when it was built by Charles Liebheit and Christian Hartmann. It extends over a tributary of Fountain Creek, called Moore’s Run (named after James Moore, one of the founders of Waterloo). The bridge connects the only intact portion of the original Kaskaskia Cahokia Trail.
Salt Lick Point Reserve & Trails
Salt Lick Point Land and Water Reserve is a 600+ acre site owned by the Village of Valmeyer. The reserve protects bluff land forests and a rare, unique hill prairie and glade habitat. The hilly Salt Lick and Newman trails traverse the bluffs offering scenic views of the floodplain below. The easily hiked Johnson trail at the base of the bluffs features showy wildflowers.The trails offer a combined 3 miles of hiking and are open year-round.
White Rock Nature Preserve
The 306-acre White Rock Nature Preserve is open to the public for hiking and nature study. Approximately 2 miles of moderately strenous hiking trails traverse the heavily forested bluff lands culminating with bluff top prairies with views over-looking the Mississippi River American Bottoms floodplain. Many rare plant and animal species exist in this scenic natural area.
Valmeyer Community Heritage Society Museum
Also known as the Monroe City School, this one-room schoolhouse, built in 1918 has been transformed into a museum open to the public. The schoolhouse was last used in the mid-1950s, when all the one-room schoolhouses were consolidated into community school districts. The structure was uprooted from its home near KK Road and relocated to “new” Valmeyer. The entire village was relocated to the adjacent uplands after it was devastated by the Great Flood of 1993.
Flood of 1993 Site
Now called “Old Valmeyer” this site is where the village of 900 lost its battle with the Mississippi River during the summer of 1993 after a levee break. About 95 percent of the properties (roughly 325 homes and 25 businesses) were substantially damaged. Valmeyer residents abandoned the floodplain and built a new community atop the towering, thickly wooded bluffs that bordered the eastern edge of the old village. Now, only about 25 houses that survived or were rebuilt remain in Old Valmeyer. The rest of the buildings have been torn down and much of the land is farmed
James Seely Historic Marker
Erected in 1970, this sign marks the site of the first English speaking public school in the Illinois country. It was located in New Design, on
a tract of land known as the James Lemen Grant. A school was located in an abandoned squatter’s cabin. Mr. Samuel John Seely taught children in 1783.
James Lemen, a revolutionary war soldier and anti-slavery leader, came to the Illinois Country of the Northwest Territory and is credited with giving the settlement the name of New Design because he decided to build a settlement here in 1786, one with a “new design.” His home was in the center of this community, which was the largest settlement made by Americans in these times. The monument was erected in 1909 in his honor in the family cemetery.
Baebler Educational Farm is a University of Illinois Extension & Monroe County 4-H Education Foundation owned property. The site provides opportunities for youth to learn about agriculutre and natural resources. There is a walking trail and many gardens to explore.
Burksville Cave/Illinois Caverns
Illinois Caverns State Natural Area is a 120-acre preserve owned by
the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The main attraction of the site is an unimproved wild cave with nearly three miles of walking-height passage. Located in karst-rich Monroe County, the area contains woodlands, restored prairie and a half-mile long prairie trail.
Once home to several businesses, the town now only has Zion United Church of Christ, which was originally built in the 1860s, and is now a satellite of St. John Church in Maeystown.
Tipton was settled in the 1830s by immigrants from Tipperary, Ireland. The original name of the town was Tipperary, later changed to Tiptown and shortened to Tipton. St. Patrick’s Parish was originally constructed in 1853, and a larger church was built in 1860. The parish is still active today.
Maeystown Historic District
Maeystown was founded in 1852 by Jacob Maeys and settled by German immigrants. The village is unique in manner with structures integrated into the landscape. Sixty significant buildings still exist, including Maeys’ log house, the original church, the stone arch bridge entry into town, Zeitinger’s Mill and various outbuildings, barns, and smokehouses made of limestone, brick and wood. Maeystown, in its entirety, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 – one of only a few villages in the State of Illinois to be so honored. Today the village has a restaurant, museum, general store, bed and breakfast, and shops.
Maeystown Creek Stone Arch Bridge
The arched stone bridge, built in 1881, marks the entrance to historic Maeystown. Most recently restored in 2018, this one lane bridge is still in use today.
Maeystown Mill Museum
In 1859 Jacob Pilliard and John Coleman built a steam-powered flour mill along the middle creek in Maeystown. It passed into the possession of Anton Zeitinger in 1868, and shortly after it burned. In 1880, a group bought the land and rebuilt the mill, but it was never used for that purpose. Over the years, the building has been a funeral parlor, furniture business, dance hall, auto garage, gas station, and furniture restoration shop. The Maeystown Preservation Society bought the mill in 1980, made restorations, and reopened it as a visitor center and museum.