Centralia, Illinois
Flag of Centralia, Illinois
Location of Centralia in (clockwise) Clinton, Marion, Jefferson, and Washington Counties, Illinois.
Location of Centralia in (clockwise) Clinton, Marion, Jefferson, and Washington Counties, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 38°31′31″N 89°7′57″W / 38.52528°N 89.13250°W / 38.52528; -89.13250[1]
CountryUnited States
CountiesClinton, Jefferson, Marion, Washington
TownshipsCentralia, Brookside, Grand Prairie,
Named forIllinois Central Railroad
 • TypeManager-Council
 • BodyCity Council
 • MayorBryan Kuder
 • Total9.23 sq mi (23.91 km2)
 • Land8.20 sq mi (21.24 km2)
 • Water1.03 sq mi (2.67 km2)
Elevation502 ft (153 m)
 • Total12,182
 • Density1,485.61/sq mi (573.61/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s)618,730
FIPS code17-12164
GNIS ID2393787[1]
Public TransitSouth Central Transit
Wikimedia CommonsCentralia, Illinois

Centralia is a city in Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, and Washington counties in the U.S. state of Illinois with the largest portion in Marion County. The city is the largest in three of the counties; Clinton, Marion, and Washington, but is not a county seat of any of them. The population was 12,182 as of the 2020 census, down from 13,032 in 2010.[4]


Centralia is named for the Illinois Central Railroad, built in 1853. The city was founded at the location where the two original branches of the railroad converged. Centralia was first chartered as a city in 1859.[2] Now Canadian National owns the line.

In the southern city limits is the intersection of the Third Principal Meridian and its baseline. This initial point was established in 1815, and it governs land surveys for about 60% of the state of Illinois, including Chicago.[5] The original monument is at the junction of Highway 51 and the Marion-Jefferson County Line Road; today there is a small easement situated in the northeast corner of this intersection, which contains a monument and historic marker.

Production of the PayDay candy bar began here in 1938. Michael Moore's documentary, The Big One (1998), opens with the closing of this candy bar plant in the late 20th century. It addresses similar economic woes in other cities.

The town of Centerville, Washington was renamed as Centralia, Washington to avoid being confused with another Centerville in that state. The suggestion came from a former resident of the Illinois town.

Centralia's city flag was designed in 1924 by Wendell Bauer, whose design was awarded first prize in a community-wide design competition.[6] A broad red stripe through the center of the flag represents the railroads to which the city owes its existence. A gold star above and below the stripe signify the area's mining and agricultural industries, respectively. Lastly, a triangle pyramid with a sphinx head design is symbolic of Egypt, a tribute to Southern Illinois’ nickname, “Little Egypt”.

The Centralia mine disaster occurred in 1947, when the nearby Centralia No. 5 coal mine exploded, killing 111 people.[7] The disaster was memorialized in folk singer Woody Guthrie's song "The Dying Miner".[7]


Centralia is located approximately 60 miles (97 km) east of St. Louis, Missouri. Most of the city, including its downtown, is in southwestern Marion County, but the city extends west into Clinton County and south 5 miles (8 km) into Washington and Jefferson counties. The city is 10 miles (16 km) north of exit 61 of Interstate 64 and 9 miles (14 km) west of exit 109 of Interstate 57. Centralia is one of three Illinois cities with portions in four counties, the others being Barrington Hills and Aurora. Because of its unique location within multiple counties, portions of Centralia are associated with different Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs). The Centralia Micropolitan Statistical Area includes all of Marion County. The Clinton County portion of the city is considered part of the St. Louis, MO–IL Metropolitan Statistical Area, while the Jefferson County portion lies within the Mt. Vernon Micropolitan Statistical Area. The portion of Centralia in Washington County is not considered part of any metropolitan or micropolitan area.

According to the 2021 census gazetteer files, Centralia has a total area of 9.23 square miles (23.91 km2), of which 8.20 square miles (21.24 km2) (or 88.81%) is land and 1.03 square miles (2.67 km2) (or 11.19%) is water.[8]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[9]

As of the 2020 census[10] there were 12,182 people, 5,458 households, and 2,776 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,319.40 inhabitants per square mile (509.42/km2). There were 5,900 housing units at an average density of 639.01 per square mile (246.72/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 77.92% White, 11.01% African American, 0.24% Native American, 2.09% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.33% from other races, and 7.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.29% of the population.

There were 5,458 households, out of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.36% were married couples living together, 12.59% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.14% were non-families. 40.67% of all households were made up of individuals, and 19.59% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.92 and the average family size was 2.20.

The city's age distribution consisted of 24.1% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 22.8% from 45 to 64, and 21.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $39,117, and the median income for a family was $60,754. Males had a median income of $38,632 versus $25,986 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,141. About 15.7% of families and 23.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 36.9% of those under age 18 and 10.0% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture

Centralia Cultural Society

The Centralia Cultural Society is a community arts center.[11] The center hosts the Centralia Philharmonic Orchestra (an amateur orchestra), the Little Theatre Players, the Choral Society, Bronze Expressions Handbell Ensemble; and periodically hosts galleries by the Light and Lens photography club, and Palette and Brush club, and student art shows.[12] The Little Theatre Players was established in 1961, and performs plays and musicals.[13][14][15]

Local features

Centralia Bell Tower

Foundation Park is the site of the annual Balloon Fest. Recent events have had about forty balloons and drew 40,000 visitors. The Annual Centralia Balloon festival was the event in which the second "Space Shuttle" hot air balloon crashed and burned due to a fuel line defect.[16]

Foundation Park also hosts the Fantasy of Lights drive-through holiday light display during the months of November and December.[17]

In addition to Foundation Park, the Centralia Foundation also supports the Centralia Carillon. Completed in 1983, with 65 bells, the carillon is ranked as the eighth-largest in the world. The largest bell, Great Tom, weighs 5+12 tons. The current carillonneur is Roy Kroezen.[18]

One of only two remaining 2500-class steam locomotives from the Illinois Central Railroad is preserved on static display at Centralia's Fairview Park. The locomotive is maintained by the Age of Steam Memorial non-profit organization.[19] A 9415 caboose and a rare Republic F-105 Thunderchief aircraft are also on display in the park.[20]

Two-story brick building.
Centralia Public Library

Historic downtown

Centralia's downtown features historic architecture, and has seen recent development with the addition of a Splash Pad near the Centralia Carillon.

Commercial Historic District

In 2012, the downtown area of Centralia was added to the National Register of Historic Places.[21] Notable historic buildings include the former Langenfield Hotel, Centralia House restaurant, Old National Bank buildings, Sadler Opera House, Centralia Sentinel Building, and the Illinois Theater.

The Langenfield Hotel was "established in 1912 by John Langenfield" and "became the premier hotel in the area."[22] Images of the Langenfield Hotel have been used for postcards featuring Centralia.[23] The name Langenfield was also connected to the historic Langenfield Motor Company buildings.

The Centralia Sentinel Building houses the Centralia Morning Sentinel newspaper[24] and features Egyptian Revival style architecture. This may be connected to Southern Illinois' nickname of "Egypt," or "Little Egypt."[25]

The Illinois Theater in downtown Centralia used to be a vaudeville and movie theater and is currently undergoing renovations that will enable it to seat 500 and hold professional entertainment performances.[26]

The Centralia Area Historical Museum

The Centralia Area Historical Museum is free to the public and contains three stories of photographs and artifacts from Centralia's extensive history as a major railway hub and mining town. The museum accepts items either as donations or through loans. In addition to the displays, the museum also contains the George Ross Library which holds city history books, newspapers and periodicals, as well as family histories and genealogies.[27][28]

Parks and recreation

Centralia's Foundation Park is a scenic 235-acre (0.95 km2) park that features hiking trails, an exercise trail, an ice skating pond and two fishing ponds stocked with bass, bluegill, and catfish. The park also sports a restored prairie, a 36-hole disc-golf course, a Chapel in the Woods, the Hall Shelter, the Sentinel Shelter, The Bowl (an outdoor amphitheater), Moose Oven, and the Miner's Memorial.[29]

Fairview Park includes baseball and softball fields, tennis and sand volleyball courts, a skate park, a swimming pool complex, playgrounds, and picnic shelters.[20]

The Centralia Recreational Complex is a 60,000 square foot recreational facility equipped with walking track, indoor basketball courts, competition and leisure swimming pools, weight rooms, and exercise classrooms.[30]

Two lakes near Centralia offer water sport and fishing recreation. Raccoon Lake is a 970-acre man-made lake. It was built in 1942 and is a water reservoir. Boating and fishing are permitted on Raccoon Lake, with the appropriate licenses and permits.[31] The lake hosts the annual Outboard Power Boat Races (as sponsored by the National Boat Racing Association and Outboard Drivers Association).[32]

Lake Centralia is a 412-acre man-made lake, constructed in 1910, and is both a water reservoir and location for water sport activities such as boating and fishing. It has an average depth of 10 feet. It is located slightly northeast of Centralia. Largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish populate the lake. Fishing licenses and boating permits are required. Fishermen are limited to two pole and line fishing. Largemouth bass fishing tournaments are held on Centralia Lake, with 28 tournaments being held in 2018.[33]


Public elementary schools in Centralia include Schiller Elementary (PK-1st grade) Jordan Elementary (2nd-3rd grade), and Centralia Junior High School (4th-8th grade). According to the 2018-2019 Illinois Report Card for school districts, Schiller Elementary scored as a Lowest Performing school, Jordan Elementary as a Commendable school, and Centralia Jr. High as an Underperforming school.[34]

Private elementary schools in Centralia include Trinity Lutheran School (K-8), affiliated with Trinity Lutheran Church,[35] St. Mary School (Preschool and K-8), affiliated with St. Mary Catholic Church,[36] and New Horizon Christian School (Preschool and K-8), affiliated with Greenview Christian Church.[37]

Centralia's public high school is Centralia High School. Its sports teams are called the Orphans and Annies. The Centralia boys basketball team won its 2,000th game during the 2007–08 season, becoming the first high school basketball team in the nation to achieve that milestone.[38] The Centralia Orphans were the State Runner-Up in the 2011 Class 3A.

The Orphans got their unique nickname during the early 1900s when the boys' basketball team made it to the state tournament. The school was low on funds at the time, and the team was forced to pick its uniforms from a pile of non-matching red uniforms. At the state tournament, an announcer commented that the team looked like a bunch of orphans on the court because of their mismatched uniforms. The name stuck. Previously, the team had gone by nicknames such as the Reds and Cardinals. In 2013 and 2014, the Centralia Orphans were recently named the Most Unique Mascot in the nation by USA Today.

The private Christ Our Rock Lutheran High School first opened its doors in August 2004 with nine students. As of 2013, the student body has grown to over 100 students. Christ Our Rock is the home of the Silver Stallions.[39]

Post-secondary education is available at Kaskaskia College, a community college serving the Centralia region. Kaskaskia College has extension centers in the surrounding towns of Vandalia, Salem, Greenville, Trenton, and Nashville. The Harry L.Crisp Technology Center in located on the east side of Centralia and houses occupational and technical programs.[40] Kaskaskia College and its education centers also offer non-degree community education courses on subjects such as photography, gardening, and beekeeping.[41]

Kaskaskia College is also the site of the Jim Beasley Veteran's Tribute, honoring veterans connected to the Kaskaskia College District 501.[42]

The Airgo International Flight School is a Professional Flight Training school located at the Centralia Municipal Airport.[43]



IL 161 runs east and west directly through Centralia and US Highway 51 runs north and south through the city.

South Central Transit is the public transportation system for Centralia and surrounding areas.[44]

The City of Centralia owns and operates the Centralia Municipal Airport, a general aviation facility that can accommodate corporate and private aircraft. The runway is 5001 feet long. Airgo, Inc. is the fixed-base operator at the Centralia Municipal Airport.[45]

Rail transportation

See also: Centralia, Illinois (Amtrak station)

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Centralia. Amtrak Train 59, the southbound City of New Orleans, departs Centralia at 12:25 am daily with service to Carbondale, Fulton, Newbern-Dyersburg, Memphis, Greenwood, Yazoo City, Jackson, Hazlehurst, Brookhaven, McComb, Hammond and New Orleans. Amtrak Train 58, the northbound City of New Orleans, departs Centralia at 4:10 am daily with service to Effingham, Mattoon, Champaign-Urbana, Kankakee, Homewood and Chicago. Centralia is also served by Amtrak Train 390/391, the Saluki, daily in the morning, and Amtrak Train 392/393, the Illini, daily in the afternoon/evening. Both the Saluki and the Illini operate between Chicago and Carbondale.

Correctional center

The Centralia Correctional Center is a medium security prison for adult males opened in 1980. With an operating capacity of 1,572, its population in 2019 was 1,281.[citation needed]

Notable people


  1. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Centralia, Illinois
  2. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Centralia" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  4. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Centralia city, Illinois". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  5. ^ "The Third Principal Meridian, Centralia Illinois". Principal Meridian Project. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  7. ^ a b United States Mine Rescue Association. "Centralia No. 5 Mine Explosion, Centralia, Illinois". Mine Disasters in the United States. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  8. ^ Bureau, US Census. "Gazetteer Files". Census.gov. Retrieved June 29, 2022.
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  10. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
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  12. ^ "Centralia High School Art Show". See Centralia, Illinois. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  13. ^ Gullion, Toby (September 21, 2018). "GREASE Opens at the Centralia Cultural Society This Weekend". WJBD-FM. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  14. ^ "Pinocchio – a kids play". See Centralia, Illinois. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  15. ^ "Steel Magnolias". See Centralia, Illinois. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  16. ^ "Centralia Balloon Fest". The Greater Centralia Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  17. ^ "Fantasy of Lights". See Centralia, Illinois. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
  18. ^ "Home". Centralia Carillon. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  19. ^ "Age of Steam Memorial - IC 2500 Steam Locomotive". ageofsteammemorial.org. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  20. ^ a b "Fairview Park". See Centralia, Illinois. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  21. ^ Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (3/2/1934 - ) (2013–2017). Illinois SP Centralia Commercial Historic District. File Unit: National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records: Illinois, 1964 - 2013.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
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  23. ^ "IL Centralia LITHO 1913 LANGENFELD HOTEL & Dirt Street Scene No.32400 | #1627441058". Worthpoint. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
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  26. ^ "Illinois Theatre". See Centralia, Illinois. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
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  29. ^ "Foundation Park". See Centralia, Illinois. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
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  31. ^ "Lake Profile -- RACCOON LAKE". www.ifishillinois.org. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  32. ^ "Outboard Power Boat Races". See Centralia, Illinois. February 10, 2020. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  33. ^ "Lake Profile -- CENTRALIA LAKE". www.ifishillinois.org. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  34. ^ "Illinois Report Card". www.illinoisreportcard.com. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  35. ^ Solutions, TechKnow. "Trinity Lutheran School | Centralia, IL | Trinity Lutheran". Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  36. ^ "Welcome". www.smscentralia.org. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  37. ^ "Schools Near Me | United States | New Horizon Christian School". NHCS. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  38. ^ "High School's Winningest Team". American Profile. February 15, 2004. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  39. ^ "Christ Our Rock Lutheran High School, Centralia, Illinois". Corlhs.org. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  40. ^ "Crisp Technology Center - Kaskaskia College". www.kaskaskia.edu. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  41. ^ "Continuing and Community Education - Kaskaskia College". www.kaskaskia.edu. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  42. ^ "Jim Beasley Veterans Tribute". vets.kaskaskia.edu. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  43. ^ "AirGo". flyairgo.com. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
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  45. ^ "Centralia Municipal Airport". See Centralia, Illinois. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  46. ^ "86th Academy Awards Winners | Oscar Legacy | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". www.oscars.org. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  47. ^ a b Harlem globetrotter all time roster. http://www.harlemglobetrotters.com/harlem-globetrotters-all-time-roster Archived 2012-12-08 at the Wayback Machine. Access date 5 June 2014
  48. ^ 'Illinois Blue Book 1947-1948,' Biographical Sketch of Ora A. Oldfield, pg. 258-29

49. https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=006500050HArt%2E+6&ActID=802&ChapterID=14&SeqStart=60100000&SeqEnd=64500000