Rock Island, Illinois
Flag of Rock Island, Illinois
Official seal of Rock Island, Illinois
Official logo of Rock Island, Illinois
Rock Solid, Rock Island
Location of Rock Island in Rock Island County, Illinois.
Location of Rock Island in Rock Island County, Illinois.
Rock Island is located in Illinois
Rock Island
Rock Island
Rock Island is located in the United States
Rock Island
Rock Island
Coordinates: 41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W / 41.48917°N 90.57306°W / 41.48917; -90.57306
CountryUnited States
CountyRock Island
 • MayorMike Thoms
 • City17.07 sq mi (44.22 km2)
 • Land16.87 sq mi (43.70 km2)
 • Water0.20 sq mi (0.53 km2)
 • City37,108
 • Density2,199.51/sq mi (849.23/km2)
 • Metro
384,324 (US: 147th)
 • CSA
474,019 (US: 90th)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
61201, 61204, 61264, 61299
Area code309
FIPS code17-65078
Interstate SpursI-280

Rock Island is a city in and the county seat of Rock Island County, Illinois, United States.[2] The population was 37,108 at the 2020 census.[3] Located at the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi rivers, it is one of the Quad Cities along with neighboring Moline and East Moline in Illinois and the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa. The Quad Cities had a population of 384,324 in 2020. The city is home to Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the US, which employs 6,000 people.[4] The original Rock Island, from which the city name is derived, is now called Arsenal Island.[5]


Saukenuk, 1820

European-American Settlement

Rock Island in 1865

The original portion of what is now known as Rock Island was called Farnhamsburg – after the original two homes were built by Colonel George Davenport and Russell Farnham in 1826. Davenport and Farnham were business partners, trading with the local Native Americans. The original city plat was filed on July 10, 1835, and was named Stephenson. It was renamed Rock Island in March 1841.[6]

The southern portion of Rock Island, including todays Watch Hill area, was originally known as Searstown. It was named after David B. Sears - who built the Sears Power Dam on the Rock River. Searstown was annexed by Rock Island in 1915.

This area has been a fortuitous place first for settlement and then for steamboat traffic, bridges, and railroads.

Railroads and development

The Harper House

The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad (RI) was founded here in 1851, known informally as the Rock Island Line; over the next century, the railroad grew to serve fourteen states but ended in bankruptcy in 1980.[7] As part of later nineteenth-century development, two first-class hotels: the Harper House (built by Ben Harper and opened in February 1871) and the Rock Island House were built in town.[8] The Rock Island Arsenal has manufactured military equipment and ordnance for the U.S. Army since the 1880s.

The Rock Island Southern Railway was an interurban line that ran from Rock Island to Monmouth, Illinois, then onward to Galesburg, Illinois. It was built between 1906 and 1910. A portion of the trackage, from Rock Island to Preemption, Illinois, was shared with the CRI&P line that served the coal mines in Cable, Illinois, and Sherrard, Illinois. The line finally folded in 1952.


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Due to its geography, Rock Island has a rich history of bridge building, including the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi (now gone), an unusual two-track railroad bridge, and the largest roller dam in the world.

The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River was built between Arsenal Island and Davenport in 1856. Many steamboat pilots felt that the bridge had been intentionally positioned to make it hard for them to navigate, and this conflict reflected a larger rivalry: St. Louis and its steamboats against Chicago and its railroads.[9] Two weeks after the bridge opened, the steamboat Effie Afton collided with the bridge, caught fire, and damaged the bridge.[9] The owner of the Effie Afton sued the bridge company for damages, and Abraham Lincoln was one of the lawyers who defended the railroad.[9] This test case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the railroad in 1872.[9] Although the original bridge is long gone, a monument exists on Arsenal Island marking the Illinois side. On the Iowa side, the bridge was located near where 4th and Federal streets intersect with River Drive.

The Rock Island Line shipped goods from west of the Mississippi, across the bridge at Rock Island, east to Chicago. This map shows the railroad's extent in 1965.

The Lock and Dam No. 15 and the Government Bridge are located just southwest of the site of the first bridge. The Government Bridge, completed in 1896, is notable for having two sets of railroad tracks above the car lanes. There are only two bridges in the world with this feature. Three other bridges span the river between Rock Island and Davenport. The Crescent Rail Bridge is a railroad-only bridge, completed in 1899. The Centennial Bridge was completed in 1940 for autos only. The newest bridge is the Interstate 280 bridge, completed in 1973. Lock and Dam No. 15, completed in 1934 as a federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, is the largest roller dam in the world. The dam is designed for navigation, not flood control. During flood season, the rollers are raised, unleashing the full flow of the water.

On the south side of the city, overlooked by the Black Hawk State Historic Site, are auto and railroad crossings of the Rock River to Milan, Illinois. This set of bridges also crosses the historic Hennepin Canal and Sears Dam[10] (this was named after the entrepreneur David B. Sears, who previously built the Sears Dam between Arsenal Island and Moline.) In 2007 a new bridge was completed between 3rd Street Moline/southeast Rock Island and Milan. It expedites the trip to Milan, the airport,[which?] and points south on U.S. Route 67.


Rock Island is located at 41°29′21″N 90°34′23″W / 41.48917°N 90.57306°W / 41.48917; -90.57306 (41.489083, -90.573154).[11]

According to the 2010 census, Rock Island has a total area of 17.872 square miles (46.29 km2), of which 16.85 square miles (43.64 km2) (or 94.28%) is land and 1.022 square miles (2.65 km2) (5.72%) is water.[12]


Rock Island
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: [13]
Metric conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm


Historical population
2022 (est.)36,256[14]−2.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[15]
2010[16] 2020[17]

2020 census

Rock Island Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race Pop 2010[16] Pop 2020[17] % 2010 % 2020
White (NH) 26,464 21,910 67.83% 59.04%
Black or African American (NH) 6,987 7,135 17.91% 19.23%
Native American or Alaska Native (NH) 84 63 0.22% 0.17%
Asian (NH) 680 1,603 1.74% 4.32%
Pacific Islander (NH) 8 12 0.02% 0.03%
Some Other Race (NH) 66 160 0.17% 0.43%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 1,065 1,928 2.73% 5.20%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 3,664 4,297 9.39% 11.58%
Total 39,018 37,108 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race

2010 Census

In 2000 Census, there were 39,684 people, 16,148 households, and 9,543 families residing in the city.[18] The population density was 2,492.0 inhabitants per square mile (962.2/km2). There were 17,542 housing units at an average density of 1,101.6 per square mile (425.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 77.13% White, 17.17% African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.75% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 2.41% from other races, and 2.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.90% of the population.

There were 16,148 households, out of which 26.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.2% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.9% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.97.

The city's population was spread out, with 23.0% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,729, and the median income for a family was $45,127. Males had a median income of $32,815 versus $23,378 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,202. About 10.9% of families and 14.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.5% of those under age 18 and 8.4% of those age 65 or over.


Largest employers

According to the city's 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[19] the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Rock Island Arsenal 6,301
2 Trinity Rock Island 1,848
3 Rock Island–Milan School District 41 1,292
4 Rock Island County 733
5 Jumer's Casino & Hotel 550
6 Augustana College 550
7 Pfg Tpc Roma Foods 530
8 City of Rock Island 436
9 Modern Woodmen of America 435
10 Honeywell Safety Products 400

Rock Island County Courthouse

Construction began in April 2017 for a new Rock Island County courthouse. The $28 million project was completed in the fall of 2018, and the old courthouse was expected to be torn down upon completion of the new building.[20] However, resident opposition delayed the demolition, with the phrase "Save Our Courthouse" being used by opponents to the demolition. The old courthouse was demolished in April 2023.


The majority of the city is served by the Rock Island–Milan School District with portions of the southwest area falling under the Rockridge School District. The Rock Island–Milan School District is currently home to 13 public schools, with one high school, two junior high schools, nine elementary schools, and one alternative education center. Several private schools also serve Rock Island, including Jordan Catholic Elementary School and Alleman Catholic High School.

High schools


Main article: Quad Cities Colleges and Universities

Former schools

Villa de Chantal Catholic school closed in 1978, and the building was destroyed by fire in 2005. Schools that were closed and demolished include Franklin Junior High School, Central Junior High School, Lincoln Elementary School, and Audubon Elementary School.[citation needed]

Points of interest

See also: Quad Cities Landmarks

The Quad City Hindu Temple
Longview Park

Rock Island, Illinois is the site of the Quad City Hindu Temple, a Hindu shrine dedicated chiefly to the deity Venkateswara. The temple opened in 2007. Prior to its construction, Hindu worshippers had to travel to St. Louis or Peoria to participate in Hindu festivals and worship.[22][23]

Cultural organizations


Main article: Quad Cities sports teams

The first football game in what was to become the National Football League was played at Rock Island's Douglas Field in September, 1920. It was hosted by the Rock Island Independents (1907–1926), who were a charter NFL franchise in 1920.[26]

The Rock Island Islanders were a minor league baseball team that played for 37 seasons between 1901 and 1948. The Islanders played at Douglas Park and were affiliates of the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia A's.

The Rock Island Legion Post 200 baseball team won the 4th State Championship in its history in 2011 in Galesburg, Illinois. Post 200 would finish 4th that year in the Great Lakes Regional.

Karters flock to Rock Island every year for the prestigious Rock Island Grand Prix on Labor Day weekend, which attracts competitors from across the United States and the world. With exception to 1997, when the annual race was canceled due to legal liability issues, the Rock Island Grand Prix has been held every year since 1994.

Rock Island High School has won state championships in basketball, girls and boys track, softball, and wrestling. Additionally the football and basketball programs are perennial powerhouses. Rock Island Public Schools Stadium has an artificial surface and has a seating capacity of over 15,000.


Main article: Media in the Quad Cities

Rock Island is the location of television station WHBF-TV. Until 1963, WHBF was one of only two television stations in the Quad Cities area. (The other is WOC-TV on the Iowa side of the river.) Rock Island was also the longtime former home of WHBF-TV's former sister radio stations, WHBF and WHBF-FM, although it does remain the licensed city of those stations.

Also, National Public Radio member station WVIK is licensed to and located in Rock Island on the campus of Augustana College, and WGVV-LP, which is also licensed to the city of Rock Island.

Rock Island is the home base for NOAA Weather Radio WXJ-73, the Quad Cities' area NWR station, programmed by the National Weather Service in Davenport.


Quad Cities MetroLINK provides bus service on numerous routes connecting Rock Island to destinations across the Quad Cities. District Station in downtown Rock Island serves as a hub of the system.[27]

Film, theater, and literary references

Notable people

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See also



  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 3, 2015. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. ^ "Rock Island city, Illinois". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  4. ^ "Rock Island Arsenal". Archived from the original on October 14, 2008. Retrieved October 13, 2008.
  5. ^ [1] Archived January 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Rock Island History - Rock Island, IL - Official Website". Archived from the original on May 2, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  7. ^ Drury, George H. (1994). The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 87–93. ISBN 0-89024-072-8.
  8. ^ Diane Oestreich: "Harper House Hotel. 2nd Avenue & 19th Street", Rock Island Presrvation Society, February 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d Tweet, Roald D. The Quad Cities: An American mosaic. East Hall Press. 1996.
  10. ^ "Rock Island hydroelectric plant keeps powering up". Quad City Times. Archived from the original on May 2, 2018. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  11. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  12. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  13. ^ "NASA Earth Observations Data Set Index". NASA. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  14. ^ "City and Town Population Totals: 2020-2022". United States Census Bureau. May 1, 2023. Retrieved May 1, 2023.
  15. ^ "Decennial Census of Population and Housing by Decades". US Census Bureau.
  16. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Rock Island, Illinois". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  17. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Rock Island, Illinois". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  18. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  19. ^ "City of Rock Island, Illinois; Comprehensive Financial Report; Year Ended December 31, 2017". Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  20. ^ "Construction on new Rock Island County courthouse to begin in April". March 22, 2017. Archived from the original on March 23, 2017. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  21. ^ The Historic Rock Island Courthouse
  22. ^ "Keeping the faith". Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  23. ^ Joni Conrad, "The Quad-City Hindu Temple provides a place to share religious, cultural and culinary experiences", Rock Island News, no byline, accessed Dec. 24, 2008
  24. ^ Genesius Guild
  25. ^ Quad City Arts
  26. ^ "NFL History by Decade". July 21, 2015. Archived from the original on January 15, 2008. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  27. ^ "Metro Monday-Friday Schedules". Retrieved January 28, 2024.
  28. ^ Rock Island Trail Archived 2016-01-19 at the Wayback Machine at IMDb.
  29. ^ Jack Kerouac, On the Road, New York: Penguin 1999, 12.
  30. ^ "The Speeches". Blues Brothers Central. Archived from the original on January 19, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  31. ^ "Green Bay Packers Find Players and Wins in Rock Island Illinois | Packers 101". Sports Media 101. Archived from the original on January 18, 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  32. ^ Chris Minor (August 7, 2014). "Former pro football player says Rock Island will always be home". Archived from the original on February 7, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  33. ^ "EVANS, Lane Allen, (1951 - )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  34. ^ 'Illinois Blue Book 1993-1994,' Biographical Sketch of Virginia Feister Frederick, pg. 95
  35. ^ Historical Vignette 079 – The Oldest U.S. Army Officer to Serve in World War II Was an Engineer
  36. ^ Charles Keller – Brigadier General, United States Army
  37. ^ 'Illinois Blue Book 167-168,' Biographical Sketch of Paul E. Rink, pg. 278-279
  38. ^ "SCHILLING, Bobby, (1964 - )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  39. ^ 'Illinois Blue Book 1951-1952,' Biographical Sketch of Clinton Searle, pg. 212-213

General references