In the era of smartphones, the watch is no longer an indispensable tool for telling time, but a prized fashion accessory—and yet another case study in the creative destruction brought about by a fast-moving, technology-driven, global economy. It also lies at the foundation of Bradley University, which graduated more than 11,000 watchmaking craftsmen from its school of horology from 1892 to 1961.
For nearly a century, the clock depicted on the cover was perched high above downtown in the old Peoria County Courthouse, striking the hours through two world wars and 18 presidential administrations. There’s something about those ticking hands that tells more than just the time.
It was a local businessman named Foster Vachon who first stepped in to save the thousand-pound clock when the courthouse was scheduled for demolition. And it’s due to the efforts of groups like the Peoria Historical Society and Wheels O’ Time Museum and men like John Parks, who is currently restoring the clock (for a second time) in his Dunlap shop, that this treasure will once again make its way downtown, to its new home in the Peoria Riverfront Museum. With its blend of old and new, no location could be more appropriate.
In this, our second history-themed issue, we look back at the people, places and things that laid the groundwork for our region today: the mining companies that endure as names on the roads, parks and towns of central Illinois; the rich, but tragic history of our Native American population; and Peoria’s stockyards, one of the country’s largest in its heyday. From Eugene Baldwin, “Peoria’s philosopher,” who established two of the newspapers that would eventually become the Journal Star, to Bernie Shelton, whose gang controlled gambling in the city and would become its most notorious criminal (and murder victim), this history is filled with characters both famous and infamous.
“Life can only be understood by looking back,” declared the philosopher Kierkegaard, “but can only be lived by looking forward.” For that, it’s important to maintain our connection to the past—not only for these amazing stories, but also because it helps us make sense of where we’re going.
On a similar note, the 2012 Greater Peoria Economic Scorecard hit mailboxes across central Illinois several weeks ago. Produced by The Heartland Partnership, it’s a statistically rigorous instrument that benchmarks our performance against those of comparable regions throughout the Midwest in the key categories of Economic Performance, People, Innovation, Business & Entrepreneurship, and Livability.
Take some time and get to know the Scorecard, online at greaterpeoriascorecard.com. Because in order to make improvements, we must know what we’re doing right…and where we need to get better. Because in order to move forward, we must stop and take a look back. iBi