The City of Danville [†] is located along the Vermilion River, in East Central Illinois, at the border with the State of Indiana. The city is the heart of Vermilion County, serving as the core of the metropolitan area as well as the county seat. This status has been shaped in large part by Danville's rich history.
Danville has a diverse cultural heritage and history. Originally territory occupied by Miami-Kickapoo and Pottawatomie tribes of the Algonquin Indians, the Vermilion River served as a key resource. The river was eventually discovered to be rich in salt deposits and as a result, the area steadily grew through the early 1800s. The town was originally platted by its namesake Dan Beckwith and his associate Amos Williams in 1827, leading to further development, including mills that operated along the North Fork of the Vermil- ion River, the modern day location of Ellsworth Park. During the 1850s, the economy was spurred further by the construction of the first railroad and start of coal mining in the area, opening up commerce with large trade center. After the Civil War, Danville continued to grow. In addition to economic opportunities, Danville offered a rich cultural life focused in and around the downtown.
In the 1920s, the railroads began to decline, hitting all sectors of Danville's economy. This was followed by the Great Depression, which further increased unemployment rates and slowed growth. Finally, in the 1950s, financial prosperity returned with the movement of a number of large industries to the Danville area, bringing with them new residents. However, while the city expanded outward, the downtown was experiencing disinvest- ment and the connection with the Vermilion River was being lost. Urban renewal initia- tives attempted to recover the vibrancy of downtown, but failed to attract enough interest in the inner city.
† City of Danville, Re-envisioning Danville Downtown Waterfront, 2016, www.dats-il.com, accessed August, 2022.