Pittsfield, Illinois

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Pittsfield is a city in Pike County, Illinois, United States. The population was 4,211 at the 2000 census.



The city was named after Pittsfield, Massachusetts.[1] It is the county seat of Pike County.[2] It was home to John Hay, Lincoln's personal secretary, ambassador to England under President William McKinley, later Secretary of State for Theodore Roosevelt and creator of the Open Door Policy in China. As county seat, the town was one of the various places in central Illinois where Abraham Lincoln practiced law as part of the circuit court, working on 34 cases between 1839 and 1852. One local newspaper, now known as the Pike Press, was then owned by another of Lincoln's future secretaries, John Nicolay, and featured an editorial containing one of the first known suggestions of Lincoln as the Republican nominee for the presidency.

Pittsfield is the self-proclaimed "Pork Capital" of the Midwest, owing to the long history of pork production in the region, which fed into the large meat-packing industry of Chicago. Though agriculture in the region is no longer so dependent on pork, the town still hosts a yearly "Pig Days" festival.

The local high school football team, the Saukees, still holds the record for longest winning streak in the state. Starting with their season opening 6-0 win over North Greene in 1966, the Pittsfield Saukees reeled off 64 consecutive wins, which included 15 straight shutouts between 1969 and 1971. The streak extended all the way through to the second game of the 1973 season, when Pittsfield dropped a 12-0 decision to Winchester.

Pittsfield is the birthplace of TV actor Ryan Carnes, the two-time Illinois state wrestling champion John Wise, and the Illinois single season home run record holder Scott Riley. It is the setting for Jamie Gilson's book Hello, My Name is Scrambled Eggs. Singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens wrote a song about Pittsfield on his album The Avalanche.


There are many historic landmarks within the city limits, the most notable of which is the Pike County Courthouse. It was built in 1894 by Robert Franklin, a master mason who designed and supervised the keystone architecture of this courthouse. It was the third courthouse in the town, but the fourth in Pike County. The courthouse is fashioned of Cleveland sandstone, and is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful courthouses in the state and the midwest.

The East Ward School, built between 1861 and 1866, was designed by Architect John M. Van Osdel, who also designed the Palmer House in Chicago, as well as the Governor's Mansion in Springfield. John Houston of Griggsville built the school for the contract price of $35,000, which was financed by bonding. The building is stone (boated from Joliet on the Illinois river) and brick burned in Pittsfield. Both the grade school and high school were located in this building. Its large clock and bell were donated by Colonel Ross and mounted in the tower. The school closed in 1955 and was unoccupied until 1978 when it was renovated and became the home of the Pike County Historical Society and the Pike County Historic Museum.

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