Mendota, Illinois

Mendota is a city in LaSalle County, Illinois, United States, in the state's north-central region. The population was 7,372 at the 2010 census, and was estimated to be 7,057 by July 2018.[4] It is part of the Ottawa, IL Micropolitan Statistical Area. Mendota is located approximately 85 miles west of Chicago, 70 miles east of Moline and 55 miles south of Rockford. The current mayor is David W. Boelk, an independent elected to a four-year term.

Mendota, Illinois
Illinois Avenue
Illinois Avenue
The World's Greatest Little City
Location of Mendota in LaSalle County, Illinois.
Location of Mendota in LaSalle County, Illinois.
Mendota, Illinois is located in Illinois
Mendota, Illinois
Mendota, Illinois
Location of Mendota in LaSalle County, Illinois.
Coordinates: 41°32′50″N 89°07′02″W / 41.54722°N 89.11722°W / 41.54722; -89.11722Coordinates: 41°32′50″N 89°07′02″W / 41.54722°N 89.11722°W / 41.54722; -89.11722
CountryUnited States
 • TypeMayor
 • MayorDavid W. Boelk (I)
 • Total5.15 sq mi (13.34 km2)
 • Land5.06 sq mi (13.09 km2)
 • Water0.10 sq mi (0.25 km2)
Elevation741 ft (226 m)
 • Total7,372
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,383.31/sq mi (534.10/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code815, 779
FIPS code17-48333
WebsiteOfficial website

The name "Mendota" is derived from a Lakota word meaning "junction of two trails", which was found appropriate for the city since there was a nearby railroad junction for the Illinois Central Railroad and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.[6][7]


Mendota depot ca.1898

In summer of 1853, the Illinois Central Railroad was completed and by the fall of that year, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad completed a crossing at the present site of Mendota. By the following year, the population had grown to more than 1,000 and the town was home to saloons, hotels, and various shops. The town was incorporated as a village in 1855 and reincorporated as a town in 1859. By 1860, the town was also home to churches of 5 denominations.[citation needed]

With the availability of the railroads to facilitate export, several manufactures of items ranging from organs to cigars and buttons opened factories in Mendota. By the end of the American civil war, the population of the town had more than doubled to over 2,000. By winter of 1866, citizens voted on a referendum to secure a city government.[7] Mendota was incorporated into its current city government on April 9, 1867.[7][8]

A library was opened on September 8, 1874 with 1700 books secured by donation. It was acquired by the city government in 1894. The original building was replaced in 1905 by a new Carnegie Library.[1]

A new Union station was opened on February 23, 1888 to replace the original depot which had burned down in 1885. The new building contained a hotel, restaurants, and separate waiting areas for passengers and railroad staff. Because of falling revenue and ridership, much of the station was torn down in 1942. The current Mendota station is the only remaining portion of the original structure.[9]


According to the 2010 census, Mendota has a total area of 5.096 square miles (13.20 km2), of which 5 square miles (12.95 km2) (or 98.12%) is land and 0.096 square miles (0.25 km2) (or 1.88%) is water.[10]

Mendota Creek, a south flowing tributary of the Little Vermilion River, flows through downtown Mendota from its headwaters in the agricultural fields northwest of town. The creek was identified in 2014 as having chronic problems with dissolved oxygen and fecal coliform bacteria concentrations.[11]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)6,994[5]−5.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]

As of the 2010 census[13] there were 7,372 people and 2,826 households residing in the city. The population density was 1,475.9 people per square mile (569.8/km2). There were 3,037 housing units at an average density of 607.4 per square mile (233.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88.3% White, 0.7% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 8.5% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 24.5% of the population.

There were 2,826 households, out of which 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.8% were married couples living together, 11% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.4% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.14.

The population consisted of 27.7% aged 19 or younger and 18% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.2 years. Females comprised 52.4% of the total population.

The median income for a household in the city was $43,534. The per capita income for the city was $21,995. Median income for males was $40,938 and $26,753 for females. 12.3% of the population were below poverty level, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 5.3% of those age 65 or over.


A number of businesses operate within Mendota including:[14]

  • Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), a grain processor.
  • Del Monte Foods, a food processing company. The Del Monte plant was slated to close at the end of the 2019 packing season,[15] until a buyer was found later that year. The purchase is set to be completed in spring 2020.[16]

Arts and cultureEdit

The Mendota Sweet Corn Festival[17] attracts thousands of visitors each August; it features a parade, carnival, beer garden with live bands, free sweet corn cooked in a vintage steam engine, and other special events. The city closes down several streets in the downtown area to host the annual event which is sponsored by Del Monte Foods. The Mendota Tri-County Fair[18] is held every Labor Day weekend at the Mendota Fairgrounds. The fair hosts a carnival, beer garden, and several other events.


The Hume-Carnegie Museum[19] showcases artifacts of local history, including items manufactured in Mendota and a small collection pertaining to Wild Bill Hickok, who was born in nearby Troy Grove. It is located in a former Carnegie library building in Veteran's Park.[20]

The Union Depot Railroad Museum[21] houses the current Amtrak station, several rooms of vintage railroad artifacts, passenger train cars from the 1930s and 1940s. It is also home to CB&Q No. 4978, a 2-8-2 class Locomotive built in September 1923 by Baldwin Locomotive Works.[22]

The Breaking the Prairie Museum[23] is a small barn replica showcasing a rotating display with one large item (a vintage tractor or large item of farm husbandry) and several smaller items. Adjacent to the barn is "The Country Chapel", a small church which is owned by the museum. Completed in 2004, it houses a restored pump organ from the 1880s. It is closed to the public, however special tours can be arranged by contacting the Mendota Historical Society Office.[24]

Parks and recreationEdit

The city has two man made lakes, Lake Mendota and Lake Kakusha, used for boating and fishing. Mendota also maintains a community swimming pool as well as several parks including Snyders Grove, a 104-acre (0.42 km2) reserve/park.[25]


Mendota has four public schools and one private school. The three public grade schools: Blackstone, Lincoln, and Northbrook are part of Mendota Consolidated Community School District 289; while the Mendota Township High School is district 280. Blackstone School houses kindergarten and first grade, and had an enrollment of 271 students in 2010. Lincoln School houses second through fourth grades, and had a student enrollment of 391 in 2010. Northbrook School is home to the fifth through eighth grades, as well as pre-kindergarten; and had an enrollment of 644 in 2010. The student enrollment of the high school in 2010 was 611 students.[26] A new high school facility was built in 2002 at 2300 Main Street (U.S. Route 52). Holy Cross Roman Catholic Parish[27] has a private school which educates students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Aurora University was originally chartered as Mendota College on the north side of Mendota where the high school was located from 1917 to 2003.[28]

Wartburg College (now located in Waverly, Iowa) was located in Mendota from 1875 to 1885.[29]


Mendota has one weekly newspaper, The Mendota Reporter[30]

Mendota has two commercialized radio stations.

FM radio stations
Frequency Call sign Name Format Owner City
100.1 FM WGLC-FM World's Greatest Little City Country music Studstill Media Mendota, Illinois
102.9 FM WMKB Mex Mix Regional Mexican KM Broadcasting Earlville, Illinois



Mendota is served by U.S Interstate 39, U.S. Route 34, U.S. Route 52, and many state highways including Illinois Route 251. Three Amtrak trains in each direction stop daily at the Mendota Amtrak station: the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg between Chicago and Quincy, and the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Kansas City and Los Angeles. (The California Zephyr passes through without stopping.) There are also two small airports near-by.

Notable peopleEdit

In popular cultureEdit

The Arctic Monkeys, an English rock band, filmed their music video "One For the Road" at the Tri-Country Fairgrounds in September, 2013.[31]


  1. ^ a b "About Us/History". Graves Hume Public Library. 2020-10-15. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  3. ^ "Elevation Mendota, IL". Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). US Geological Survey. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b "2015 Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. US Census Bureau. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  6. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 205.
  7. ^ a b c The Past and present of La Salle County, Illinois : containing a history of the county, its cities, towns, &c., a biographical directory of its citizens, war record of its volunteers in the late rebellion, portraits of early settlers and prominent men, general and local statistics, map of La Salle County, history of Illinois, Constitution of the United States, miscellaneous matters, etc, etc. Chicago: H.F. Kett & Co. 1877. pp. 314–323.
  8. ^ Illinois Central Magazine. Illinois Central Railroad Company. 1922. p. 43.
  9. ^ Mendota, Illinois; Great American Stations (Amtrak)
  10. ^ "G001 – Geographic Identifiers – 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  11. ^ CDM Smith (2014-11-01). Little Vermilion River (LaSalle County) Watershed TMDL Stage 1 Report (PDF) (Report). 1.
  12. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  13. ^ "2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. US Census Bureau. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Mendota Manufacturers Archived 2011-10-10 at the Wayback Machine." Retrieved on October 16, 2011.
  15. ^ "Del Monte closing corn-packing plant in northern Illinois". Mendota, Illinois. Associated Press. August 21, 2019. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  16. ^ "Del Monte Plant Finds Buyer in Mendota". WGLC. Studstill Media.
  17. ^ "The Mendota Sweet Corn Festival." Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
  18. ^ "The Mendota Tri-County Fair." Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
  19. ^ "Hume-Carnegie Museum." Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
  21. ^ "The Union Depot Railroad Museum." Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
  22. ^ "CB&Q No. 4978, 2-8-2, Steam Locomotive, Mendota, IL - Locomotives on".
  23. ^ "Breaking the Prairie Museum." Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
  24. ^ "Breaking the Prairie Museum :: About".
  25. ^ "Mendota Parks, Recreation, and Pool." Retrieved on February 19, 2011.
  26. ^ "Illinois Interactive Report Card." Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  27. ^ "Holy Cross Catholic Parish." Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  28. ^ "Tracks of Time: Mendota, Illinois 1853–1978" p. 138
  29. ^ "History of Wartburg College Archived 2009-04-10 at the Wayback Machine." Wartburg College. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  30. ^ "The Mendota Reporter." Retrieved February 11, 2011.
  31. ^ "Breaking News from your Local News Source Leader in Mendota, Illinois - The Mendota Reporter". Archived from the original on 2016-02-03. Retrieved 2015-08-01.

External linksEdit