By Jared Olar
A couple of items in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection provide a fascinating glimpse of the history of the changes in transportation in our area.
These items are two 1920s-era newspaper clippings from the Peoria Journal-Transcript, one of the predecessors of the Peoria Journal Star. The clippings are photographs of what was then the new paved road that linked Pekin with East Peoria and Peoria. The road was laid down to assist with the transit of both commerce and workers between Pekin and Peoria, because the old unpaved road – adequate for the old days of horses, wagons, and stagecoaches – no longer was suitable for the heavier traffic of early 20th century automobiles.
But evidently erosion was a recurring problem in the early years of this new road’s life.
The photos are from April 1927 and March 1929, and they show the road in the area of what is now known as Creve Coeur Hill after some springtime rains had caused mud to slide down onto the pavement from the slopes of the surrounding hills and hollers through which work crews had cut the road.
The April 1927 photo is headlined, “PEORIA-PEKIN TRAFFIC KEEPS ROAD MEN BUSY,” with the caption, “Sometimes they work day and night on the new Peoria-Pekin road, especially when it rains. The hill, just outside East Peoria, is the place where the walls of the new ‘cut’ slide. Here is a road gang busy clearing the pavement after a slide.”
The March 1929 photo’s headline is, “‘TAKE A CUT,’ SAYS THE WEATHERMAN,” and the caption says, “And those who took the cut on the Pekin – East Peoria hard road after the heavy rains a week ago found the steep dirt walls of the cut had washed down to make traffic very slippery.”
Before this road was built, Pekin and East Peoria were linked by an unpaved road that passed through the village then known as Wesley City (today Creve Coeur) on the way to East Peoria. While going through Wesley City, the road came near the east bank of the Illinois River.
The new road, however, was plotted out to track further to the east, ascending through the land above the Wesley City bluffs before cutting through the hollers to descend and then join up with the old roadway from Wesley City to East Peoria.
The old roadway through Wesley City along the river no longer gets the traffic it once did in the 1800s and early 1900s, but it’s still there, of course – it’s Wesley Road.