An inspired way to experience what makes a place unique…
The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.” A 2013 study by the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council shows that heritage tourism is growing in the United States and around the world—with 60 percent of travelers saying they are likely to take a cultural/heritage trip, up from 51 percent in 2009.
The Grand Tour… Then and Now
The concept of heritage travel began in the 1660s with the “Grand Tour,” a trip taken by young European men of means. It was an educational rite of passage, introducing them to works of art, music and the cultural legacy of the European continent. With the advent of the railroad in the mid-19th century, the Grand Tour became easier and cheaper, and its popularity grew. About that time, Thomas Cook founded a company around the concept of organized “Grand Tours,” and by the 1960s, it was common for college students to backpack or “Eurorail” through Europe for a summer or a year.
Today, a range of companies have organized heritage tours to all points of the world. Road Scholar, an American not-for-profit organization, has hundreds of educational heritage tours, while Lifelong Learning Institutes such as ICC’s Adult Community Programs and Bradley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) provide enduring learning opportunities and heritage trips.
In a partnership with CityLink, the Peoria Historical Society (PHS) provides heritage tourism opportunities through its historical trolley tours. Begun in the 1970s by Millie Bryant, Gloria LaHood and Norman Mall, these early tours were part of the city’s first Steamboat Days. They proved so popular that in 1996, PHS began a partnership with CityLink and its trolleys. Today, the two organizations offer tours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from June through October. Six different tours are offered during the year, each with a different look at Peoria history.
Who were the French explorers who “discovered” Peoria in 1673? What’s the history of the “castle?” How did Averyville become part of Peoria? Who rides the donkey on the mural on Water Street? Where is Lindy’s Light? What famous Peorian designed “In Defense of Liberty?” Who are the whiskey barons? What famous composer played the piano on High Street? Which house on Moss Avenue did Frank Lloyd almost design? All of these stories—and more—are part of the River City Tour, our longest-running and most comprehensive tour.
From the middle of the 19th century to 1920, Peoria was the “Whiskey Capital of the World.” More whiskey was made in Peoria than anywhere else in the world. Why in Peoria? Take the Roll out the Barrel Tour and hear the stories of Peoria’s whiskey era, and you’ll find out!
The Naughty to Nice Tour takes you from Peoria’s “naughty” days in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s when we were a wide-open town and had our own gang, the Sheltons, to today, when we can brag about winning our fourth All-American City award. On this tour, you’ll learn about the Merry-Go-Round, the Sheltons and how we went from naughty to nice.
Springdale Cemetery is the oldest chartered cemetery in the state. On the Grandview Drive and Springdale Cemetery Tour, you will hear the stories of Josiah Fulton, one of the founders of the city of Peoria; the missing cannon of Soldiers Hill; and Lydia Moss Bradley, founder of Bradley University—and witness the beautiful, 270 rolling acres of this cemetery and park.
The Abraham Lincoln & the Civil War Tour tells the story of Lincoln’s many visits to Peoria, including his famous 1854 “Line in the Sand” speech. Some 5,000 men from Peoria County served in the Civil War, and you’ll see the camps where they trained and visit the sites in Springdale Cemetery where they are buried. Finally, you will learn the history of the G.A.R. movement—and see the hall that bears its name.
On the Haunted Peoria Tour, you will discover the stories behind the ghostly appearances that have startled and puzzled Peorians through the years. Learn about the Lady in White, the Legend of Nee-Nee-Wah, the Curse of Old Lady Gray and more. What will you see in Haunted Peoria? Take the tour and find out.
For more information or a complete schedule of the PHS trolley tours, visit peoriahistoricalsociety.org or call the PHS office at (309) 674-1921. To make reservations, call Harp & Thistle at (309) 688-5668 or Kelleher’s at (309) 673-6000. The cost of each tour is $15, plus $1 upon entering the trolley (unless you are 65 or older). iBi
Bernie Drake has been conducting trolley tours for the Peoria Historical Society for more than a decade.