Since the year 1846 — a small communal society in the heart of Illinois served as a fresh start for a group of Swedish immigrants.
Fast forward to today — Bishop Hill, Illinois remains true to its origins.
In many ways, the town of 125 is largely unchanged.
“Bishop Hill, it’s not exactly right off the interstate, but it’s well worth the trip,” said Todd DeDecker, Bishop Hill Heritage Association.
And that trip back to the 19th century can be found right in the heart of Illinois.
DeDecker is part of the association that helps keep the spirit of Bishop Hill alive.
That spirit all started with a group of Swedish immigrants in the mid-1840s.
“They came over to set up a religious communal colony that lasted 15 years, until 1851,” DeDecker said. “And then, the commune broke up, and it became a regular Illinois small town.”
A regular small town — with a big amount of history standing on each block.
The Bishop Hill Colony Store has stood tall here on the corner of Bishop Hill and Main streets since 1863. It’s one of several buildings on this block that have stood tall since the 19th century.
“People back then built things to last. I mean, these buildings are over 150 years old,” DeDecker said. “When you came in today, you’re walking the same hallways as the founders of Bishop Hill. And, these buildings contained all these artifacts from the 19th century. Immigrant trunks, tools, things you don’t see anymore.”
And these historic buildings and items — go to good use.
“They’re being used as museums, restaurants, stores,” DeDecker said.
A unique place — that Todd says should be on anyone’s list of Illinois destinations.
“There’s not too many places like this in the Midwest. Coming back here is like taking a step back in time,” DeDecker said. “So, you should at least come out here once, and experience it.”
In addition to state and federal funding, Bishop Hill relies on donations for some of the restoration work they do on those historic buildings.