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French Heritage in Illinois

By Linda Tancs

If it weren’t for the place names, you’d likely forget the influence of the French in what was once known as Illinois Country. Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, for example, served as the French seat of government and its chief military installation in Upper Louisiana from 1753 until 1765 when it was occupied by the British. Home to a succession of four forts, the present-day structure at the site is a partial reconstruction of a French colonial fort built in the 1750s, a massive stone fort that had replaced three earlier wooden forts, only to fall into ruin with the encroachment of the Mississippi River. The imprint of original foundations remains, along with two reconstructed stone buildings and a restored powder magazine, believed to be the oldest building in Illinois. Declared a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places, the site is located four miles west of Prairie du Rocher.

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