Visitors Guide to
Madison County, Illinois
The first European settlers began arriving in the Granite
City area in the 1830's attracted by the rich bottom land east of the
Mississippi River. Granite City was originally called Six Mile Prairie after
because its farmers had to travel six miles to St. Louis to sell their produce and
buy supplies. An early ferry operated in the area and the Six Mile House, a
stage coach stop on the old National Road was built during this time period. The
National Road was built of planks and connected St. Louis to the east and assured
travelers that they would not be bogged down by mud after a heavy rain.
The first railroad, an extension of the Terre Haute and Alton, arrived in 1856
and by 1904 ten railroads serviced the community.
The face of Six Mile Prairie was destined to change when
two German immigrants, Frederick and William Niedringhaus, arrived in St. Louis in the 1850's.
In 1857, they began a
small but profitable business producing kitchen utensils. During a visit to
Germany in 1874, William came across a process where utensils were coated with
an enamel that was mixed with powdered granite. He brought this knowledge back
to St. Louis and soon the Niedringhaus brothers were producing a line of kitchen utensils called
Graniteware. In 1892 they purchased 3,500 acres near Six Mile Prairie and
platted the area in order to build a company town. Granite City was incorporated
in 1896, named for the graniteware that had made the Niedringhaus brothers
wealthy. The Niedringhaus plant was called NESCO (National Enameling and
Stamping Company) and operated until 1956 when it closed because it couldnít
compete with aluminum, glass and stainless steel cookware.
Granite City thrived in the early 20th century and many
industries including United Lead Company, Corn Products Refinery, Wagner Brewery
and Granite City Steel. Immigrants from Central Europe came to Granite City to
fill the jobs created by these industries. Granite City Steel remains one of the
city's leading industrial firms.
Today, Granite City is a diverse and
bustling community. Itís citizens preserves the city's Central European heritage
along with many of the homes and buildings. A cluster of flags from 17 Central
European nations surrounds the flag of the United States in a downtown park,
symbols of the city's recognition of its origins.