Decatur, Illinois was founded in 1836 along the Sangamon River, which provided for rapid growth and development that has continues today. Decatur was named after Stephen Decatur, Jr, a naval hero in the War of 1812. The city is the county seat of Macon County and the business and employment center of the county. Decatur has collected several nicknames and mottos including "Decatur, We Like it Here," "The Pride of the Prairie," and "The Soybean Capital of the World."
In 1854 the city experienced a growth spurt as a result of the of the Great Western Railroad's construction. Today, historic downtown Decatur has undergone a revitalization project to restore the city's center. With new storefronts, businesses and fountains, the downtown area is attracting more and more visitors. Another popular location is Lake Decatur which is filled by the Sangamon River. This 2,800- acre reservoir is a hot spot for both recreation and housing.
Decatur is the location of two institutions of higher learning: the private Millikin University and the public Richland Community College. The Kirkland Fine Arts Institute, which hosts many of the city's performing arts events, is associated with Millikin University. Decatur is also well known for its industrial, agricultural processing and manufacturing industries to include companies like Caterpillar, Archer Daniels Midland, and Tate & Lyle (previously A. E. Staley). Other Decatur distinctions include the first home in Illinois of Abraham Lincoln, the 1860 Illinois Republican Convention where Lincoln received his first endorsement for President of the United States and the Edward P. Irving House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1911.