The Great River Road

Old Man River, Father of Waters, “body of a nation,” Big Muddy—by any name the mighty Mississippi cuts a mythic figure across the American landscape.


Midway between the Quad Cities and St. Louis, Quincy (pop. 40,633) is a modest-sized city, Germanic enough in its heritage to consider Pizza Hut an ethnic restaurant. A bastion of abolitionists before the Civil War, Quincy was also home to anti-abolitionist Stephen Douglas, the incumbent Illinois senator whose campaign debates with Abraham Lincoln put that tall country lawyer on the path to the White House.

The GRR follows the riverfront and again the pilot’s wheel is missing, but the giant span of the Bayview Bridge over the Mississippi will leave no doubt as to which way to turn to stay on track. However, most of the city perches on the tall bluffs above the GRR and is worth a drive-through, if only to sample its textbook variety of residential architecture. Take a walk or drive through the East End, an area roughly bounded by Maine and State Streets between 16th and 24th. Filled with historic mansions along quiet, tree-canopied streets, it’s the perfect place to practice distinguishing your Queen Anne from Tudor, and your Prairie Style from Gothic Revival.

If you have thus far missed the tried-and-true cooking of the Maid-Rite (507 N. 12th St., 217/222-9767) chain, Quincy gives you a chance to fix this oversight: Perhaps the most intact of all the original Maids is here in Quincy. There’s also an exceptionally good Italian place, Tiramisu (137 N 3rd St., 217/222-9560).

If you plan to spend the night, you’ll find the national chains downtown out on Broadway near I-172. If you prefer antiques to HBO in your room, try the Cooper Adams House (1122 Kentucky St., 217/430-1884, $99 and up) in the heart of the historic mansions.

For more information, call or drop by the tourist information center in the Villa Kathrine (217/224-3688 or 800/978-4748, free), that hard-to-miss, turn-of-the-20th-century Moroccan-style residence on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi, just south of the US-24 bridge.



Villa Kathrine (532 Gardner Expy.)

Tiramisu (137 N 3rd St.)

Cooper Adams House (1122 Kentucky St.)

Maid-Rite (507 N. 12th St.)