The mystery of ‘East Peoria Heights’ begins in Peoria County, but extends to Woodford and Tazewell counties.
From Grandview Drive in Peoria Heights one can look right at the place jokingly called “East Peoria Heights.” The thing is the person looking at Woodford and Tazewell counties from that perch on the Illinois River bluff would not know it if they were looking right at “East Peoria Heights.” There are no signs indicating you are entering Peoria Heights in either Woodford or Tazewell counties.
The exact location of this place is unknown to most government officials on both sides of the river.
Peoria Heights Mayor Mark Allen says this place exists in Woodford and Tazewell counties.
“I couldn’t find it if I tried,” Allen said. “I wouldn’t know it if I was standing on it. I saw it once on a map,” Allen said.
Allen said his understanding is this mystery began sometime in the ‘70s, when the threat of Peoria Heights being annexed and swallowed up by Peoria became very real.
Allen said Peoria Heights residents have always been fiercely independent of Peoria.
When the State of Illinois began talking about legislation that would permit large communities that completely surround smaller communities to annex them — which describes Peoria and Peoria Heights — Peoria Heights residents jumped to action.
“The fear of God was put into people,” Allen said.
Allen said he understands the late Bill Rutherford — a naturalist who created Forest Park and Wildlife Prairie State Park — started looking for land that would prevent Peoria from completely surrounding the village.
The issue was that Peoria Heights’ boundaries already extended all the way to the west shore of the Illinois River.
So, Rutherford, Allen said according to what he has been told, bought land on the east shore of the river.
The village then annexed the land.
Former Peoria Heights Mayor Earl Carter agrees with Allen to a point.
Carter says the annexation attempt came in 1965 after Peoria annexed Richwoods Township on Peoria’s northwest side.
Carter said he was there when the village annexed the Woodford/Tazewell counties property into the village.
“It’s quite a bit of land, but it was narrow,” Carter said.
Carter, like Allen, has never set foot on the property.
“It is shown on a map,” Carter said.
Rutherford, who is deceased, could not offer any insight as to the location of this land.
In government work there must be proof, records.
But, neither Allen or Carter could point to a map or records showing where this mystery land was located.
Page 2 of 2 - What Allen and Carter said up to that point was — now try to follow this — Peoria Heights on its eastern border is bordered by East Peoria to the south and either Spring Bay or an incorporated piece of Woodford County to the north.
On its western border the village is completely surrounded by Peoria.
And, bisecting the village is a natural feature known as the Illinois River.
Allen said not a lot of people are aware of this.
No one in the Woodford County Supervisor of Assessments office could point to the land mass.
East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus said he had never heard of this before.
Those who are aware of this, Allen said, jokingly refer to the land on the east side of the river as “East Peoria Heights.”
“This land is technically Peoria Heights. Most of it is open land that floods,” Allen said.
“We’d be crazy to try to do anything with that land. It has no municipal services. We receive no tax money from it. It had one purpose and one purpose only — to stave off Peoria.”
Allen said that initial purpose is exactly why the village still hangs onto the property.
“Every 10 or 20 years that idea of annexing little cities surrounded by big cities comes up. We want to keep our independence,” Allen said.
“What throws this into the odd category is the river being involved.”
Allen said it would cost the village $20,000 to do a survey to figure out the land’s exact location if there are no maps still in existence showing the location.
“We’re not interested in pursuing that,” Allen said.
Carter said there was one person who might be able to locate a map and pinpoint the location of “East Peoria Heights.” That person is Andrea Pendleton who works in the office of the Richwoods Township Supervisor.
“That sounds familiar,” Pendleton said.
“Perhaps I have a map of that in my files at home,” she said March 7. “The township assessor may have that, too.”
On March 8, Pendleton resolved the mystery of “East Peoria Heights.”
She produced an ordinance containing the coordinates and a map.
The ordinance described “East Peoria Heights” as “The West One-half of the Northwest Quarter of Section Thirty-five, Township Twenty-seven North, Range Four West of the Third Principal Meridian, containing 76.17 acres, situated in the County of Woodford and State of Illinois.”
That clears that up.