History from 1860 to 1900

A famous hotel.

It all began with the purchase of land along side the Kankakee River by Emory Cobb in 1860. Over the next twenty years various houses were built on large parcels of land by pioneering Kankakeeans. Many of those early professionals came to build the Illinois Eastern State Hospital for the Insane which sits on the opposite bank from Riverview. In 1881 a telephone exchange was established with over 31 customers.

Mr. Cobb was instrumental in developing the Hotel Riverview which opened in 1887 at a cost of $80,000. The hotel consisted of 80 guest rooms, an immense covered veranda, tennis courts and croquet grounds, and beach access to the river complete with rowboats. The hotel flourished bringing Chicagos society folks by rail to enjoy relaxation on the river.

Over the next several years Kankakee experienced tremendous growth. The city became electrified, including the addition of electric trolley service. In 1891 the city’s population was over 7,000 residents. In 1893 the Hotel Riverview went into “year-round” operation with the addition of a furnace. Development along the Kankakee River continued with several projects culminating into the Electric Park – an amusement park that featured a roller coaster and dance hall.

Tragically, on November 12, 1897, the Hotel Riverview burned to the ground. A total loss, it would not be rebuilt. The land would be sold and subdivided for residential housing. The City of Kankakee bought land formerly occupied by Hotel Riverview and established what eventually became known as Cobb Park. The 1890s closed out with electric trolley service being extended to Electric Park on the east end of the neighborhood.

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See History from 1901—1950

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