Name: Elsah, Illinois
Population Density: 598.10
Total Area: 1.06 sq. mi
Elsah, Illinois is a small town a few minutes from Alton, and a bit less than an hour from St. Louis, Missouri. It is nestled into a small valley, located right off the Great River Road and across from the Mississippi River.
Elsah's first settler was a man called Addison Greene, who built a cabin there in 1847. Greene chopped firewood and sold it to the steamboats that travelled along the river. In 1852, a Black Hawk War veteran and Scottish immigrant named James Semple bought the valley, and the following year he founded the town. For several years, it prospered as it shipped the farm goods of Jersey County down the river. However, the railroads passed it over and the town lost much of its importance. Yet it held on, bolstered by the arrival of Principia College in the 1930s, and was eventually placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The town suffered greatly in the Great Flood of 1993. Almost every house in the village was damaged and federal funding had to be used to rebuild. Many century-old trees were destroyed or sickened and had to be removed. However, a tree-planting initiative has helped to begin to repair the town's greenery and the evidence of the structural damage has effectively disappeared.
Today, Elsah is primarily a tourist town. It is almost unbearably scenic, with quaint buildings and churches, a flowered main street, and numerous bed and breakfasts. Its proximity to tourist attractions, such as bald eagle watching sites, various nature preserves, St. Louis, and the Mississippi itself has given it new vitality.
Elsah is also home to Principia College, the only exclusively Christian Scientist school in the United States. Since the school makes up such a large portion of the town, many of Elsah's inhabitants are also Christian Scientists. Principia is set on the bluff right above Elsah proper and was designed to look like a small English village by architect Bernard Maybeck.