Restored through the persistent efforts of the city and its residents, the historic 1898 depot now houses a passenger waiting room and the popular Kankakee Railroad Museum.
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2023): 13,944
- Facility Ownership: City of Kankakee
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Kankakee
- Platform Ownership: Canadian National Railway Company (CN) Illinois Central (IC) (A subsidiary of CN)
- Track Ownership: Canadian National Railway Company (CN) Illinois Central (IC) (A subsidiary of CN)
This two-story red brick depot, a former Illinois Central Railroad station, was built in 1898 to replace the original 1853 wood structure. The depot became dilapidated in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to the city’s purchase of the building from the Illinois Central in 1990. After unsuccessful attempts to open restaurants in the depot, the city completed a full restoration in 1998. Private donations and $750,000 in city funds were used to restore the depot, and the project cost $1,000,000. The station was restored to its original grandeur and now stands as a symbol of the city’s revitalization. Care was taken to ensure the historic feel of the building would be preserved. On the second story, the original frosted glass windows inscribed with the names of former railroad officials remain.
The depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Amtrak, city offices, and the Kankakee Railroad Museum are all located in the depot. Opened in 1999, the museum features model railroad displays, a beautifully restored 1947 Pullman coach, railroad memorabilia, and a scale model representing the city of Kankakee in the 1950s. A 1967 Union Pacific caboose and an original Kankakee streetcar are under restoration. The plaza surrounding the depot has been transformed as well. A fountain was added in 2006, followed by Clock Tower Park in 2007. Today, many concerts and events take place here.
Kankakee shares its name with the Kankakee River, which flows through Kankakee County. The Potawatomi Indians who lived in the area called the Kankakee River the Theatiki, and through changes in pronunciation, Kankakee evolved. Theatiki has many meanings, including wolf, wonderful land, and swampy place. American settlers came to Kankakee in 1834, two years after the government signed the Treaty of Camp Tippecanoe. The city of Kankakee grew in the shadow of a nearby French settlement, Bourbonnais. Kankakee, however, became the seat of Kankakee County.
The City of New Orleans leaving Kankakee is immortalized in the song, “City of New Orleans,” written by Steve Goodman and made famous by Arlo Guthrie. “All along the southbound odyssey, the train pulls out at Kankakee.”
This past decade the city had since made great efforts to revitalize downtown and brought in an ice rink and a water park. The Kankakee Valley Park District includes 28 parks comprised of a total of 600 acres. Facilities include a vita course, 5 field houses, a civic auditorium, 96-slip marina, 13 baseball diamonds, 15 football fields, 24 playgrounds, 15 basketball courts, 24 tennis courts, 5 boat landings, a band shell, and 25 recreational groups and clubs. Late night television host David Letterman donated two gazebos to the city, hoping it would become known as the “Home of the Twin Gazebos.”
The city of Kankakee was the first place to serve Dairy Queen soft-serve ice cream. On August 4, 1938, a small ice cream store called Sherb’s advertised all-you-can-eat ice cream for 10 cents, an amazing offer during the Great Depression. 1,600 of the desserts were purchased. The owner of Sherb’s, Sherwood Noble, soon opened the first Dairy Queen in nearby Joliet, Ill. Today, the Dairy Queen chain is internationally known.
Two Frank Lloyd Wright houses epitomizing Prairie-style architecture are located in the Riverview section of Kankakee, the B. Harley Bradley House & Stable and the Warren Hickox House. Notable residents of Kankakee include professional basketball player Jack Sikma, Little Orphan Annie creator Harold Gray, and award-winning novelist Kalisha Buckhanon. Three Illinois governors are from Kankakee.
The Illini and Saluki are financed primarily through funds made available by the Illinois State Department of Transportation.
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- No Restrooms
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- No payphones
- No accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- No wheelchair lift