In 1834 new jersey born brothers Joseph and Sammuel Mccarty spotted a bend in the swift running Fox River and feeling it was an ideal location for a sawmill, they purchased land on both sides of the river. After building a mill on the east side, they sold their land on the west side to another pair of brothers, Theodore and Zaphna Lake, who build a similar sawmill. A friendly competition emerged between the two sides, and eventually two separate villages were founded- East Aurora, incorporated in 1845, and West Aurora, incorporated in 1854. 

In 1857, a year after the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad build a roundhouse in East Aurora, the two settlements incorporated as the city of Aurora. In a compromise decision, the new city’s municipal building were constructed on Stolp Island, in the middle of the Fox River. 

For more thank a century, the CB&Q Railroad was Aurora’s largest employer and led to manufacturing and other commercial development, keeping  the city economically healthy. In 1881 Aurora became one of the first American cities with electrical streetlights, earning it a new nickname, the “City of Light”. The city prospered until the early 1970’s when the railroad shop closed and many industrial jobs disappeared. 

The arrival of the riverboat casino, the Hollywood Casino Aurora, in 1993 boosted commercial and residential development in the city. Futher improvements followed and today Aurora is the second-largest city in Illinois. 

Remnants of the past can be seen throughout Aurora. Downtown, the old Chicago Burlington & Quincy roundhouse, listed on the NRHP in 1978, is now the Two Brothers Roundhouse and contains a brewpub, restaurant, and museum. Historic homes include the 1912 Greene House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and numerous Sears catalog homes. Aurora also features the popular Phillips Park Zoo. Established in 1915 , the zoo once featured exotic animals but in now focuses on animals native to Illinois, including elk, wolves, and mountain lions. 

The main historic area in Aurora is Stolp Island, named a National Register Historic district in 1986 . A number of the island’s forty one buildings are individually listed on the NRHP as well. One of these is the Grand Army of the Republic Hall, build in 1877 as a memorial to Civil War Union Veterans and used as a meeting place; it is now part of the David L Pierce Art and History Center. Several commercial structures on the island are also NRHP buildings, including the 1931 art deco Paramount Theatre, which still hosts live shows.  

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