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U.S. Custom House, Cairo

4.6




The Old Custom House is a historic government building in downtown Cairo, Illinois. Built from 1869 to 1872, the building served as a customs house, post office, and courthouse. Alfred B. Mullett, the U.S. Supervising Architect at the time, designed the building in the Italianate style, a rarity among federal buildings; his design features a bracketed cornice and rounded windows. When Cairo built a new post office in 1942, the building became the town's police station. The building is one of the few surviving U.S. custom houses and one of the largest federal buildings of its era in the Mid-Mississippi Valley region. The site for the custom house was chosen in 1859 by Illinois Senator (and Abraham Lincoln’s opponent in the 1860 presidential campaign) Stephen A. Douglas. In 1866, John A. Logan returned to Congress and lobbied successfully for fifty thousand dollars to start construction, with fifty thousand dollars allocated each following year until construction was completed. Construction began in 1867, and the building opened to the public on the evening of June 16, 1872. The original purpose of the Custom House was to house the offices which dealt with collecting duties and tariffs on international imports which had not been offloaded before they reached Cairo on their way up the Mississippi River.
The custom house was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 24, 1973. It now serves as a history museum.
In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, Cairo Custom House was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois).
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U.S. Custom House Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
14 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • Cairo was once an important town located at the confluence of two of America's greatest rivers. Now, it is one of the most depressed places you are likely to see anywhere in the Midwest. However...  more »
  • Wow! History and memorabilia galore. Donations of artifacts from local residents. Very friendly volunteer took us all about the building. I wish we had more time to spend here.  more »
  • Wonderful visit to a unique town. Such history to explore. Lunch in town at Shemwells was full of locals and the bbq was unique. Spend lots of time at the US Customs House. Amazing history and the....  more »
Google
  • Really excellent experience learning about Cairo. The tour guide volunteer was fantastic, very friendly, honest, and taught us a lot. They deserve more visitors than they get!
  • I'd love to buy this place and turn into my own private Mansion.
  • Informative and friendly. Would like to visit again
  • The US Customs House in Cario Illinois is a big museum in a little town. Our personal tour guide, Laurie, excitedly shared the history of Cario, the Customs House, and the exhibits on all three floors of this amazing museum. From Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery to General Grant's sorties into the Cofederate territory during the Cival War to the tensions of the 1960s Civil Rights (which unfortunately marked the beginning of the end of this fine town), Cario represented a microcosim of America values, ingenuity, and industry. Yet AS President Lincoln said "A house divided against itself cannot survive" Cario, divided and much abandoned, demonstrates the importance of severing disagreements before disagreements sever society. Plan to spend at least two hours in the museum, take a ride to Fort Definance, then imagine what Cario could have been if unity triumped over division.
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