LaSalle is a city in LaSalle County, Illinois, United States, located at the intersection of Interstates 39 and 80. It is part of the Ottawa–Streator Micropolitan Statistical Area. Originally platted in 1837 over one square mile, the city's boundaries have grown to . City boundaries extend from the Illinois River and Illinois and Michigan Canal to a mile north of Interstate 80 and from the city of Peru on the west to the village of North Utica on the east. Starved Rock State Park is located approximately to the east. The population in 2010 was 9,601, down from 9,796 of the 2000 census. LaSalle and its twin city, Peru, make up the core of the Illinois Valley. Due to their combined dominance of the zinc processing industry in the early 1900s, they were collectively nicknamed "Zinc City."
LaSalle was named in honor of the early French explorer, Robert de LaSalle. In presettlement times the Illinois River was navigable upstream only to LaSalle; beyond LaSalle were a series of portages, in which boats had to be carried around rapids. During the 1830s, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was built to connect the Illinois River with Lake Michigan. LaSalle was the southwestern terminus of the Canal; Chicago the northeastern. At first LaSalle was the larger of the two cities, but it was soon dwarfed by its partner on the Lake.
In 1838 large groups of Irish immigrants moved to the area to work on the canal. In May 1838, the War of the Kerry Patch broke out at Marseilles. The South Irish fought the North Irish, and after the South Irish won, they were joined by two hundred men at the Kerry Patch, near Split Rock Lake and the Pequamsoggin. They then marched on Peru and destroyed the shanties and beat up any Connaught or Ulster man they could find. Sheriff Woodruff and his deputy, Zimri Lewis, along with canal contractor, William Byrne, formed a posse and met them near Buffalo Rock. The posse fired upon a mob of five hundred armed South Irishmen led by "General" Sweeney. The mob dispersed,some fled into the river and were shot, many were arrested, officially only ten were killed.
The Illinois Central Railroad crossed the Illinois river over a mile-long bridge through the eastern side of town on its way from Cairo to Galena. The railroad was the cause of a riot in 1853. In 1853, laborers working on the Illinois Central bridge disputed wages with the contractor, Albert Story. He promised to pay them one dollar and a quarter for their daily wage, but later lowered it to a dollar. Some had not read the notice and were incensed at seeing their paychecks. They broke down the door on Story's house with axes, picks, and shovels. Story tried to flee on horse, but the men rushed the stable and with picks, shovels, and stones murdered him. Twelve were arrested and convicted. Governor Matteson commuted the death sentence to imprisonment for life and later granted them full pardons. When Governor Matteson visited LaSalle, he was publicly burned in effigy.
Coal miners, in sympathy with railroad workers, went on strike in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.
On April 18, 1880, a cyclonic windstorm tore off the roofs of houses, St. Partrick's school, toppled the Baptist Church, the engine house, the glassworks, and "entirely destroyed all fences between Utica and LaSalle."
LaSalle quickly developed as a railroad hub, due to the Illinois Central, Rock Island Railroad, LaSalle and Bureau County, and Chicago Quincy and Burlington railroads. The commercial stimulus in the downtown created many hotels, restaurants, and bars to cater to passengers.
In the 1920s and 1930s, due to the prohibition, the city was host to many casinos and taverns and dubbed by its Chicago market, "Little Reno".
Though the loss of several large companies, as well as the favoring of large business over small business, led a great atrophy in the local economy. Today many businesses are returning to LaSalle's downtown.