city, seat (1853) of Kankakee county, northeastern Illinois, U.S. It lies on the Kankakee River, about 60 miles (100 km) south of Chicago. Potawatomi Indians were early inhabitants of the area, and the city's name comes from a variant pronunciation of their name for the river. Settlement of the area began in 1832, and the city was founded in 1853 when the builders of the Illinois Central Railroad bypassed the French Canadian town of Bourbonnais (now an adjacent village) and chose Kankakee as a station. Quarrying was important to the local economy, and the city developed as an industrial and railroad centre. Kankakee is now a centre for agricultural trade (corn [maize], soybeans, vegetables, and flowers) and manufacturing (chemicals, pharmaceuticals, processed foods, flooring, and metal products). Shapiro Developmental Center (originally Kankakee State Hospital), which treats individuals with developmental disabilities, was established in 1877. The city is the site of Kankakee Community College (founded 1966); Olivet Nazarene University (1907) is in Bourbonnais. Popular local attractions include two homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the annual Kankakee River Valley Fishing Derby. Kankakee River State Park is nearby. Inc. 1855. Pop. (1990) city, 27,575; Kankakee PMSA, 96,255; (2000) city, 27,491; Kankakee PMSA, 103,833.
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