Staunton served as a Confederate supply base in the Civil War; twice it was occupied by Union forces. The city manager form of government originated in Staunton in 1908. The city is the seat of Mary Baldwin College and the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind (est. 1838). Many colonial houses remain, and President Woodrow Wilson's birthplace is a national shrine. Blackfriars Playhouse, a recreation of a London theater in which Shakespeare's plays were performed, and the Frontier Culture Museum are also there.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.3 square miles (6.0 km²), of which, 2.3 square miles (5.9 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (1.30%) is water.
There were 2,020 households out of which 32.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.6% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.5% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.6% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,893, and the median income for a family was $44,630. Males had a median income of $35,000 versus $21,121 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,905. About 4.0% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.0% of those under age 18 and 4.0% of those age 65 or over.
Initially, farming was a major industry. Around the turn of the century, coal mining reshaped Staunton and communities around it. The coal mining industry began to decline after the Second World War. Coal in central Illinois has high levels of sulfur. The cost to scrub sulfur from coal is prohibitive. Most of the mines in the region had closed in the 1950s.
The largest employer in Staunton is the local school district. The second largest employer is Community Memorial Hospital, founded in 1950. Many other people in the area work in the St. Louis metropolitan area.