Perched along the banks of the canal, just a few blocks north of the city’s beautiful downtown, you’ll find the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site. This 52-acre preserve was once home to the second largest steel mill in the United States, and one of Joliet’s defining industries before the birth of Route 66.
Ironically enough, the mill also played a key role in bringing about the end of the nearby I&M Canal, an aquatic precursor to Route 66 that fueled the growth of early Chicago. At this factory thousands of miles worth of railroad rails were rolled out, beginning in 1873, helping to jumpstart the industry that would soon replace the famed waterway. Within just a few short years Joliet Iron and Steel Co. rails could be found on train lines across the nation.
Despite this boom, the mill shuttered its doors by the early 1900′s. Unable to compete with growing operations on the east coast, mother nature began slowly reclaiming the grounds. That is until the Forest Preserve District of Will County acquired the land in mid-90′s and started the process of converting the mill’s ruins, including the original blast furnaces and other structures from the days of the canal, into a fascinating self-guided interpretive site with .59 miles of paved recreation trails!
For more information, visit: reconnectwithnature.org/preserves-trails/preserves/joliet-iron-works-historic-site
Joliet Ironworks Historic Site
Columbia St, Joliet, IL 60432