On the east bank of the Illinois Michigan Canal in Lockport,Il is a yellow limestone building
known as the Gaylord Building. This was constructed in 1838. Through the years this building had many owners and uses.
Early during the building of the Illinois Michigan Canal, there was no structure in the Lockport region to store the supplies used in the construction process. The Canal Commissioners decided to build a warehouse to meet this need. Not everyone approved of this project; these people considered this a waste of money. The commissioners prevailed. Acting Commissioner Jacob Frey supervised the project. He used two canal contractors–Erastus and William Newton in the project. Construction began in May of 1838 and completed in September of 1838. The building was made of locally quarried limestone. It was two stories and measured 90 X 32 feet. Total cost was $4,014.29.
From 1838 to 1848, the building served as a warehouse to store supplies used in canal construction. Supplies stored Included black powder, chains, cranes, picks, lumber, rope, and food provisions.
In 1848 after the completion of the Illinois Michigan Canal, the commissioners faced a dilemma. Since the warehouse was no longer needed, what was to be done with it. A short-term solution was to rent the warehouse to the firm of Norton and Blackmore. This firm made needed repairs.
Finally in September of 1848, the firm of Townsend and Martin bought the warehouse for the price of $4,000. This business used the structure as grain storage facility. They modified the building with arched doorways, an addition along the canal, and grain elevators to the north of the building.
In the November of 1853, the partnership dissolved. Colonel Martin obtained full ownership of the warehouse. He expanded his business operations. He renovated the building. Late in 1859, he had a 3 story addition made to east side of the building.
Colonel Martin used the original warehouse for his grain building. The addition was used
as his office and a general store. His business did not fare well. He declared bankruptcy in 1878.
George Gaylord was successful Lockport businessman in the later one half of the 20th century. He ran a dry good and grain business on State Street. In 1878, he purchased the warehouse for $5640. He moved his businesses to this new location near the Illinois Michigan Canal. During his ownership, he made only minor changes to the structure. Gaylord’ s ownership of the building was brief. He died in 1883 of tuberculosis.
In 1886, John Norton purchased the warehouse from the Gaylord estate for $7,500.
He used it as a grain warehouse. With the ownership of the Gaylord and Norton buildings, the Norton family had a monopoly on the grain business in Lockport. However, in 1890, Norton and Company found itself in financial trouble and was forced to sell the 8th Street warehouse.
In 1890, the warehouse was purchased by Barrows Lock Company. To fit their needs, the new owners made several modifications to the structure. In 1897, they built an addition to the west side of the building. They also added several out buildings. In 1906, a two story brick addition was added to the top of the original warehouse building. The company operated a brass foundry, machine and carpentry shops, as well as offices and store rooms.
During the Depression, the Barrows Lock Company began to fail. In 1932, Yale and Townes Manufacturing Company acquired Barrrows and moved operations to Waukegan, Il.
The new owners rarely used the Lockport warehouse. It was sold in 1945.
The next owner was Will County Printing Company. This business was operated from 1945-1948. It was a specialty printing business.
In 1848, the building was sold to the Hyland Plumbing Supply Company. It operated at this location for four decades. Hyland modified the building to meet their needs.. It demolished many of the outbuildings. It demolished the addition along the canal. In the 1970–1980’s, the building feel in disrepair. Local residents became concerned about this development.
In 1983, Gaylord Donnelley (the grandson of George Gaylord and the retired chairman of R.R. Donnelly and Sons Publishing House) became interested in refurbishing the warehouse. He formed the Gaylord Lockport Company–a private development company. He selected
his niece Barbara to supervise the project. This company raised nearly 3 million dollars. This was used in the project. A team of archeologists, historians, architects, and tradesmen were assembled for this effort. The brick addition over the original warehouse was removed. Other late nineteen and twenty century additions were eliminated. The project took 4 years.
In 1996, Barbara Donnelley ( the widow of Gaylord) donated the Gaylord Building and an endowment to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Thus the oldest canal structure was saved.