There is a Portland cement manufacturing site south of the I and M Canal and near the Little Vermillion River. It has been in operation since 1897. It is one of the longest running cement operations in the United States.
In the late 19th century, Portland Cementfabrik Hemmor of Germany was considering marketing their cement products to the United States. Their directors believed that the U.S was a growing market with upside potential. Rather than exporting their products, they felt it would be more economical to build a plant in America. Their directors evaluated several sites. They decided that LaSalle, Illinois was the best site.
There were many reasons for this decision. There were large limestone reserves. There were large local coal deposits. The coal was needed to fire the kilns in the manufacture process. Finally, the Rock Island and the Illinois Central Railroads provided access to Chicago and other Midwestern markets.
Hemmor built their plant in the late 1890’s. It was named the German American Portland Cement Works. It’s product was marketed under the name of Owl Cement.
In 1917, after the involvement of the U.S. in World War 1, the plant was seized by U.S. Alien Property Custodian. Production continued. The product was marketed under the name of the LaSalle Portland Cement Company.
In 1919, it was purchased by a syndicate and in 1920 they sold it to Alpha Portland Cement Company of Philadelphia. Alpha ran the plant for 50 years. They maintained a workforce of 160 employees. On July 2, 1970, Alpha announced their plan to close the plant. The closing process was completed in November of this year.
In 1971, All American Industries Delaware expressed an interest in the old Alpha site.
They felt they could perform all types of recycling there. Examples include metal recycling; fish farms in the old silos; mushroom growth on compost piles; filling quarries with solid wastes for commercial and residential development. Unfortunately, they were unable to obtain financing and the project never materialized.
In April 1972, a group venture between Centex and the Pritzger family of Chicago purchased the Alpha Plant. The transaction included 1) the 340 acre mill site and quarry; 2) 1,000 acre limestone reserves in LaSalle and Dominick Townships. A new plant was built in 1973–74. This included a new state of the art dry process system. The raw materials enter the kiln in a dry powdered form through a 200 foot pre-heat tower.
This new technique is more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly. The new plant opened and the first cement product was shipped under the name Illinois Cement. The main facility was on a 660 acre site with a new quarry 5 miles away. This quarry site has enough reserves of limestone and other raw materials to last 35 years. The plant has the capacity to produce 900,000 tons of finished cement each year.
There is a separate storage capacity terminal in Wisconsin. It is named the Wisconsin Cement Company. It’s capacity is 1,135 tons. Cement Product is shipped from this location to the Milwaukee area.
Illinois Cement plays an important role in the LaSalle area economy. It is estimated to provide employment to 134 individuals. Indirectly it provides employment to 313 individuals. The company provides 2.5 millions dollars in tax revenue yearly.