A fortuitous consequence of the route chosen for the Illinois Michigan Canal was the close proximity to multiple sources of limestone. This construction material was used extensively on the canal.
The city of Joliet was located in an area of substantial deposits of dolemite (also known as Joliet limestone). In 1835, Martin Drummond used this limestone to construct a building at the corner of Exchange and Bluff. There was not extensive quarrying of limestone in Joliet until 10 years later. At this time, 2 limestone operations opened. These were Bruce and Company and William Davidson Company.
The construction of the Illinois Michigan Canal 1836–1848 provided a stimulus to the quarrying business. The limestone was used to construct the walls of the locks, the piers of the aqueducts and the bridges. Later after the canal was completed, it provided a means of transportation to ship the stone to Chicago and other markets. Later, the railroads provided another means of shipping.
By 1856, there were 9 quarries in operation producing cut stone for building construction, flagstone for walk ways and landscaping, and rubble for streets and sidewalks.
In 1870, Sanger and Steele Company was shipping 40 rail cars per week of their limestone products. After the devastation of multiple buildings in Chicago as a result of the fire of 1871, there was a greatly increased demand for Joliet limestone in the rebuilding projects.
In the later part of the 1800’s, there was the start of a decline in the sales of limestone in Joliet. There were many reasons for this. 1) increased competition from the quarries in Bedford, Indiana. 2) increasing use of concrete in building construction. 3) change in architectural styles and tastes.
Chicago Water Tower
Old Illinois State Penitentiary
Illinois State Capital