Established as the headquarters of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1836, Lockport lies Nestled in the Des Plaines River Valley. The canal fueled the growth of City of Chicago, the Midwest region and the nation.
Working to complete the I&M Canal, Chief Engineer William Gooding realized that the site of present-day Lockport, which is 40 feet higher than Joliet, had great waterpower potential. In its early days Lockport thrived as canal’s headquarters and as an agricultural processing center. In its heyday, Lockport saw the construction of dozens of flour mills, grain warehouses and boatyards. As the first navigable link between the Great Lakes regions and the Mississippi River, the canal played an enormous role in the economic growth of Illinois and the Midwest. The arrival of the Chicago and Alton Railroad in 1858 was the catalyst for even more growth.
Today you can tour this historic area by foot, bicycle, or car. Through the extensive efforts of the community, its government, and various associations, you will see everything from the simple cottages of the past canal workers to the cream-colored limestone architectural works such as the Gaylord and Norton buildings, appearing just as they did in the 1800’s.
The importance of Illinois and Michigan Canal and Lockport to the economic vitality of Illinois cannot be overstated. As a direct waterway link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, the canal cemented Chicago’s dominance over St. Louis as the center of the Midwestern trade and thereby, Lockport’s legacy as the “city that made Chicago famous.”
Since the days of shipping on the canal, Lockport has blossomed. While remaining picturesque, Lockport has progressed to become a city of the future while still embracing it rich past. A combination of retail stores and restaurants, light and medium industry, and an abundance of activities, events and celebrations are the new attractions in this dynamic community. Lockport is truly a city of history pride with goals that will create an even brighter future.
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