Lewis University Lockport, Illinois Historic Photographs (Lewis University)
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About this Collection

Lockport, Illinois, Historic Photographs



Lockport, Illinois, Historic Photographs, is a collection that contains photographs and other illustrative items that relate to the history of the municipality of Lockport, Illinois, from 1845 through to the 1940s. The city is located about 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago in Will County, nestled in the Des Plaines River Valley.

Lockport was originally settled in 1830, and grew initially as the headquarters for the Illinois & Michigan Canal and as an agricultural processing center. The settlement was platted and named by the Illinois & Michigan Canal commissioners in 1837 as the canal headquarters. Chief Engineer William Gooding saw the water-power potential of the site, which is 40 feet higher than Joliet four miles to the south. Gooding supervised construction of a headquarters and stone warehouse. The canal opened in 1848 and in 1853 Lockport residents incorporated as a town.

The original town of the 1830s and 1840s was mainly populated by New England settlers, called Yankees, and a part of the town was called “Yankee Settlement.” The other element was recently emigrated Irish farmers and laborers. By the 1860s there were an increased number of German emigrants who were merchants and farmers. The late nineteenth century brought an influx of Scandinavians and a few African Americans who worked on the Sanitary and Ship Canal. Italians, mostly from northern Italy, worked in factories in the area.

The canal grain trade dominated the town's early economy, and the 1858 arrival of the Chicago & Alton Railroad did little to change this. Hiram Norton oversaw an extensive canal operation devoted to grain shipping and processing. His water-powered flour mill was one of the largest in northern Illinois. The construction of the Sanitary and Ship Canal after 1895 halted the grain trade on the old canal and the Norton Company went bankrupt. The construction of the Calumet-Sag Channel north of Lockport, which began in 1911, cut off most of the water power to the town, and the remaining mills closed.

The area's economy revived after 1911 when the Texas Oil Company decided to build its first refinery on the northern boundary of Lockport. In addition, area railroads began running commuter trains to Chicago and the 1901 opening of the Chicago & Joliet Interurban Electric Railway encouraged commuting between Lockport, Joliet, and Chicago. The closing decades of the twentieth century saw a decline in the agricultural and manufacturing base and brought strip malls, fast-food outlets, and other elements of urban sprawl.

The photograph collection was created by historian John Lamb in 1964, and is now part of the Howard and Lois Adelmann Regional History Collection, at Lewis University. Lamb is a prominent figure involved in the late twentieth century preservation efforts of the Illinois and Michigan (I&M) Canal, and of the cultural heritage of the many towns along its corridor, most notably Lockport, Illinois.

The most significant images in the collection are the nineteenth century photographs of such historic buildings as the Norton Building, Norton Flour Mill, Gaylord Building, and notable residences, such as the Fitzpatrick House. Photographs from the 1890s and early 1900s include that of a major fire in Lockport in 1895, businesses, school buildings, churches, residences, and Dellwood Park. Vintage photographs of Lockport residents includes images of parades, casual street scenes, athletic teams, fire department, school classes, individual and groups of workers at their places of business, as well as portraits of notable citizens. There are also a sizable number of photos of the Fitzpatrick family.

A large number of photos in this collection were taken by a local pharmacist, H. H. Carter, who took photos of people on the streets of Lockport from 1910 to 1916. These photos show not only certain individuals involved in the community but also scenes of various streets, notably State Street, and retail establishments, such as Mitchell's Restaurant.

Later in the century, includes a large collection of photos from the 1930 Lockport Centennial Parade, fire department photos from the 1940s, and the images of the 1947 flood that inundated parts of Lockport.