Joliet is an old and substantial industrial suburb or neighbor of Chicago. It was established around the same time as Chicago and was quickly eclipsed. It is on the Des Plains River and Illinois and Michigan Canal. There are a number of interesting historic places in Joliet. During a recent visit, I was able to stop at just two. The Joliet Correctional Center (photo above) was built in 1858 and operated until 2002. It's an incredible structure. It was built by prisoner labor out of local limestone. The building appears to be in bad condition with broken windows exposing the interior to the elements. The building is owned by the state of Illinois and could potentially be turned into a source of tourism revenue for the city of Joliet. Apparently the city has considered buying it but I don't know any details. I believe the city of Joliet was largely responsible for a parking lot built for visitors in front of the prison. There is no access to the actual buildings but there are interpretive signs and it's possible to walk around the main prison building as well as a separate smaller prison building across the street. It was a popular spot when I visited one afternoon in summer of 2017. Maybe 10 car loads of people came and went in about an hour. It seems like it something similar to what's being done with Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia would work well for the Old Joliet Prison.
The Joliet Iron Works was a substantial iron and steel works that operated from 1869 to the early 1980s. Not much remains of it but that is still more than than remains of other iron works in the Midwest of similar size and age like the North Chicago Works. Today the site of the works is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Will County. There are trails through the site which is interspersed with ruins. There are some interpretive signs for visitors. Right across the tracks from the iron works site are the mostly abandoned Joliet rolling mills. There weren't any other visitors when I was there recently. A police officer was parked in the parking lot. An approaching thunderstorm kept me close to the car. A lot of money and effort has gone into building trails through the site and the parking area was well maintained. It seemed unloved though, possibly because it's a little bit hard to find. It's just north of downtown Joliet on a dead end street off of highway 53/Ruby Street as it approaches a bridge.
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