"The City That Made Chicago Famous"
Illinois is the nation’s most populous inland state. Its successful growth is due in large part to the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a revolutionary development that linked the Great Lakes to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Canal was vital to the development of the great City of Chicago and to the economic development of the Midwest; the Canal also fostered the growth of the small settlement that became the City of Lockport. The beautiful Des Plaines River Valley was a portage site for the Des Plaines River for the Miami and Potawatomi, and famed explorers Joliet and Marquette traversed the region on their journeys.
Lockport thrived in its early days as the canal’s headquarters and as an agricultural processing center. As the first navigable link between the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi River, the canal played an enormous role in the economic growth of Illinois and the Midwest; at the height of the canal’s prosperity, its headquarters was second in importance in Illinois only to the state capitol building. In the canal’s heyday, Lockport saw the construction of dozens of flour mills, grain warehouses and boatyards, as well as the creation of great amounts of wealth for savvy entrepreneurs. Lockport was incorporated as a town in 1853. The arrival of the Chicago and Alton Railroad in 1858 was the catalyst for even more growth in agricultural trade.
Today, Lockport is a thriving city of more than 20,000 that’s rapidly growing and looking toward the future. But Lockport’s residents and leaders are also determined to preserve its storied past. Lockport is leading the way in preserving and promoting the history of the Illinois and Michigan Canal Corridor, which is becoming a living history museum celebrating American enterprise and invention. The headquarters building of the Canal Commission, a National Historic Landmark, today serves as the home of the Illinois and Michigan Canal Museum. The native stone warehouses of the canal’s heyday still stand, as does the first lock built on this vital waterway. The city is also actively working to preserve and promote the historic downtown district, which boasts many significant structures.
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