“Satellite City Profile: Joliet, Illinois” by S.M. O’Connor

Joliet is a real, albeit small city.  It is a satellite city and exurb of Chicago, thirty-five miles southwest of the Chicago Loop.[1] Joliet is outside the outermost ring of suburbs because there is a gap between those suburbs and Joliet rather than continuous urban sprawl.  However, within the foreseeable future it should become enmeshed in the outermost rings of suburbs like Aurora.  Although it is the county seat of Will County, Joliet spreads out into Kendall County.  Originally, Joliet was called “Juliet” as in Shakespeare’s play Romeo & Juliet, and was the twin city of Romeoville, before it was renamed in honor of the French explorer Louis Jolliet. Downtown Joliet is known as the Joliet City Center.  It is located on the east bank of the Des Plaines River.  Joliet has two casinos: Hollywood Casino Joliet and Harrah’s Joliet Chicago Hotel and Casino.

Joliet’s population rose from 76,836 in 1990 to 106,221 in 2000 and reached 147,433 by 2010, which made it the fourth-largest city in the state.  Arguably, the towns of Lockport and Crest Hill and the unincorporated communities Crystal Lawns and Fairmont to the north, the unincorporated community of Ingalls Park and the village of New Lenox to the east, the villages of Manhattan, Elwood, Rockdale, Shorewood, Minooka, and Channahon, as well as the unincorporated community of Preston Heights to the south, are suburbs of Joliet.  As of the 2010 Census, Lockport had a population of 24,839, Crest Hill had a population of 20,837, Fairmont had a population of 2,459, Ingalls Park had a population of 3,314, New Lenox had a population of 24,394, Manhattan had a population of 7,093, Elwood had a population of 2,279, Rockdale had a population of 1,976 people, Shorewood had a population of 15,615, Minooka had a population of 10,924, Channahon had a population of 12,560, and Preston Heights had a population of 2,575.  In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Crystal Lawns had a population of 2,263. Plattsville is an outlying hamlet to the west that incorporated in 2006 and had a population of 245 in 2007.  Note that Millsdale appears on maps as an outlying village south of Joliet and northwest of the Joliet Army Training Area, but it was abandoned in the early 20th Century.  Perhaps it will live a second life.

In 1673, two Frenchmen, the Jesuit-educated explorer Louis Jolliet, and the Jesuit priest Pere Jacques Marquette (1637-1675), paddled up the Des Plaines River, and, along the way, camped on a mound a few miles south of the site of modern Joliet, before they discovered the Chicago Portage (between modern Harlem Avenue and 48th Street) that several American Indian tribes used in wet seasons to travel between the Chicago River, connected to Lake Michigan, and the Des Plaines River, part of the Mississippi River watershed.[2]  One hundred sixty-six years later, in 1833, Charles Reed built a cabin along the west bank of the Des Plaines River, in the wake of the Black Hawk War.[3] One year later, in 1834, James B. Campbell, Treasurer of the Illinois & Michigan Canal commissioners, laid out a village across the river from Reed’s cabin, which he named Juliet.[4]  He did so in honor of his daughter.  Campbell recorded the plat in Chicago.

Construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal drew Irish immigrants to the area.  The historic heart of Joliet is along the Des Plaines River, but it has expanded to reach the DuPage River as well.  Campbell called the village “Juliet,” a name already in use by local settlers, possibly as a corruption of Jolliet.  Until 1836, Juliet was part of Cook County.  Then, the enormous Cook County was divided into pieces and Juliet became the county seat of Will County.[5]

This eliminated the two-day round-trip to Chicago.  However, property and tax records were stored in Chicago until 1912.  These records were consumed in a fire.  Consequently, it is impossible to ascertain when some of the old structures in the area were built.

Juliet incorporated as a village just before the onset of the economic depression of 1837.[6]  To reduce their taxes, residents petitioned the state legislature to rescind the incorporation of their village as a body politic.[7]

As recounted by Sarah S. Marcus in her history of Romeoville in The Encyclopedia of Chicago, a board of commissioners with a mandate from the state legislature established a town in Will County north of Juliet they called “Romeo,” and, in 1845, when the citizens of Juliet changed the name of their towns to Joliet – unmistakably a tribute to the explorer Louis Jolliet – residents of Romeo responded by altering the name of their village to Romeoville.[8]

By 1840, Juliet had a population of 2,558 people, of whom 2,552 were White and six were identified as “Free colored” (meaning they were freedmen who had been slaves or were the children of former slaves of Sub-Saharan African or mixed racial ancestry).[9]  In 1850, the population of Joliet was 2,659.  Two years later, Joliet re-incorporated as a city.[10]

Robert E. Sterling recounts in his history of Joliet in The Encyclopedia of Chicago and Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs how the quarrying of the area’s limestone, which has a “bluish-white tinge, earned Joliet the nickname ‘City of Stone.’ The Illinois & Michigan Canal was both a consumer of stone in the building of locks, bridges, and aqueducts and, after its completion in 1848, an artery for shipping stone to regional customers.”[11]   The historic Water Tower in downtown Chicago and the Old Capitol building in Springfield were both built of Joliet limestone.  Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871 spurred demand for Joliet stone as the larger city had to be rebuilt and residents wanted fireproof buildings of stone or brick.[12]   By 1890, Joliet quarries shipped more than 3,000 railroad carloads of stone per month to Chicago and other cities.[13]

Meanwhile, by 1870, Joliet’s population had reached 7,263, of whom 31.7% were immigrants.[14]  In terms of racial demographics, 7,228 residents were White and thirty-five identified themselves as Colored.[15]

In 1858, the State of Illinois built Joliet State Penitentiary (which most people called Joliet Prison) and was later renamed the Joliet Correctional Center, in part because the quarries there made it a relatively simple matter to build thick prison walls there.[16] Joliet Correctional Center was made world-famous by The Blues Brothers (1980), an ultra-surrealistic musical-comedy that was the first film adapted from Saturday Night Live skits.  In the opening scene, fictional prisoner Jake “Joliet” Blues (John Belushi) is released from prison and greeted by his brother Elwood Blues (Dan Akroyd), only for Jake to be imprisoned there again, along with Elwood and the rest of their entire band – after fulfilling their Mission from God – in the final scene.  Joliet Correctional Center closed in 2002.  The prison became even more famous because Season 1 of Prison Break (2005-2009) was filmed on location there, though it was called Fox River State Penitentiary on the show.  Joliet Prison is located west of Collins Street and east of the Illinois & Michigan Canal (and thus the Des Plaines River).  Sometimes locals call it the Collins Street Prison.  It is southeast of the junction of the Des Plaines River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

In March of 2009, the parking lot on Collins Street of the Joliet Prison began to transform into The Old Joliet Prison Park.  This project was funded with grants from the Illinois Bureau of Tourism and the City of Joliet, as well as “special assistance” from Councilwoman Susie Barber. Dukes Landscaping, a sponsor of the Old Joliet Prison Park project, bulldozed pavement; brought in topsoil, sod, and historically-appropriate plants; and maintains the grounds.  There is no access to the prison building at this time, but that may change in the future.  Eight informational kiosks give visitors insight into the history of the prison and movies that have been filmed on location there.  The address is 1125 Collins Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.

The Joliet Area Historical Museum will hold a fundraiser at Old Joliet Prison to restore Old Joliet Prison on Saturday, August 25, 2018, The Great Joliet Prison Break-In.   Four bands will perform.  Food trucks will provide food and drinks.  Tickets are $40.

The State of Illinois may have closed Joliet Penitentiary, but Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill remains open.  Built in 1925, one of the cell-houses at Stateville Correctional Center is a Panopticon as called for by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1742-1832). Today, it has a population of 2,550 and a capacity of 3,759.

Harlow Higginbotham (1838-1919)

      Born to Henry D. & Rebecca H. Higginbotham in Joliet, Illinois, on October 10, 1838, Harlow Niles Higginbotham was a bookkeeper Potter Palmer (1826-1902) brought into the dry goods store Field, Palmer & Leiter in 1865 who so impressed his employers that in 1868 he was made a partner in the successor organization, Field, Leiter & Co., leading to his becoming a partner in Marshall Field & Company from 1881 to 1901.[17]  He attended Lombard University in Galesburg, Illinois and the Commercial College of Chicago.[18]  He had worked for the Will County Bank of Joliet, the Joliet City Bank, the Bank of Oconto (in Oconto, Wisconsin), and the dry goods firm of Cooley, Farwell & Company in Chicago before he enlisted in the army in 1862. [19]   During the Civil War, he served in the Mercantile Battery of Artillery of Chicago, but due to health problems before he saw combat he was transferred to the Quartermaster’s Department in Washington, D.C. and became chief clerk before he resigned in 1864. [20]  In December of 1865, Higinbotham married Miss Rachel D. Davison of Joliet, and they had four children, two sons and two daughters. [21]   The Higginbothams had a residence at 2838 Michigan Avenue and a summer retreat he built on the old family farm outside Joliet.[22]  Higginbotham was head of the company’s credit department for more than two decades. [23]   He was also president of the Laxfer Prism Company and the Caxton Company. [24]   Higginbotham was president of the World’s Columbian Exposition Company, which operated Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), and the Columbian Field Museum during the period when it evolved into the Field Museum of Natural History.


The East Side Historic District

      The East Side Historic District is home to the Jacob A. Henry Mansion, the Barr residence, the Van Horn residence, the Dr. Werner residence, and other notable structures.  Lawyer and farmer Cornelius Covenhoven Van Horn (1794-1854) built a cottage at 301 Sherman Street in 1852.  He served as the first Mayor of Joliet from 1852 to 1854.  Queen Victoria awarded an honorary knighthood to his eldest son, William Cornelius Van Horn, Sr. (1843-1915), in 1894, in recognition of the part he played in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad through the Rocky Mountains.

Railroad magnate Jacob A. Henry (1825-1908) had numerous business interests in Joliet.  He owned the Joliet Street Railway Company, an insurance company, a stone company, and an opera house, as well as having an ownership stake in a bank.[25]  By 1858, he had become road master of the Chicago & Alton Railroad.[26]  In Texas, he had helped found the Houston & Great Northern Railroad in 1870.[27]  In 1873, Henry built his Second Empire-style mansion on the east side of Eastern Avenue, a 16,800-square-foot residence with forty rooms.  [It takes twenty rooms for a house to be considered a mansion.]  The solid walnut staircase of Henry’s mansion has 119 hand-carved octagonal burled walnut spindles.  The design won the Architecture Award at the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1776.  Henry’s descendants owned the mansion until 1933, when they lost it in the Great Depression.[28]  During the Great Depression, the Jacob A. Henry Mansion and the Dr. Werner residence became rooming houses.  In the 1940s, they both became funeral parlors.  In 1978, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1985, Ken & Carol Pritz purchased it to prevent its destruction.[29]  Today, one can rent out the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate for weddings, wedding receptions, and other events.

Dr. William Dougall, the Chief Surgeon of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, built a Queen Anne-style with a three-story tower at 209 Union Street by 1877.  He also worked at the Joliet State Penitentiary before he set up a private practice in his home.  The Will County Historical Society recreated his office in what is now the Will County Historical Museum and Research Center in Lockport.

Unfortunately, the Italianate-style Phelps residence at 211 South Eastern Avenue seems to have been demolished.  Captain Egbert Phelps had enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1861 during the Civil War, was promoted to captain by 1864, and retired in 1870.  Subsequently, he settled in Joliet, where he took up the practice of the law.  He was President of the Board of Directors of the Old Joliet Historical Library Association, which was instrumental in the foundation of the Joliet Public Library.

Dr. F. Werner was City and Town Physician in 1880.  He also sat on the Board of Directors of the Joliet Evening Herald Newspaper.  His Romanesque Revival-style home, built between 1890 and 1896, stands at 202 South Eastern Avenue.  It has walls of coursed limestone and a three-story tower.  This is now the Range Funeral Home.

Before 1898, attorney George Barr built a residence at 106 Third Avenue.  Barr served four terms as Mayor of Joliet from 1901 to 1907 and as State’s Attorney from 1908 to 1912.  [His brother was State Senator Richard Barr, who served in the Illinois State Senate for forty-eight years.]  He sat on the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois for twelve years.  For two of those years, he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees.


The Joliet Iron Works

      In 1869, the Joliet Iron Works opened.[30]   It remained a major employer until it closed in the 1930s.  In the 1870s, Bessemer converters were installed at the mill, among the earliest used in the U.S.[31]  The steel mill attracted thousands of workers from southeastern Europe.  These new immigrants also found jobs on the railroad that serviced the steel mill, the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway.[32]

This history is reflected in the Slovenian Women’s Union of America’s Heritage Museum, now operated by the Slovenian Union of America (S.U.A.).  Founded in 1978 by Irene M. Odorizzi, the Slovenian Heritage Museum was dedicated in 1983.  The address is 431 North Chicago Street.

The Joliet Iron Works was southwest of Joliet Prison, on the east bank of the Des Plaines River.  The Forest Preserve District of Will County acquired the fifty-two acre Joliet Iron Works site between 1991 and 1997.  It is part of the Des River Preservation System, which consists of 2,400 acres.  In 1998, the Will County Forest Preserve District opened an interpretive walking trail through the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site along the Illinois & Michigan Canal’s path.

By 1900, Joliet had 29,353 residents, of whom 29.1% were immigrants and 32.3% were the children of immigrants.[33]   In terms of racial demographics, 28,688 (97.7%) were White, 175 (.6%) identified themselves as Negro, and fifteen (.1%) were Chinese.[34]

By 1930, Joliet had 42,993 residents, of whom 16.4% were immigrants and 38.4% were the children of immigrants.[35]   In terms of racial demographics, 40,797 (94.9%) were White, 1,309 (3%) identified themselves as Negro, thirty (.1%) were Indian, fourteen were Chinese, 845 (2%) were Mexican, and one person was identified as “Other.”[36]  The Indians counted in this census were likely American Indians rather than Indian-Americans.

The canal, rail, and highway transportation system drew U.S. Steel, U.S. Rubber, Caterpillar, and General Electric to build plants in Joliet.  According to Sterling, the “city’s large labor force and its steel mill attracted other industries. Wire mills, coke plants, stove companies, horseshoe factories, brick companies, foundries, boiler and tank companies, machine manufacturers, can companies, bridge builders, plating factories, steel car shops, and many others established businesses in the Joliet area. Other Joliet industries have ranged from the production of greeting cards and calendars to the bottling of Seven-Up, from the manufacture of Hart, Schaffner & Marx clothing to the brewing of beer. Pianos, windmills, wallpaper and barrels have been manufactured in Joliet, as have building materials, oil and chemical products, and Caterpillar scrapers.”[37]

By 1960, Joliet had a population of 66,780 people, of whom 6.1% were immigrants and 22.2% were the children of immigrants.[38]   In terms of racial demographics, 62,077 (93%) were White, 4,638 (6.9%) identified themselves as Negro, and sixty-five (1%) were identified as belonging to “Other races.”[39]  By 1970, the population had jumped to 76,006 people.

With the closure of factories, Joliet became part of the Midwestern Rust Belt in the late 1970s.[40]   In addition, three department stores that had been located in downtown Joliet on Chicago Street – Sears, J.C. Penney, and Kline’s – moved to Louis Joliet Mall, which opened in 1978, which left the City Center with empty buildings.  By 1983, Joliet’s unemployment rate reached a catastrophic 26%.[41]

Louis Joliet Mall is a 947,000-square-foot regional mall located southeast of I-55 and U.S. Highway 30.  It opened in 1978 with Sears and Marshall Field’s as anchors.  In 2006, the Marshall Field’s became a Macy’s.  It currently has four department store anchors: Sears, J.C. Penney, and Macy’s, and Carson Pirie Scott.  The Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company department store will close this year because its parent company, The Bon-Ton, Inc., which purchased Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company in 2006, and had not turned a profit since 2010, and had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of 2018, announced on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 that it is going out of business after being acquired by two liquidators.  Louis Joliet Mall is south of the intersection of I-55 and Joliet Road/Route 30, and east of Route 59

By 1990, Joliet had a population of 76,836 people, of whom 7.3% were immigrants.[42]  In terms of racial demographics, 53,308 (69.4%) were White, 16,544 (21.5%) were Black, 128 (.2%) were American Indian, 729 (.9%) were identified as either Asian or Pacific Islander (meaning Polynesian), 6,127 (8%) were identified as “Other race,” and 9,483 (12.3%) were identified as being of “Hispanic Origin.”[43]  During the 1990s, the Joliet economy began to recover.[44]

By 2000, Joliet had a population of 106,221 people, of whom 10.9% were immigrants.[45]   In terms of racial demographics, 73,633 (69.3%) were exclusively White; 19,294 (18.2%) were identified as exclusively Black or African American; 301 (.3%) were exclusively American Indian or Alaska Native, meaning or Inuit (Eskimo); twenty-two were exclusively Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, meaning Polynesians from Hawaii or anywhere else; 9,532 (9%) were identified as belonging exclusively to some other race; 2,224 (2.1%) were biracial; and 19,552 (18.4%) identified themselves as being Hispanic or Latino.[46]

Millions of people have visited Joliet’s two riverboat casinos as well as its drag-racing and NASCAR tracks – Route 66 Raceway, which opened in 1998, and Chicagoland Speedway, which opened in 2001.[47]  Tax receipts have been used to revitalize the downtown City Center.  There are two riverboat casinos in Joliet on the Des Plaines River.  These are Caesars Entertainment Corporation’s Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel and Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood Casino Joliet.  Harrah’s Joliet is on the east bank of the Des Plaines River and is in the City Center.  The address of Harrah’s Joliet Chicago Casino and Hotel is 151 North Joliet Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.  Hollywood Casino & Hotel lies to the south, on the west bank of the Des Plaines River.  The address of Hollywood Casino Joliet is 777 Hollywood Boulevard, Joliet, Illinois 60436.

Route 66 Speedway is at the southeast corner of Chicago Street/Route 53 and Schweitzer Road in Ellwood, Illinois.  Chicagoland Speedway is north of Schweitzer Road, east of Chicago Street/Route 53, south of Laraway Road, and west of Route 52, in Joliet.

Joliet Junior College’s Weitendorf Sr. Agricultural Educational Center is on the north side of Laraway Road, across from Chicagoland Speedway.  This building was a gift from Joliet Junior College alumnus John H. Weitendorf, Sr. Amazon’s Cross-Dock facility, a fulfillment center, is west of Joliet Junior College’s Weitendorf Agricultural Educational Center, on Laraway Road.

As of the 2010 Census, Joliet had a population of 147,433 people, with a median age of 31.7.  Demographically, there were 72,892 men and boys and 74,541 women and girls. In terms of race, 143,089 residents (97.1%) belonged exclusively to one race and 4,344 residents (2.9%) belonged to two or more races; 99,494 residents (67.5%) identified themselves as being exclusively White; 23,562 residents (16%) identified themselves as being exclusively Black or African American; 475 residents (.3%) identified themselves as being either American Indians or Alaskan Natives; 2,841 residents (1.9%) were Asian; thirty were Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and 41,042 residents (27.8%) identified themselves as being Hispanic or Latino.  Of the Asians, 617 were Asian Indians, 172 were Chinese, 990 were Filipino, fifty were Japanese, 134 were Korean, 211 were Vietnamese, and 667 were “Other Asian.”  Out of the small Polynesian population in Joliet, five were Native Hawaiians, seven were Guamanian or Chamorro, nine were Samoan, and nine were “Other Pacific Islander.”  Of the 41,042 residents who identified themselves as being Hispanic or Latino of any race, 36,570 were Mexican, 2,084 were Puerto Rican, 151 were Cuban, and 2,237 were “Other Hispanic or Latino.”



      The University of St. Francis is a Catholic University sponsored by the Franciscans (as opposed to, say, the Dominicans or Jesuits).  The main campus is one block southeast of the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus, the way the Water Tower Campus of Loyola University is within walking distance of Holy Name Cathedral.   The University of St. Francis was founded in 1920 by and for the Congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate as a seminary. It opened to laywomen in 1925 as Assisi Junior College.  Five years later in the fall term, the tertiary school adopted a senior curriculum and the name College of St. Francis.  In 1971, the College of St. Francis became co-educational.  The next year, the College of St. Francis began to offer off-campus degree programs.  The first master’s degree program offered by the College of St. Francis was in health services administration in 1980.  The College of St. Francis rolled out several more graduate school programs in the early 1990s.  Later in that decade, in 1997, the College of St. Francis chose to affiliate with Saint Joseph School of Nursing, which had started as a nursing school in 1920 and had become a baccalaureate institution that awarded a degree in Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1987.  In May of 1997, the Board of Trustees of the College of St. Francis voted to transform into a university.  Effective January 1, 1998, the College of St. Francis became the University of St. Francis.

Joliet Junior College is our federation’s oldest public community college.  It was founded in 1901 by William Rainey Harper (1856-1906), President of The University of Chicago, and Joliet Township High School Superintendent J. Stanley Brown.  It started with six students and now has over 35,000 students in credit and non-credit courses.  In 1916, the Board of Trustees officially organized the postgraduate high school program into a separate school they named Joliet Junior College.  The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accredited Joliet Junior College in 1917.  The $50,000,000 Main Campus was fully operational by the fall of 1974.  In the fall of 1980, Jolliet Junior College opened the Louis Joliet Renaissance Center (now the City Center Campus) at 214 North Ottawa Street in the Joliet City Center.  In January of 1993, Joliet Junior College opened the Romeoville Campus at 1125 West 135th Street in Romeoville, a 35,000-square-foot facility with eighteen classrooms.  The Main Campus expanded with the construction of the Arthur G. and Vera C. Smith Business and Technology Center, a 90,000-square-foot facility that opened in 1996.  Four years later, the Main Campus expanded yet again with the Veterinary Technology and Industrial Training Building and Centennial Commons campus student housing, which a vendor manages.  Due to growth in Grundy County, Joliet Junior College opened the Morris Education Center at 1715 North Division Street in Morris.  Originally, this was a 1,000-square-foot, two-classroom building, but not it is a 3,000-square-foot, four-classroom building.  In 2007, the John H. Weitendorf Sr. Agricultural Educational Center.  The New Library opened on the second floor of the Campus Center on July 5, 2011.

There are two public high schools and one Catholic high school in Joliet.  Joliet Central High School is north of Route 30, southeast of the Rialto Square Theatre, while Joliet West High School is west of Route 7 and north of Jefferson Street/Route 52. The present-day co-educational Joliet Catholic Academy on Larkin Avenue came about as a result of a 1990 merger of two older schools.


The Joliet Park District

      Established in 1922, the Joliet Park District owns and operates seventy-eight community parks, as a result of which it manages over 1,650 acres of land.  In addition, the Joliet Park District has fifteen facilities.  Before the Joliet Park District came into existence as such, the City of Joliet purchased forty acres for West Park and forty-five acres for Highland Park in 1899.  In 1920, Robert Pilcher purchased 327 acres of land that had belonged to Harlow Higginbotham and Pilcher later donated this property for a park, which became Pilcher Park.

In 1927, Richard & Mary Barr donated a property known as “Gougar’s Pasture.”  The Joliet Park District intended to turn the property into a bird sanctuary and renamed it Bird Haven.  In 1929, the Joliet Park District erected the Bird Haven Greenhouse on Gougar Road.  This was a Lord & Burnham™ greenhouse.  It underwent a $5,600,000 rehabilitation in 2004.

Built in 1951 as part of the Inwood Complex, Joliet Memorial Stadium has 10,000 seats.  Now known as ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium, it hosts University of Saint Francis athletics, Joliet Catholic Academy’s high school football games, youth football programs, Independence Day fireworks, and the annual Taste of Joliet festival. The address is 3000 West Jefferson Street, Joliet, Illinois 60435.

The Joliet Park District built the Inwood Ice Arena as part of the Inwood Recreation Center in 1959.  It burned down in 1991.  Two years later, an expanded $4,500,000 facility opened in April of 1993.  The previous month, the Business and Administrative Offices of the Joliet Park District had moved into the second floor.

Today, the Joliet Park District manages three golf courses: Woodruff Golf Course, Inwood Golf Club, and Wedgewood Golf Course.  In 1926, George Woodruff donated land off Gougar Road on the east side of Joliet to the Joliet Park District for a nine-hole golf course and later donated additional land to add another nine holes.  This became the Woodruff Golf Course and it compromises over 100 acres of land.  In 1929, the Joliet Park District purchased 241 acres in western Joliet to created Inwood Golf Course on Jefferson Street, which was built in 1931 and celebrated its eightieth anniversary in 2011.  In 1967, the Joliet Park District acquired 177 acres of land at the intersection of Route 59 and Caton Farm Road to create the Wedgewood Golf Course.

The Joliet Park District finished construction of the Inwood Sports Complex, a twenty-five-acre complex with six softball fields with concessions, a playground, and six soccer fields on Jefferson Street in August of 1991.  To accommodate the Inwood Sports Complex, the Joliet Park District renovated nine holes at Inwood Golf Course in August of 1990.

In August of 1998, the Andrew B. Barber and Clarence D. Oberwortmann Horticultural Center opened.  The Barber and Oberwortmann Horticultural Center is connected to the Bird Haven Greenhouse.  It has banquet rooms, a covered deck, a full-service kitchen, and a computer resource center.  This construction project was funded through the Joliet Park Foundation by a trust of over $1,500,000 established by patrons A.B. Barber and C.D. Oberwortmann.

In 2002, the Joliet Park District built Splash Station Waterpark on twenty acres of land on Route 6 that had been donated by Hollywood Casino (formerly Empress Casino).  It features a 200-foot, six-lane racing slide, an 865-foot-long “lazy river,” body slides, tube slides, a sand play area, and a “zero depth pool.”  Over 500,000 have visited Splash Station Waterpark since 2002.

The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in 2005 to construct the $13,500,000 Inwood Athletic Club.  The largest project in the history of the Joliet Park District to date, it also connects to the Inwood Recreation Center, forming a 62,000-square-foot facility.  The Inwood Athletic Club features an eight-lane Indoor Pool, a Stream Room, a Whirlpool, an Indoor Walking Track, a 10,000-square-foot Fitness Floor, an Ice Arena, two group exercise rooms, and Traditions Restaurant and Pub.  It has on-site child careA.T.I. Physical Therapy is on site.  There are several membership options.

In 2009, the Joliet Park District signed an Intergovernmental Agreement with the State of Illinois to use 74.13 acres of open land on Mission Boulevard west of the Illinois Youth Center.  Subsequently, the Joliet Park District dedicated the Joliet Park District Soccer Complex in September of 2011.  It has twelve soccer fields, practice space, and a concession stand.  In October of 2011, the Joliet Park District opened the adjacent Organic Community Garden.



      Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center is north of Route 52 and west of Route 7 on the west side of Joliet.  This 480-bed hospital is the flagship hospital of the largest Catholic hospital network in Illinois.  [Presence Health Care is of the result the 2011 merger of two Catholic healthcare systems: Resurrection Health Care and Provena Health Care.]  The address is 333 North Madison Street, Joliet, Illinois 60435.  Founded in 1882, it moved from 372 North Broadway in downtown Joliet to its current location in 1964.

Silver Cross Hospital has facilities on both sides of the Des Plaines River.  The main hospital is located west of I-355 and south of Route 6 in New Lenox, Illinois.  The address is 1900 Silver Cross Boulevard, New Lenox, Illinois 60451.  In 1895, the Will County Union of King’s Daughters and Sons, the local chapter of a non-denominational Christian service organization – the International Order of The King’s Daughters and Sons, founded in New York in 1886 – established the first Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet.  They took the name for the hospital from their emblem, the Maltese cross.  There is smaller facility, Silver Cross Medical Center West, west of Essington Road and east of I-55.

Joliet City Center

      In 1999, the City of Joliet purchased the Ottawa Street Methodist Church to convert into a museum.  The Joliet Area Historical Museum is located on Ottawa Street/Illinois Route 53, between Webster Street to the north and Lincoln Highway/Illinois Route 30 to the south.  The Joliet Area Historical Museum opened in 2002 thanks to the efforts of the City of Joliet, the Joliet Area Historical Association, Joliet Junior College, and private citizens.  The address is 204 North Ottawa Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.

The Joliet Junior College – City Center campus spreads out over two buildings, one of which is next to the Joliet Area Historical Museum.  The address is 214 North Ottawa Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.  The second building is behind that one, at the southeast corner of Chicago Street and Webster Street.  The address is 235 North Chicago Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.   J.C.C. Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management students get hands-on experience at the Renaissance Center Restaurant and banquet facilities.

The University of St. Francis also built an annex in Joliet City Center.  It is down the street (Chicago Street) from the Joliet Junior College – City Center campus.  This at 5 East Van Buren Street.  This facility is conveniently half a block away from the Catholic Church of Saint Anthony.  [The address is 100 North Scott Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.]  It is also next door to the Rialto Square Theatre and is a block-and-a-half from the Joliet Route 66 Stadium.

The Joliet Public Library is one block south, on Clinton Street between Ottawa Street to the west and Chicago Street to the east.  The address is 150 North Ottawa, Joliet, Illinois 60432.  Like the Gilbert M. Simmons Memorial Library in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which was dedicated in 1900, the Joliet Public Library building (1903), was designed by Daniel Hudson Burnham, Senior (1847-1912), who had been Director of Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, and would later co-author The Plan of Chicago (1909).   Joliet has one of the oldest public libraries in the state.

The Will County Courthouse is at the southeast corner of southbound Route 53/Route 6 and Route 30.  This is a Brutalist-style building but not unattractive.  The address is 14 West Jefferson Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.

Two blocks to the west, the Joliet Municipal Building, also known as Joliet City Hall, takes up a whole block.  It is bounded by Route 30 to the north, Joliet Street to the east, Washington Street to the south, and Des Plaines Street to the west.  This building is on the east bank of the Des Plaines River and the west face of the building overlooks the Des Plaines River.

The Joliet City Police Department headquarters is one block to the south of Joliet City Hall.  It also takes up half a block and also overlooks the Des Plaines River.  It is bounded by Washington Street to the north, Lafayette Street to the south, and Des Plaines Street to the west.

37084441_10157130943232437_631672724397228032_nFigure 1 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the main entrance of the Joliet Area Historical Museum on Ottawa Street.

37030189_10157130944057437_3893823071450038272_nFigure 2 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the south face of Kathleen Scarboro’s sculpture The Mother Road, near the main entrance of the Joliet Area Historical Museum.


Figure 3 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the west face of Kathleen Scarboro’s sculpture The Mother Road, near the main entrance of the Joliet Area Historical Museum.


Figure 4 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the north face of Kathleen Scarboro’s sculpture The Mother Road, near the main entrance of the Joliet Area Historical Museum.

37036487_10157130943827437_2595619204224778240_nFigure 5 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This part of the Joliet Area Historical Museum was formerly the Ottawa Street United Methodist Church, which stands at the northeast corner of Ottawa Street and Lincoln Highway.  It is across from the headquarters of Catholic Charities (Diocese of Joliet).

37004073_10157130943932437_3374135430248136704_nFigure 6 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: The headquarters of Catholic Charities (Diocese of Joliet) stands at the northwest corner of Ottawa Street and Lincoln Highway, across from the former Ottawa Street United Methodist Church.

37140302_10157130943647437_5232714903332061184_nFigure 7 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is a planter on the west side of Ottawa Street/Route 53.


Figure 8 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This Route 66 marker stands at the southwest corner of Ottawa Street and Webster Street.

Brothers C.W. and George L. Rapp, who would later design the Paramount Theater I described in “Satellite City Profile Aurora,” designed Joliet’s Rialto Square Theatre, which stands at the northeast corner of Van Buren Street and Chicago Street, and is one block southeast of the Joliet Public Library.  The address is 15 Van Buren Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.  Rapp & Rapp designed the theater in 1924. Kaiser-Ducett, a contractor that later participated in the construction of the fairgrounds for Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34),  built it.  The theater is graced by sculptures by Sicilian-born sculptor Eugene Romeo, who also worked on the John G. Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Board of Trade Building, the Chicago Daily News Building, Soldier Field, the Merchandise Mart, the Blackstone Theater, the Wrigley Building, the Park Ridge Community Church, and the Park Ridge Public Library.  Romeo did much of this work while an employee of the Chicago-based plastering firm McNulty Brothers Company. The theater opened in 1926. French influence can be seen in the esplanade, or inner lobby, was inspired by the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, while the arch between the esplanade and rotunda area was inspired by Napoleon I’s Arc de Triomphe in Paris. There is also a great deal of Greco-Roman and Byzantine influence, which includes depictions of Greek mythological figures and a rotunda surrounded by eighteen Corinthian-style columns, and surmounted by a dome inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The suspended eight-arm crystal chandelier is called The Duchess.  It is 20 feet long with 250 lights.

In the 1970s, Dorothy Mavrich, President of the Cultural Arts Council of the Joliet Area, formerly known as the Rialto Square Arts Association, initiated a campaign to save the Rialto for future generations.  In 1978, the Will County Metropolitan Exposition & Auditorium Authority was founded as a unit of local government to own and operate the Rialto Square Theatre complex and surrounding properties.  The Rialto Square Theatre Foundation is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization.  In 1980, Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin, Wisconsin restored and renovated the building.  The next year, the old movie palace and Vaudeville venue was re-designated a center of the performing arts.  Pianist-cum-comedian Victor Borge performed with the Chicago Pops Orchestra at the gala reopening on November 27, 1981.  The Rialto Square Theater is on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Register of National Historic Places.  The interior of the movie palace can be seen in the supernatural thriller Stir of Echoes (1999).

The Joliet Slammers, a professional baseball team in the Frontier League, play baseball at the Joliet Route 66 Stadium, two blocks east of Rialto Square Theatre. It is on the north side of Route 30.  The address is 1 Mayor Art Schultz Drive, Joliet, Illinois 60432.

Both the old train station and the new one are across the street from Joliet Route 66 Stadium. Joliet Union Station is no longer a function train station, but the great hall is now a ballroom.  Through Mistwood Golf Club, one may rent out The Grand Ballroom | Joliet Union Station for weddings, wedding receptions, and other special events.  The address is 50 East Jefferson Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.  The new train station serving Metra’s Rock Island District, Heritage Corridor line and Amtrak is called the Gateway Center.  The address is 90 East Jefferson Street, Joliet, Illinois 60432.

Joliet is a cathedral city.  The Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus, the main campus of University of St. Francis, and the Historic Cathedral Area are west of the Des Plaines River and north of Route 52.  The address of St. Raymond Nonnatus is 604 North Raynor Avenue, Joliet, Illinois 60435.  In the 1970s, many of the mansions and other gracious single-family homes around St. Raymond Nonnatus Cathedral were subdivided into apartment buildings.  Many, if not all, of these conversions were illegal.  Founded in 1981, the non-profit Cathedral Area Preservation Association helps members preserve the mansions and other homes in the neighborhood around St. Raymond Cathedral.  Hundreds of homeowners, City of Joliet officials, and volunteers have labored to preserve the Historic Cathedral Area.  Over the past thirty years, 1,300 residences have been zoned as single-family homes.  Consequently, since 1990, property values in the Historic Cathedral Area have appreciated 75%.  By 2005, over 600 Joliet residents were C.A.P.A. members.

South of the Historic Cathedral Area, on the west bank of the Des Plaines River, there are a number of churches in a fairly small area.  One will find Holy Cross Catholic Church at the southeast corner of Elizabeth Street and Ross Street.  The address is 901 Elizabeth Street, Joliet, Illinois 60435.

St. Mary Nativity Catholic Church and School is on Broadway Street south of Ruby Street/Route 53.  The parish church is at the southeast corner and the parish school stands to the south of the church on the same block.  The address is 706 North Broadway, Joliet, Illinois 60435.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church is on Hickory Street north of Division Street.  The parish church is at the northeast corner of Hickory and Division and the St. John the Baptist Head Start Center is located at the northwest corner.  Founded in 1852, this parish is staffed by Franciscan friars rather than secular (diocesan) priests.  This is the parish where the Sisters of Saint Francis of Mary Immaculate (Joliet Franciscan Sisters) who later founded Saint Francis University first began to teach and care for orphans.  The address is 404 North Hickory Street, Joliet, Illinois 60435.

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and St. Patrick’s Cemetery are in the St. Pat’s neighborhood.  The parish church is on Marion Street between Willow Avenue to the west and Hunter Avenue.  The address is 710 West Marion Street, Joliet, Illinois 60436.  St. Patrick’s Cemetery is bounded by Jefferson Street to the north, Garfield Street to the east, Washington Street to the south, and Hunter Avenue to the west.

Also of note is All Saints Greek Orthodox Church at the northwest corner of Broadway Street and Jefferson Street/Route 30 on the west bank of the Des Plaines River.  This church appears to be a combination of Byzantine and Romanesque styles of architecture.  The address is 102 North Broadway Street, Joliet, Illinois 60435.  St. George Serbian Orthodox Church is between the Reedwood and Idyleside neighborhoods in western Joliet.  The address is 300 Stryker Avenue, Joliet, Illinois 60436.

St. Joseph Catholic Church on the east bank of the Des Plaines River, and north of the City Center looks like a miniature, Neo-Gothic cathedral.  Founded in 1891, St. Joseph Catholic Church celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016.  This church was founded to serve Slovenian immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[48]  The Des Plaines River and two blocks separate it from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

The Patrick C. Haley Mansion is six blocks east of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in St. Patrick’s neighborhood.  One can rent it out for weddings, wedding receptions, and other special events.  Born on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1849, Patrick Columbus Haley (1849-1928) moved with his family from Saranac, New York to Will County, Illinois in 1852.  P.C. Haley grew up to earn a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1871 and become a successful lawyer who worked for multiple railroad companies and the Sanitary District of Chicago.  He was also a Democratic politician who served as Alderman, Mayor of Joliet, City Attorney, and Chairman of the Will County Democratic Central Committee.   On December 1, 1875, he wed Mary Anastasia Darcy, the daughter of an oligarch and cattle buyer.  After fifteen years of marriage, they had six children and needed a larger home.  They chose architect and Egyptologist Frank Shaver Allen (1860-1930) who had designed Joliet Central High School, the Barber Building, and Christ Episcopal Church.  Patrick & Mary threw fabulous parties at their three-story limestone mansion, the most lavish of which was when their daughter Angela wed Harry Keeley on November 29, 1917. The address is 17 South Center Street, Joliet, Illinois 60436.

In addition to The Blues Brothers and Stir of Echoes, other movies filmed on location, in part, in Joliet include Weeds (1987), Natural Born Killers (1994), Timed Served (1999), Derailed (2005), and Public Enemies (2009).  Further, Joliet Prison (1914), a silent short film, was a documentary that profiled Joliet Penitentiary as a model prison.  As for television productions, in addition to Prison Break, The Untouchables (1959-1963) and My Fair Brady (2005) were filmed in part in Joliet.

Despite its name, the former Joliet Arsenal was not in Joliet.  Not only was it south of Joliet, it was south of Elwood, which is south of Joliet.  [It is also north of Wilmington.]  The site is now occupied by the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and the much larger Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.  The National Cemetery Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs maintains the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.  The United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service maintains Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.  In 2015, a herd of bison was introduced as part of a twenty-year-long experiment.  [The Centerpoint Intermodal Center and B.N.S.F. Logistics Park Chicago are sandwiched between the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to the east and a wing of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie to the west.]  The Joliet Army Training Area remains in active use.




[1] Robert E. Sterling, “Joliet, IL.” Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs: A Historical Guide. Edited by Ann Durkin Keating. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (2008), p. 180

[2] Sterling, p. 180

[3] Sterling, p. 180

[4] Sterling, pages 180 and 181

[5] Sterling, p. 181

[6] Sterling, p. 181

[7] Sterling, p. 181

[8] Sterling, p. 181

[9] Robert E. Sterling, “Joliet, Illinois.” Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2005© Chicago Historical Society © The Newberry Library (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html) Accessed 07/16/18

[10] Sterling, p. 181

[11] Sterling, p. 181

[12] Sterling, p. 181

[13] Sterling, p. 181

[14] Robert E. Sterling, “Joliet, Illinois.” Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2005© Chicago Historical Society © The Newberry Library (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html) Accessed 07/16/18

[15] Ibid

[16] Sterling, p. 181

[17] “Harlow Higginbotham (1838-1919),” www.fieldmuseum.org (http://www.fieldmuseum.org/research_collections/library/harlow2.htm) Accessed 01/30/08

See also Pierce, A History of Chicago, Vol. III , p. 177 and Madsen, p. 32

See also “H.N. Higinbotham, Hit by Auto Here, Dies in Hospital,” The New York Times, 19 April, 1919, pages 1 and 6

[18] “H.N. Higinbotham, Hit by Auto Here, Dies in Hospital,” The New York Times, 19 April, 1919, p. 6

[19] “Higinbotham is to Quit,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 December, 1900, p. 1

[20] “Higinbotham is to Quit,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 December, 1900, p. 1

See also “H.N. Higinbotham, Hit by Auto Here, Dies in Hospital,” The New York Times, 19 April, 1919, p. 6

[21] “Higinbotham is to Quit,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 December, 1900, p. 1

See also “H.N. Higinbotham, Hit by Auto Here, Dies in Hospital,” The New York Times, 19 April, 1919, p. 6

[22] “Higinbotham is to Quit,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 December, 1900, p. 1

[23] “Higinbotham is to Quit,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 December, 1900, p. 1

[24] “H.N. Higinbotham, Hit by Auto Here, Dies in Hospital,” The New York Times, 19 April, 1919, p. 6

[25] Ken O’Brien, “Jacob Henry More Than A Mansion,” Chicago Tribune, 5 April, 1998 (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1998-04-05/features/9804050160_1_railroad-tycoon-new-haven-railroad-great-northern-railroad) Accessed 07/17/18

[26] O’Brien

[27] O’Brien

[28] O’Brien

[29] O’Brien

[30] Sterling, p. 181

[31] Sterling, p. 181

[32] Sterling, p. 181

[33] Robert E. Sterling, “Joliet, Illinois.” Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2005© Chicago Historical Society © The Newberry Library (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html) Accessed 07/16/18

[34] Ibid

[35] Robert E. Sterling, “Joliet, Illinois.” Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2005© Chicago Historical Society © The Newberry Library (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html) Accessed 07/16/18

[36] Ibid

[37] Sterling, p. 181

[38] Robert E. Sterling, “Joliet, Illinois.” Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2005© Chicago Historical Society © The Newberry Library (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html) Accessed 07/16/18

[39] Ibid

[40] Sterling, p. 181

[41] Sterling, p. 181

[42] Robert E. Sterling, “Joliet, Illinois.” Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2005© Chicago Historical Society © The Newberry Library (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html) Accessed 07/16/18

[43] Ibid

[44] Sterling, p. 181

[45] Robert E. Sterling, “Joliet, Illinois.” Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2005© Chicago Historical Society © The Newberry Library (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html) Accessed 07/16/18

[46] Ibid

[47] Sterling, p. 181

[48] After the First Great World War, Slovenia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (later the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia) and gained independence as a sovereign state in 1991.

3 thoughts on ““Satellite City Profile: Joliet, Illinois” by S.M. O’Connor

  1. Brian Humphreys April 17, 2021 — 5:23 am

    I’m researching the O’Connor family of Joliet. The sibling orphan brothers of Luke O’Connor who was returned to Ireland c1840 eventually became the first soldier to win the Victoria Cross. He eventually retired as Major General Sir Luke O’Connor. See my Amazon Book ‘From Irish Orphan to VC Hero’. His brother Patrick remained in Joliet and became a well known Merchant. (See the book Cass Street Sketches) He died of Typhoid Fever in 1869 but his child James C O’Connor carried the name forward even to today. His son Robert William O’Connor Snr first sold car parts and then became the owner of a very large car part company. I’m in touch with his son, Robert William O’Connor Jnr. and many of their family transferred to South Bend Indiana. Much more information.
    Patrick’s other brother, Daniel was also a hero in the Civil War but having fought bravely for the Union, particularly at Missionary Ridge, lived in the Confederate City of Wilmington until his death. I’m about to publish a book on him and all his other siblings. He was known as ‘The Posy Captain’
    Anyone with knowledge of this family please make contact. I’m in the UK and my wife is a descendant.


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