Archive ID: 2017-007-07

Lighthouse and Illinois Steel Works

Date Created: 1916-05-16

Donor: Kevin Greene

Media Type: Postcard

Language: English


The Illinois Steel Works at the juncture of the Calumet River and Lake Michigan in Chicago began as the North Chicago Rolling Mill South Works plant in 1880. In 1889, a merger of smaller steel companies resulted in the formation of Illinois Steel, and in 1901 it became part of the U. S. Steel Corporation. It was the largest of several Southeast Chicago steel mills and employed almost 20,000 workers at its WWII peak. It closed in 1992.
The original South Chicago lighthouse predates the South Works mill and was built c1849 at the mouth of the Calumet River. It only operated a few years and was shut down because South Chicago was slow to develop and it caused navigation confusion with the Chicago lighthouse for ship captains. The lighthouse was closed, sold, and used as a residence for a number of years. After the Civil War when Congress began to appropriate money for improvements in the Calumet River and Harbor, the government repurchased the lighthouse. It reopened as a lighthouse on September 7, 1873 after having been dark for more than 18 years. As time went on, land was built up on the lakefront, and the original lighthouse became farther away from the water. In 1876 it was closed, and a new light was built on a pier which was moved further and further as the shoreline increased. By 1900, it was a mile from its original location.

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