Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
Goose Island

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Goose Island grew slowly over the course of the nineteenth century as an industrial site. In the 1850s, brickyards and nearby public works projects had provided employment for Goose Island residents. By 1885, there were thirteen lumber yards, eleven coal yards, three stone yards, two slab yards, and two sand yards. In addition, there were two grain elevators, several tanneries, a varnish company, and a railroad. An 1886 Fire Insurance map also shows a mattress factory, a shipyard, a factory that manufactured roofing materials, a paint works, a malthouse, and a box factory. The area around Goose Island had also become heavily industrial by the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Virtually all of the industries noted above were represented along the river banks adjacent to, and just north and south of, Goose Island. In addition, the Illinois Steel Company (on land which in the 1850s had housed the Ward Rolling Mill) was located just north of the island.

The American Varnish Company


The American Varnish Company was located at 315 North Branch Street on the west side of Goose Island from 1883 into the 1930s. The company made varnishes used by agricultural implement manufacturers, and carriage and furniture makers in other parts of the Chicago metropolitan region.

See also: Economic Geography; Industrial Pollution; Goose Island

William E. Dever, Tanner and Mayor


One of the most famous workers on Goose Island during the 1890s was the future mayor William E. Dever, who came to Chicago from Woburn, Massachusetts in 1887. He was a skilled tannery worker, a whitener, and was drawn to Goose Island by the premium pay ($4/day for nine hours of work). He was employed by Grey, Clark and Engle at the south end of Goose Island near Halsted. Yet Dever put in much longer days than the average tannery worker. After work, he walked back and forth from downtown to the Chicago College of Law. After graduation he worked as a lawyer and eventually moved into local politics, serving first as the area alderman and later as mayor.

Coal Yards


Several coal yards were located on Goose Island over the course of its history. Coal coming northward along the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and then the Sanitary and Ship Canal, made its way on barges up the north branch of the Chicago River to Goose Island. Coal was used on the island and in industries elsewhere in the area.

New Role for Highways


The improvement of Ogden Avenue was part of a citywide highway upgrade that emerged after the recommendations of the Burnham Plan of 1909. In late 1934, the completion of ramps to the Ogden Avenue viaduct connected Goose Island businesses to that "fast arterial highway," as described in this Chicago Tribune article from November 26, 1934. The photograph shows the Hickory Street Ramp to the Ogden Avenue Viaduct in 1989. The orientation was no longer to the river and canal, but to new limited access highways. Goose Island would be even more closely connected to expressways with the opening of the adjacent Kennedy Expressway in 1960, giving it a strategic location advantage in the age of truck and air freight. Among the companies that had moved to Goose Island by the 1970s were Charles Levy Circulating Company and Chicago Terminal Clearance, a large trucking operation that specialized in piggyback car loadings

See also: Transportation; Expressways; O’Hare Airport

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