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
Indiana Dunes

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Steel Mills on Sand

In the 1880s, the Chicago Rolling Mill Company, seeking to expand beyond the limits of its downtown site on the north branch of the Chicago River, purchased and drained marshy land on the Illinois side of the Indiana state line on Lake Michigan. With the construction of this plant, later to be known as the South Works, little space remained available for further large-scale new development on the Illinois portion of the shoreline. In 1901, the Inland Steel Company built a plant along the shore of Lake Michigan about five miles east of the state line and, shortly thereafter, U. S. Steel Corporation selected a location less than two miles to the east of Inland at the site of what was to become Gary, Indiana.

Leveling the Dunes for U.S. Steel, Gary, Indiana, 1906

After purchasing the land in 1905, U. S. Steel began construction of its first midwestern mill in 1906. Before building began, workers had to level the dunes, in order to create a flat grade upon which the complex would be built. Workers driving teams of horses and mules plowed through sand hills and sloughs, removing tons of sand, marsh grasses, cottonwood trees, and other vegetation.

See also: Dune System; Gary, IN; Iron and Steel; Lake County, IN; U.S. Steel Corp.

Building a Harbor for U.S. Steel, Gary, Indiana, c.1906

As part of its mill complex, Indiana Steel (the subsidiary of U. S. Steel charged with building and operating the plant) constructed its own harbor by removing sand and digging a 23-foot deep channel, with two piers extending more than two thousand feet into Lake Michigan. The harbor provided safe anchorage for large Great Lakes freight ships, including incoming traffic carrying ore from the Mesabi range in Minnesota and outgoing shipments of steel.

See also: Business of Chicago; Economic Geography; Gary, IN; Iron and Steel; Lake Michigan

Building Gary, Broadway Street and 5th Avenue, April 1906

As construction of the mills and harbor began, a subsidiary of Indiana Steel, the Gary Land Company, was formed to plan, lay out, and build the town of Gary, Indiana. Mill and town were built simultaneously, much like George Pullman's industrial town just south of Chicago. Broadway Street and Fifth Avenue were designated as the two principal thoroughfares. Running from the south end of town northward toward the main gate of the steel mill, Broadway Street served as the main commercial strip. Before construction began, however, the intersection appeared like much of the undeveloped duneland region.

See also: Dune System; Gary, IN; Planning Chicago; Pullman

Building Gary, Broadway Street and 5th Avenue, June 1907

Workers first laid out streets and sidewalks, then began construction of public and commercial structures. Seeking to build an "immediate" city with the mien of an established metropolis, developers insisted on strict construction standards, including requirements that no wooden structure of less than two stories be allowed on Broadway street, which had been designated as the city's primary commercial artery. In a clear statement of Gary's early identity as a company town, city planners sited city hall and the public library flanking Broadway, just north of Fifth Avenue, and immediately facing the main mill entrance.

See also: Building Codes and Standards; Building Trades and Workers; Built Environment of the Chicago Region; Construction; Gary, IN

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