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
Constructing the Sanitary and Ship Canal

Section between Willow Springs and Lockport

The final section of the canal was a nearly 15-mile stretch through bedrock from Willow Springs to Lockport. Here thousands and thousands of cubic yards of stone were excavated in order to build the canal. Some of this stone was then fashioned into blocks used for the canal’s retaining walls. Chief Engineer Isham Randolph described the scene:

The channellers cut gashes,

The tramways groaned to bear

The heavy loads the “muckers ” gave

To be their toilsome share.

Workers Hauling Off Loose Stone, June 2, 1896

Much of the manual labor on the canal involved hauling off the stone loosened by dynamite explosions. Workers are seen here with stone piles on June 2, 1896.

See also: Sanitary and Ship Canal; Willow Springs

Steam Hoists and Cranes, 29 June 1894

Specialized steam hoists and cranes were used as labor-saving devices on the canal, as seen here on June 29, 1894.

See also: Construction

“The Sierra Mountains (Spoil Banks) along Drainage Canal,” June 28, 1899

Hauling away rock to make the channel was a central task. Main channel construction removed 29.5 million cubic yards of glacial drift and 12.3 million cubic yards of solid rock.

See also: Quarrying, Stone Cutting, and Brickmaking

Making Limestone Blocks, 12 July 189

Some of the rock removed for the channel was fashioned into blocks used to build the retaining walls on the other side of the channel.

See also: Quarrying, Stone Cutting, and Brickmaking

Building the Retaining Wall, 18 September 1894

The retaining walls for the 28-mile main channel contained 880,000 cubic yards of stone, taken from blasting. The excess stone was sold for other construction projects. This photograph shows the first retaining wall constructed.

See also: Construction