Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

Great American Rail-Trail

Commerce, Economy & Work Industrialization and Deindustrialization Nature & Environmental Management

Remains of a structure used in handling of molten ore and its containers.

Joliet Iron and Steel Works was once the second-largest steel mill in the United States. [1] Starting in 1869, the factory manufactured iron and steel products such as railroad rails, wire fencing, steel-framed buildings and wire fabrics for highway construction. These materials were crucial in the expansion of the U.S. railroad and highway systems. Additionally, the factory’s proximity to the Illinois and Michigan Canal fostered an important relationship between waterways and industrial development. [2] The canal enabled access to the Des Plaines River, allowing for industrial materials produced by the factory to be loaded on ships and delivered to a wide range of buyers along the river. By 1936, the Great Depression had put a strain on the iron industry, causing Joliet Iron Works to cease production. This left Joliet Steel Works to continue until all factory operations ended in the early 1980s. [3]

Since its closure, the factory site has been reclaimed by nature. The once tremendous blast furnaces used to smelt pig iron have collapsed, leaving only their foundations. Many buildings have eroded down to their bare structures, exposing limestone and red brick materials sourced from Joliet. The site has since been renamed the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site. The Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail provides access to these fascinating industrial ruins along with on-site amenities such as a self-guided interpretive tour and picnic area. [4]


  • [1] Mark Schultz, “Awakening the Historical Imagination,” in Dimensions of Curiosity: Liberal Learning in the 21st Century, eds. Nancy Workman and Therese Jones (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2004), 39.
  • [2] “Illinois SP Joliet Steel Works,” National Archives Catalog, accessed December 17, 2020,
  • [3] Kenneth Warren, Big Steel: The First Century of the United States Steel Corporation, 1901–2001 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001), 266.
  • [4] “Joliet Iron Works Historic Site,” The Forest Preserve District of Will County, accessed December 17, 2020,

Discover History on the Trail

Lincoln Highway-Highway 66 Intersection Marker

At the corner of Chicago and Cass streets in downtown Joliet, Illinois, is a 7-foot marker commemorating two early highways that crossed the United...

Trail: Great American Rail-Trail
State: IL
Architecture Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine
Sator "Sandy" Sanchez and the Mexican Community of Joliet

Riding up Collins Street toward Sator Sanchez Elementary School, the signs call out to you in Spanish: “Carniceria Rio Grande,” “La Villita Party and...

Trail: Great American Rail-Trail
State: IL
Latino/a History Migration & Immigration Military & War Railroads
Carbon Hill School Museum

Carbon Hill Historical Society has made its home in this 1893 Illinois schoolhouse, creating a museum dedicated to life in Grundy and Will counties...

Trail: Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail
State: IL
Migration & Immigration Mining & Logging Ways of Living
See All History

Discovering America: Reconnecting People and Places

The Great American Rail-Trail promises an all-new American experience. Through 12 states and the District of Columbia, the trail will directly serve nearly 50 million people within 50 miles of the route. Across the nation—and the world—only the limits of imagination will limit its use.

Learn More

Help us to connect you with more trails!

TrailLink is a free service provided by Rails-to-Trails conservancy

(a non-profit) and we need your support!

Your donation will help us to continue connecting more people to trails around the country.
Become an RTC member and wear your FREE T-Shirt with pride. Help defend and expand trails nationwide.
Get a FREE Rail Trails Guidebook when you become a Member with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews

Log in with Google

Log in with Apple


Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 40,000 miles of trail maps and more!

Register with Google

Register with Apple


Your account has been deleted.