Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Area

By Kenneth J. Schoon | Go to book overview

4
INDUSTRIALIZATION OF
THE LAKEFRONT

IN THE NINETEENTH AND EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURIES, Americans were awed by the power of the Industrial Revolution. Chicago’s World’s Fairs in both 1893 and 1933 celebrated it. While people flocked to Chicago to visit the fairs, people were also flocking to the cities looking for jobs and, through these jobs, prosperity.

The Calumet Area was in the center of it all. Not only did Lake Michigan provide plentiful drinking water, but it could satisfy all the water requirements for the steelmaking industry, with its need for vast amounts of water for cooling. The lake also provided (and still provides) a water route to the huge ore fields of Minnesota. By 1890 Northwest Indiana was already served by thirteen major rail lines. By 1910 that number would grow to twenty, all of which could serve area business and industry. By 1953 the bistate Calumet Area steel mills were producing 20.6 million tons of steel a year and had surpassed Pittsburgh as the most productive steelmaking region in the country.

The first industries to locate in Northwest Indiana generally got their land at very affordable prices. East Chicago even offered free land to Inland Steel and promised that there would be sufficient rail lines to serve the new company. Once the steel companies were established, then other companies that used steel wanted to be nearby.

From the end of World War II until the 1970s, steel continued to be one of the greater Chicago area’s strongest industries. At that time the United States was making more than half of the world’s steel, and 20 percent of that was produced in Calumet Area mills. Many of the large plants established in the early part of the century continued to make

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