Lemont, Illinois

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Lemont is a village located in Cook, DuPage, and Will Counties in the U.S. state of Illinois, and is roughly 27 miles (43 km) southwest of Chicago. The population was 16,625 at the 2007 Special Census.

Contents

History

Even before white settlers came to Lemont, Native Americans traveled the Des Plaines River in birch bark canoes on trading trips between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. The native Potowatomi lived off the land in this area, directly using natural resources for food, shelter, clothing and medicine. In the 18th century, French voyageurs traveled down the Des Plaines River, trading Native Americans metal, beads and cloth for animal furs and changing the Native American lifestyle forever.

Established in 1836, the Village of Lemont stands as one of the oldest American communities in northeastern Illinois. It's historically significant for its role in transforming the northern region of the state from a sparsely settled frontier to a commercial, agricultural, and industrial region that supplied Chicago and areas beyond with commodities. Lemont is also unique in boasting an authentic historic district that remains intact and has been continually used since the 19th century.

Both Lemont's history and architectural uniqueness connects to the Illinois and Michigan Canal (I&M Canal). Construction of the I&M Canal began in 1837 and stands as the last major canal undertaking in the United States. When it was completed in 1848, it provided a continuous waterway stretching from New York (through the Erie Canal, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to Chicago, then through the I&M Canal for 97 miles entering the Illinois River at LaSalle, Illinois, to the Mississippi River, to New Orleans) to the Gulf of Mexico.

Immigrant workers, mostly Irish, settled in Lemont to work on the canal and later moved along the corridor of the canal, improving farms within the many communities that sprang up along.

In digging, workers discovered Lemont yellow dolomite, a harder and finer grained version of limestone. It delayed digging on the canal but was the start of the area's second industry, quarrying. By the mid-19th century, limestone quarrying took over as the main economic factor in Lemont and sustained its growth. The town's important major buildings were faced with the Lemont limestone abundant in local quarries. Today, 38 of those buildings remain as the Lemont downtown district. Lemont limestone was used in the Chicago Water Tower, the only commercial structure to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

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