After our initial visit to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, we needed a place to stop for a picnic lunch. Happily, I had scoped out the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site earlier and knew it was on our way home. The first time I saw this location on Atlas Obscura (check it out for cool stuff near your home), I knew I’d get to this abandoned factory someday and this was my chance.
The 52-acre Joliet Iron Works Historic Site was acquired between 1991 and 1997 by The Forest Preserve District of Will County and is part of the Des Plaines River preservation system, with more than 2,400 acres of land. Originally, this linear park was the site of the Joliet Iron Works, an iron manufacturing facility from 1869 to 1936, closed, then reopening before closing for good in the 1980’s. Interesting remains include the foundations of the blast furnaces and other structures from this abandoned factory.
Just outside the downtown area, the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site features a paved trail with a self-guided interpretive tour of the site’s historical significance. The large picnic shelter can also be reserved for large groups.
Walking among what appears to be centuries-old ruins (hard to believe it’s only been 30 or so years!), it’s both easy and difficult to imagine the amount of people that had worked here. Kudos to the county forest district for preserving this historically important cultural site. It’s a truly unique hiking spot and is the perfect place for a family outing.
Joliet Iron Works Historic Site Video