During the last part of the 19th century, the Chicago area became one of the leading centers of iron and steel production.
The growth of this industry was a combination of entrepreneurial spirit, local raw materials and geographical advantages linked to the waterways.
In 1869, the Union Coal, Iron & Transportation Company developed an iron works on Collins Street. By 1873, the company had reorganized as the Joliet Iron & Steel Company and owned two blast furnaces, two five-ton Bessemer converters, an iron rail-making mill and a steel rail mill were in place on its 90-acre site.
By the end of the 1880s, the local and national mills began to expand and consolidate efforts. One of the first great mergers occurred in 1889, when most of the area mills combined to form a new entity, the Illinois Steel Company and, eventually, the company was purchased by the United States Steel Corporation.
The then photograph shows the Illinois Steel Company office building that was constructed in a Neoclassical Romanesque architectural style in 1891. The large arched entryway faces Collins Street, and the limestone exterior and dentilated gabled roofline pediment still are visible in the now photograph. The Joliet Steel Company main office is considered a local landmark and is part of the larger Joliet Steel Works complex, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.