WBEZ | canal http://www.wbez.org/tags/canal Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The first link: How a canal spanned a continent and built Chicago http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-30/first-link-how-canal-spanned-continent-and-built-chicago-88598 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-30/88598/LaSalle boat.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Back in 1900, engineers famously reversed the Chicago River, linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. Almost everybody knows that. What you may not know is that Chicago actually first reversed the river 30 years earlier, diverting the water from the Lake to a canal. That first link between America’s two great waterways left an enduring mark on Chicago, and the country.</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">WBEZ’s Gabriel Spitzer has a profile of the canal, and a man dedicated to preserving its heritage.</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Intro: </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Our series Front and Center has been bringing you in-depth reporting on issues affecting the Great Lakes. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Back in 1900, engineers famously reversed the Chicago River, linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Almost everybody knows that. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">What you may not know is that Chicago actually first reversed the river 30 years earlier, diverting the water from the Lake to a canal. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">That first link between America’s two great waterways left an enduring mark on Chicago, and the country. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">WBEZ’s Gabriel Spitzer has a profile of the canal, and a man dedicated to preserving its heritage. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><i>(ambi up)</i></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Here in Lockport, the Illinois-and-Michigan Canal is pretty humble. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">It’s about the width of a two-lane road – basically a drainage ditch.&nbsp; </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Lockport up to here 3s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>The canal would have come up right to here …. (fade under)</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Jerry Adelman stands on a footbridge above its sluggish water. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">He’s president of the conservation group Openlands, and a historian of the canal. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Or really, historian isn’t the right word: the man is a canal encyclopedia. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">He spearheaded creation of the canal’s National Heritage Corridor … he owns a home built by the canal’s chief contractor. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>(Little Adelman monologue up in clear for 2s, then back under)</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">It’s kind of hard to see what there is to get so excited about. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">But this largely forgotten waterway was once the linchpin of a network that spanned the continent, and set the stage for Chicago’s rise. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Adelman says the idea dates back to the first European settlers. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Lockport early settlers 14s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>They recognized that the waters of the great Lakes and the Mississippi were very close to each other, and if you could dig a canal to connect those drainages then you could have continuous water travel possible from the Atlantic seaboard to the Gulf of Mexico. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">By 1848, the hand-dug channel stretched west from Bridgeport for 96 miles. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">A couple decades later they dredged it deeper, effectively reversing the Chicago River for the first time.</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Lockport effluent 8s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>The problem though was that the volume of sewage and waste was so great that it would clog up and still back up into the Lake. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">His connection to the canal goes back generations. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">The museum here in Lockport contains his family’s memorabilia. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Lockport horn 10s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Here’s the only canal horn that we know of, it was my grandfather’s. When you approached the locks, you would blow the horn to alert the locktender that you were coming. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">His roots here date back to when Chicago was nothing more than a handful of buildings and an army fort on the river. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">He says Chicago’s transformation into the leading Midwestern city is tied directly to this waterway. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">The city itself was mapped by the canal commissioners … its legacy written in every right-angled intersection. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">And the canal opened up rich farmland in central Illinois, making it the nation’s breadbasket. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Ottawa grain 21s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>The year the canal opened, the Board of Trade opened in Chicago. Also, the first grain elevators in the world were established. <i>So really, everything from that skyscraper on LaSalle Street to the right-angled grid of Chicago to the silos on Illinois farms all date their origins to the Illinois-and-Michigan Canal</i>. That’s largely true. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">And the influence goes even deeper. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">If not for this canal, Chicago might be in Wisconsin. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">No joke: the original boundary line between the states ran south of the city. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">But to keep the canal all in one state, Congress nudged the border north, placing Chicago comfortably within the Prairie State. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><i>(ambi car passing)</i></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>LaSalle intro 5s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>So we’re in downtown LaSalle, and this is the terminus of the Illinois-Michigan Canal. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Jerry Adelman is standing next to the canal visitors center. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Down below tourists can ride aboard a recreated passenger canalboat. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Those original canalboats had a short reign. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">The canal was quickly eclipsed in the popular imagination by trains and covered wagons. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">But Adelman says this was a brief but crucial chapter for the American heartland. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>LaSalle character 18s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>When we think of going west we think of wagon trains, and so forth, all of which is true. But the rivers were our original arteries. It’s the canal that really gave shape and character to this whole central part of the United States, and really positioned Chicago at its terminus to become this great metropolis. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">The Illinois-and-Michigan Canal is fragmented now. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Much of it is dry, forming a sloppy dotted line from the South Side to Starved Rock. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">But modern Chicago still bears the signature of that first link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">For Front and Center, I’m Gabriel Spitzer. </span></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 30 Jun 2011 20:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-30/first-link-how-canal-spanned-continent-and-built-chicago-88598