Romeo & Juliet
of the Illinois Plains - Romeoville and Joliet
some 30 miles southwest of
Chicago , was first called Romeo when nearby
Joliet was still called "Juliet.” At this time, the settlement was a twin and rival community of Juliet,
unlike the romantic pair of Shakespeare's era. Founded in the 1830's, the
area was home to abundant farmlands and stone quarries. A post
office was established on October 29, 1833.
In 1845, the city of Juliet's name was
Joliet to honor the famous
explorer Louis Jolliet. When this happened, Romeo acknowledged the busted
romance by becoming "Romeoville."
Located on the
west bank of the Des Plaines River, Romeoville supplied Chicago
with produce sent to the city along the historic
Illinois & Michigan Canal
System, which was opened to commercial traffic in 1848. However, it’s
main economic source were the numerous limestone quarries in the area,
soon gaining it the nickname "Stone City.” In its heyday, two
trainloads of limestone were shipped from Romeoville every morning on
Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. One of the most famous buildings
constructed with Romeoville limestone was the Illinois
State Capitol Building in
early 1900's, Romeoville thrived as a
resort town for wealthy
area residents who flocked to Isle La Cache and Romeo Beach. At that
time a streetcar line ran from Chicago
bringing along the folks who supported Romeoville's three taverns.
the Depression also helped to shape the character of Romeoville when
along the canal became numerous.
The coming of
concrete as a building material spelled the decline of quarrying and Romeoville's importance was
greatly diminished. Lacking new industries, the town's
population gradually declined during the first half of the twentieth
However, in the
late 1950's, Romeoville annexed several
parcels of land, on which, were built new subdivisions. The new homes soon filled up and Romeoville began to grow
again, the population increasing from 197 in 1957 to more than 3500 by
Today, Romeoville is called home to
more than 20,000 residents with several distribution centers, national
companies, and corporate offices.
Continue your journey through Romeoville to nearby
Joliet which provides a number of historical buildings and vintage
Joliet originally bore the name
"Juliet" which was probably a corruption of the of French Canadian
explorer Louis Jolliet's name. Jolliet first explored this area in
the fall of 1673, describing the game as abundant and the prairies wide,
surrounded by lush forests.
Though the settlement already existed, the
official town wasn’t laid out until 1834. Attracted to the Des
Plaines River and the fertile soil of the area, early settlers found ample
reason to stay and the town began to grow.
Work on the famous National Hotel began in 1837, which soon
became an important social center for the town, hosting many balls and
social gatherings for the burgeoning city. By 1838, Joliet boasted a courthouse with
a jail in the basement sunk into solid rock. At times the courthouse
also served as a church. A new and better courthouse was built in
1848. The opening of the Illinois & Michigan
Canal in the same year welcomed Joliet into an era of aggressive
growth in both industry and residential development. Unfortunately
this building burned down in 1958.
Soon, mills and factories sprang up and the discovery of
rich limestone deposits created a new quarrying industry that flourished. Joliet
, like its counterpart,
Romeoville down the road, was
also called "Stone City.”
In 1873, the
Joliet Opera House was built on the northwest corner of
and Clinton Streets at a cost of $60,000. Opening on February 2,
1874, the establishment hosted a variety of functions from burlesque
shows to religious revivals. In the summer of 1890, plans were
unveiled for a $15,000 expansion project; however, the Opera House was
destroyed by fire on March, 1891. Wasting no time, the Opera
House was rebuilt the next year on the same location and continued to
serve the community for many years.
1876 a railroad tycoon by the name of Jacob A. Henry built a 16,800
square foot mansion from limestone from his own quarry. The
40-room home was lavishly finished with walnut and oak fixtures on the
inside including solid walnut staircase with 119 hand-carved octagonal
spindles. The home, which is a museum today, is said to be the
largest and best example of Renaissance Revival architecture
still in existence in
In the late 1800's, the abundance of soft
coal in the area made
Joliet a perfect location for an emerging steel industry and soon
Joliet was established as a steel town, the success of which
brought with it a flood of new residents.
Joliet’s Union Station, built in 1912 once catered to the
glamorous rail travelers of the early 1900's. Complete with a
Grand Ballroom, crystal chandeliers and 45 foot ceilings, the union
station is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On May 24, 1926, the
Rialto Theater opened,
unveiling a stunning reflection of Greek, Roman and Byzantine
that night paid 50 cents to see the silent movie "Mademoiselle Modiste."
Serving the public for years, the theater
underwent a complete restoration in 1980 and continues to offer a wide
selection of performances today.
Joliet Hotel, built in 1927 was
the finest hotel in
Joliet for its legendary elegance
and luxury. The eight story hotel featured 225 rooms above a
two-story central lobby and lounge complete with a large fireplace with a
hand-carved mantel of Bedford stone. The hotel operated until 1964, and
the building was designated a national landmark in 1989. It has recently
been converted into 56 apartments linked to the revitalization of
Joliet’s City Center.
December 26, 1956, Peter and Helen Cinquegrani opened the first McDonald's
Restaurant in the
area on west Jefferson Street. Enjoying tremendous success the
flickering red and white neon arches drew many a Route 66 traveler in for
a 15 cent hamburger or French Fries for just ten cents.
Once an industrial city,
Joliet and its population of just over 100,000, has reinvented itself
today as a tourist destination providing numerous historic sites and
entertainment activities. While traveling through
Joliet be sure to look for the many larger than life murals located
all over town, visit the Rialto Theater, and cross the Ruby Street Bridge
on old Route 66.
Joliet Historical Museum at 204 N. Ottawa Street includes a Route 66
Legends of America,
updated June, 2016.
Rialto Theatre in Joliet, Illinois. Kathy Weiser-Alexander, October,
This image available for photo prints &
The Rich & Creamy Drive-In in Joliet, Kathy
Weiser-Alexander, October, 2010.
This image available for photo prints &
This vintage McDonald's opened in 1956 in
Joliet, photo courtesy
From the Rocky Mountain General Store
66 Postcards -
Legends of America and
Rocky Mountain General Store has collected numerous
for our Route
66 enthusiasts. For many of these, we have only one available. To see this varied collection, click