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Joliet

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Joliet is a city in Illinois, United States, located 40 miles southwest of Chicago. It holds the county seat of Will County and is also incorporated in Kendall County. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 106,221.

History

Joliet was first settled as a town in 1834 and originally bore the name Juliet. .[1] Some historians believe the town was named Juliet in honor of settler James B. Campbell’s daughter. Other possible sources of the name include the Shakespearean character (the nearby village of Romeoville was named as a companion; see Romeo and Juliet) or a corruption of the name of French Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet, who visited the area in 1673. The name was eventually changed to Joliet in his memory in 1845, and the city was incorporated in 1852. Annoyed at mispronunciation of the city’s name, the town fathers passed a law banning a two-syllable version, in favor of the locally recognized “Joe-lee-ETTE”.[2]

Maps from Joliet’s exploration of the area placed a large hill or mound on what is now the south west corner of the city. That hill was named Mound Jolliet, and was made up entirely of clay. The spot was mined by early settlers and is now a depression. That depression was settled soon after and became known as the town of Rockdale.

Like many Midwestern cities dependent on manufacturing industries, Joliet has experienced past economic troubles, with the unemployment rate reaching as high as 25% in the early 1980s. Joliet’s proximity to the Chicago metropolitan area has provided some relief; the city is increasingly evolving from its status as a steel-town to an exurb. Still, most new migrants to the area are moving to Joliet to live, choosing to work in bordering Cook and DuPage counties, and the downtown area, once downtrodden, is undergoing a total revitalization. The main attractions in Joliet’s City Center are the Harrah’s Casino and Hotel, Joliet Jackhammers baseball (Silver Cross Field), and the Rialto Square Theatre, the ‘Jewel of Joliet’, which has been called one of the world’s 10 most beautiful theatres. The 1999 film “Stir of Echoes” starring Kevin Bacon had scenes shot on location in Joliet at both the Rialto Theatre (the hypnotism scenes in which Bacon saw the word “Dig” on the movie screen) and at the corner of Western Avenue and Center Street (sequences showing the front of Kevin Bacon’s house). Even though the movie was set in Chicago, the location in Joliet had the right “south-side” appearance and was an easier location to shoot than the large urban setting of Chicago.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 99.3 km� (38.3 mi�). 98.6 km� (38.1 mi�) of it is land and 0.8 km� (0.3 mi�) of it (0.76%) is water. It has a sprawling, irregular shape that extends into nine different townships, more than any other Illinois city. They are: Joliet, Plainfield, Troy, New Lenox, Jackson, Channahon, and Lockport in Will County, and Na-Au-Say and Seward in Kendall County.

Demographics

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 106,221 people, 36,182 households, and 25,399 families residing in the city. (More recent special census (2007) data puts the population number at 145,800 according to city officials.) The population density was 1,077.6/km� (2,790.9/mi�). There were 38,176 housing units at an average density of 387.3/km� (1,003.1/mi�). The racial makeup of the city was 69.32% White, 18.16% African American, 0.28% Native American, 1.14% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 8.97% from other races, and 2.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 18.41% of the population.

There were 36,182 households out of which 38.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.9% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.8% were non-families. 24.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.81 and the average family size was 3.39.

In the city the population was spread out with 29.5% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 33.1% from 25 to 44, 16.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,761, and the median income for a family was $55,870. Males had a median income of $41,909 versus $29,100 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,390. About 7.7% of families and 10.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.5% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.

A special census conducted in 2006 pegged the city’s population at a certified 142,700. Joliet is currently the fastest-growing city in the Midwest and the 12th-fastest-growing city in the United States among cities with more than 100,000 people.[3]

Transportation

Situated approximately 40 miles southwest of central Chicago, Joliet has long been a significant transportation hub. It lies on both sides of the Des Plaines River, a major waterway in Northern Illinois, and was one of the principal ports on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern (EJ&E) railroad came through in the 1850s, and the Santa Fe line soon followed. U.S. Highways 6 (the Grand Army of the Republic Highway), 30 (the Lincoln Highway), 45, 52, and 66 (Route 66) all ran through the city. In the 1960s, Interstate 55 and Interstate 80 made their way through Joliet, linking up near Channahon just west of the city limits. The phrase “Crossroads of Mid-America”, found on the Joliet seal, is an allusion to the intersection of I-80 and I-55. Also, Joliet is the final stop on the Metra lines from Chicago Union Station along the Heritage Corridor as well as the La Salle Street Station along the Rock Island District, so there are two ways to get in and out of Joliet during the week. Traffic However is still a major concern, but improving challenge.

Landmarks

The Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Visitors Center.

The famous Joliet Prison (now closed) is near downtown on Collins Street and is featured in the television show Prison Break. It was also used for the opening scenes in the popular 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers. The Joliet Arsenal (now the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie) is in nearby Elwood. Stateville Correctional Center, the principal prison for the state of Illinois, is located in the neighboring city of Crest Hill. The Rialto Square Theatre, a favorite haunt of Al Capone and filming location for scenes from Kevin Bacon’s film “Stir of Echos”, is on Chicago Street in downtown. There are two riverboat casinos in Joliet: the Empress Casino near Channahon and Rockdale, and a Harrah’s hotel and casino downtown. (There are also many stores, restaurants, and shops, including the Westfield Louis Joliet mall located on Rt.30 at the intersection of I-55)

Located at the northeast corner of Chicago and Clinton Streets, in downtown Joliet, is the historic Auditorium Building. Designed by G. Julian Barnes and built of limestone in 1891, it was controversial as one of the first buildings to combine religious, civic, and commercial uses. Built to replace St. John’s Universalist Church, the upstairs sanctuary doubled as a civic auditorium; and the congregation leased space to businesses on the lower level. Having since sold the Auditorium Building, the congregation today survives as the Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet; however, the sanctuary of Auditorium Building no longer survives. Street level retail space remains, and the current owner has begun conversion of the upper floors into upscale condominiums.

Colleges and universities

* Joliet Junior College, the nation’s first public community college
* University of Saint Francis
* The Illini Club of Will County

High schools

* Joliet Township High Schools
* Joliet Central High School
* Joliet East High School (closed, now Joliet Job Corps)
* Joliet West High School
* Joliet Catholic Academy
* Plainfield South High School