After exploring an abandoned asphalt plant in LaSalle, Illinois, I headed to the city of Oglesby to check out the ruins of a much larger concrete manufacturing facility: Lehigh Portland Cement Company.
[Update: since the writing of this article, I have learned that Lehigh Portland Cement Company is on private property and entry is unlawful. Do not attempt to access it.]
Separated from the road by a broad stretch of lawn, the massive factory compound serves as a silent reminder of what was once the city's most important industry.
The sign at the top of the towering silos is rusted with age and barely legible.
The grounds of the old factory aren't fenced off and are surprisingly free of No Trespassing signs.
A mowed path leads between two rows of buildings.
The rest of the land has grown wild with dense brush and young trees.
Many of the doors to the old structures remain sealed.
But you can glimpse of the hollow interiors through broken window panes.
Most of the equipment has been removed in the decades since the factory closed. The buildings now stand as empty shells.
I was hesitant to venture too deep into the grounds of the old compound. I'd read that there are pits and steep drops throughout the property, especially hazardous because they are well obscured by thick vegetation. If that wasn't enough to deter me, the swarms of mosquitoes certainly were.
Cement has been a major industry in Oglesby since the 1890s and actually predates the city. The Chicago Cement Company was was founded in 1898, but the town was not officially established until 1902.
The city of Oglesby was originally called Portland because the cement produced there was similar to Portland Cement, a popular type of concrete developed in England. In 1913 the city changed its name to honor Richard Oglesby, a former governor of Illinois and US Senator.
|Photo by Leo Muhlach, courtesy of http://guitarjourney.tripod.com/rayslasallecountyonlinemuseum|
In 1916 the Chicago Cement Company was sold to Lehigh Portland Cement Company, a conglomerate based in Pennsylvania with facilities across the US.
In 1963 the company decided that the cost of modernizing the aging Oglesby plant would be too great, and the factory was shuttered.
The quarries were sold to Marquette Cement, which had been its major competitor since the time the plant first opened.
The new owners added a conveyor line (pictured below) to transport materials from the quarry to the Marquette Cement facilities. The conveyor was dismantled and removed several years prior to my visit.
|Photo courtesy of http://www.oglesby.il.us|
The future of the old cement factory remains uncertain. At this time, there do not seem to be any plans for redevelopment of the property.
From Oglesby, I continued east toward Joliet, Illinois, the westernmost city of great Rust Belt region and home of the ruins of the legendary Joliet Ironworks. I'll tell you all about it next week. In the meantime, check out my social media for more photos from the abandoned Lehigh Portland Cement Company.
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