Founded in 1834, Joliet, located about 35 miles southwest of Chicago along the Des Plaines River, became an important industrial center during the late nineteenth century. The convergence of major rail lines and river made it an obvious site for manufacturing firms. The demands of Joliet’s major industries for water power, raw materials, and transportation networks shaped the layout of the city in the late nineteenth century, taking precedence over coherent planning. In response to increased pollution and congestion, the Joliet City Plan Commission hired Edward H. Bennett and William E. Parsons to prepare the City Plan of Joliet, published in 1921. Though Bennett and Parsons recognized the importance of Joliet as an industrial hub, they strongly argued for improving the area’s civic character according to the ideas reminiscent of the Plan of Chicago. Aesthetic improvement, the planners argued, encouraged civic order, morality, and efficiency, which in turn benefit a city’s economy.
Bennett and Parsons recommended new zoning restrictions dividing the city into specific functions—residential, industrial, commercial—to protect the city’s neighborhoods from the intrusion of local industry. Further, they proposed enhancing the city’s commercial district with a centralized passenger rail station with a civic center intended to house a museum and auditorium. Improved infrastructure, including sewage systems and bridges, was also prominent in the plan. Finally, the plan laid out a network of parks ringing the city. In many respects, the 1921 City Plan of Joliet mirrored the intentions and vision of the Plan of Chicago, though few of the recommendations were realized.
Bennett, Edward and William E. Parsons. Plan of Joliet. Illinois: Joliet City Plan Commission, 1921.
Conzen, Michael P., and Arthur Curtis. Time and Place in Joliet: Essays on the Geographical Evolution of the City. Chicago: Committee on Geographical Studies, University of Chicago, 1988.
Edward H. Bennett and William E. Parsons, Joliet, Illinois, Plan of the City & Vicinity Showing Proposed Improvements, Prepared for the City Planning Commission of the Joliet Assn. of Commerce, April 1919. HALIC, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago, Digital file #80467