Sketch Diagram of Docks Suggested at the Mouth of the Calumet River (1909)

The Plan of Chicago proposed an extensive expansion of the freight capacity at the mouth of the Calumet River. This expansion was chiefly to be accomplished, as this map shows, by building a large complex of piers out into the lake. The Plan’s proposed harbor improvements at the mouth of the Chicago River were intended to serve a combination of recreational needs and activities of the central business district. The improvements to the Calumet port were, on the other hand, intended to handle heavy freight, including the bulk commodities required by heavy industries, such as the Illinois Steel Co., which were already using the Calumet as a port. Moreover, an expanded belt railroad system would connect the two harbors to each other and to a central freight handling facility located away from the lake on the southwest side. The proposed Calumet harbor accepted the Chicago Harbor Commission’s recommendation (also published in 1909) that Chicago’s needs required construction of new harbors on the shore of Lake Michigan itself, but the Plan of Chicago rejected the Commission’s suggestion that a lakefront harbor be built on the near South Side. Such a location would interfere with Burnham and Bennett’s plan to keep the major portion of the lakeshore—and most especially the shoreline close to the city’s center—free from commercial and industrial development. A freight pier built out into the lake, rather than a sprawling complex of piers set along the coastline, would minimize the portion of the lakefront given over to this commercial and industrial use. The piers extending out into the lake, however, never materialized. The 1920 Van Vlissingen plan adopted by the Chicago City Council focused inland instead, on the development of Lake Calumet as a deep draft harbor that would link Calumet Harbor via the Cal-Sag Channel to the Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.



Moore, Powell A. The Calumet Region. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1959.

Van Vlissingen, Arend. Plan and Report, Lake Calumet Harbor. Chicago: City of Chicago, 1920.

Wille, Lois. Forever Open, Clear, and Free: The Struggle for Chicago’s Lakefront, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

"Chicago. Sketch Diagram of Docks Suggested at the Mouth of the Calumet River for Bulk Freight Steamers," from Plan of Chicago (Chicago: The Commercial Club, 1909), pl. LXXII. Chicago History Museum, ICHi-67350