Our most recent suburban jaunt came at the end of last year in November when we went to visit Joliet. This is another one of those towns that we have driven through, a thousand times, but in which we have never actually stopped, so I thought it was about time that we got out of the car and took a look around.
Joliet or, as it was originally known, Juliet, probably took its name from the French Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet who in 1673, along with Father Jacques Marquette, paddled up the Des Plaines river and camped just south of where the city stands today.
I have to admit that the idea of a day out in Joliet was prompted by our daughter who bought us tickets for the Joliet Area Historical Museum, so we made that our first port of call.
For many years, in the late 1800’s, quarrying was the major industry in the area, earning Joliet the title of ‘city of stone and steel’ and the museum had a large exhibit covering this part of the city’s history.
Another special exhibit featured the area’s famous Route 66. The route has followed many different roads over the years due to traffic congestion and construction and was eventually moved to bypass Joliet altogether.
The museum occupies a space formerly known as the Ottawa Street Methodist Church and fortunately for us it retained the beautiful stained glass windows, although they can only be viewed to their best advantage from the 2nd floor gallery.
One of the fanciest buildings in Joliet is the old Rialto Theater, also referred to as ‘The Jewel of Joliet’, which first opened its doors in 1926 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are other fine pieces of artwork scattered about the city, sometimes in the most unusual places. This beautiful sculpture/mosaic of violinist Scarlet Rivera is on the outside wall of an indoor parking garage.
And this life-size statue of dancer Kathleen Dunham is outside the old Union Railway Station which now serves as a ballroom.
It was a lovely day, surprisingly warm for November, and we spent some time walking along the Des Plaines river while taking a closer look at Cass Street Bridge. I’m sure there were lots of other things that we could have seen in Joliet so I’ll definitely put it on my list of places to revisit.