The Steel Industry Takes Over the Calumet Area

After the Civil War, large scale industrial development began to occur in the Calumet region, which was originally not desirable for residential development because of the marshy conditions. The mills came because the Calumet offered all the needs of the growing American iron and steel industry. Vacant land (much of it wetlands) at low prices, access to water transportation, space to dump waste materials, rail connections, and a source of labor made thisa an ideal location for what would become one of the world's premier steel producing regions. Once the steel mills were built, housing development followed. Damage to the environment also occurred.


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Wisconsin Steel Works

Wisconsin Steel Works was opened on July 5, 1875. It was first called the Joseph H. Brown Iron and Steel Company and was the first mill built in the Calumet region. The mill's history includes at least eight changes in ownership, and the mill mirrored the growth and decline of steel manufacturing in the United States. The Brown Mill was located at about 109th and the Calumet River and its opening proved that the river was navigable. It normally employed from 1000 to 1500 men who lived near the mill in rooming houses supplied by the company. The company also supplied gas and electricity to portions of the town. About 1882, the interest in the mill was sold and it became known as the Calumet Iron and Steel Works. In 1899 it was sold to the South Chicago Furnace Company. In 1902, five of the largest harvesting companies in the country formed the International Harvester Company. Finally, in 1977, the mill was sold to Envirodyne Industries. In 1980, the company had to lay off all of their workers and entered into bankrutpcy. By 1982 everything was shut down and demolition activities began. Wisconsin Steel Works operated in the area for over 100 years. 

Wisconsin Steel Early View