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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lemont Metra station: limestone history

I admit it. I am a history nerd. It is with great joy that I make my family take side trips to see historical markers whenever possible. So, during a rare lunch out with just my husband (We love grandparents; yes we do!) I couldn't resist checking out the old limestone train station just down the road. We were in Lemont, a town I lived in briefly and love for its historical charm. Lemont grew as workers on the Illinois & Michigan Canal settled in the area from the 1830s onward. The rock discovered during excavations there, once known as "Athens marble" after the town's original name, became a fixture in building local structures of every size and purpose. Ultimately, railroad lines played a key role in transporting workers and shipping goods to and from the Chicago area. These days Lemont's little station serves commuters taking Metra's Heritage Corridor line during the workweek, but during its long history it has witnessed Lincoln's funeral train, a violent labor strike, soldiers heading off to war, and speeches from national leaders. Even though this building is "just" a little train station, it's perfect place to sneak in a little history lesson: "Hey, let's go look at the station. Look at this! Did you know that people stood here to watch Abraham Lincoln's funeral train pass on its way to Springfield?" History sinks in to kids minds a bit at a time here and there as we read books and they hear lessons. Those stories start to stick, though, when we can give them pieces of real history to see and touch. 

Historical plaque at the Lemont train station

Being an architecture nerd as much as a history nerd, I also love this booklet from the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois on "Joliet-Lemont Limestone." The stories of old buildings around us have a much louder voice when we know something of their origins. 

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