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Lemont is a village located in Cook, DuPage, and Will counties in the U.S. state of Illinois, and is a suburb of Chicago. The population was 16,000 as of the 2010 census. Lemont is home to Argonne National Laboratory and other heavy industrial sites, and has a substantial European immigrant population.
Lemont was originally known as Keepataw (after a Potawatomi chief) and a post office was established in 1840 as Keepatau. After that, it was named Athens and then Palmyra. The name Lemont (literally, 'the mountain' in French) was chosen in 1850 at the suggestion of Lemuel Brown, the postmaster and justice of the peace, or perhaps by his brother Nathaniel Brown.
Before white settlers arrived in Lemont, Native Americans traveled the Des Plaines River in birch bark canoes on trading trips between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. The native Potawatomi lived off the land in this area, directly using natural resources for food, shelter, clothing and medicine. In the 18th century, French voyageurs traveled down the Des Plaines River, trading Native Americans metal, beads and cloth for animal furs and changing the Native American lifestyle forever.
Established in 1836, the village of Lemont stands as one of the oldest American communities in northeastern Illinois. It is historically significant for its role in transforming the northern region of the state from a sparsely settled frontier to a commercial, agricultural, and industrial region that supplied Chicago and areas beyond with commodities. Lemont is also unique in boasting an authentic historic district that remains intact and has been continually used since the 19th century.
Both Lemont's history and architectural uniqueness connect to the Illinois and Michigan Canal (I&M Canal). Construction of the I&M Canal began in 1837 and stands as one of the last major canal undertakings in the United States (the Hennepin Canal opened in 1907). When it was completed in 1848, it provided a continuous waterway stretching from New York (through the Erie Canal, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to Chicago, then through the I&M Canal for 97 miles (156 km) entering the Illinois River at LaSalle, Illinois, to the Mississippi River, to New Orleans) to the Gulf of Mexico.
Immigrant workers, mostly Irish, settled in Lemont to work on the canal and later moved along the corridor of the canal, improving farms within the many communities that sprang up along it. They also were for the most part responsible for the many Lemont brothels during that time.
In digging, workers discovered Lemont yellow dolomite, a harder and finer grained version of limestone. This delayed digging of the canal, but was the start of the area's second industry, quarrying. By the mid-19th century, limestone quarrying took over as the main economic factor in Lemont and sustained its growth. The town's important major buildings were faced with the Lemont limestone, abundant in local quarries. Today, 38 of those buildings remain as the Lemont downtown district. Lemont limestone was used to build the Chicago Water Tower, a building that "gained special significance as one of the few buildings to survive the destructive path of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871". In the early years, this stone was known as "Athens Marble" as a nod to its place of origin. An 1859 item in the Chicago Daily Tribune had this to say: “The Athens and DesPlaines quarries, situated on the Illinois and Michigan canal, embrace 335 acres of the finest stone in the West, known as “Athens Marble”. This stone has a high reputation for color, durability and beauty, which renders it quite an article of commerce”.
Cargo and passengers were transported on the I&M until the early 20th century, when the wider, deeper Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was built parallel to it. The Sanitary Canal is still used today as part of the Illinois Waterway system.
Lemont's motto is "Village of Faith", and its church spires reflect the many ethnic groups who came here to quarry stone, dig the Sanitary and Ship Canal and work in other industries.
Lemont is credited with being the largest recruiting station for the Union Army during the American Civil War, and the Old Stone Church, built in 1861 of limestone, was used as a recruiting depot. It served as the Lemont Methodist Episcopal Church for 100 years, from 1861 until 1970, when it became home to the Lemont Area Historical Society. The oldest building in Lemont, it now serves as a museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
During the Civil War, Lemont was required to sign up 33 soldiers, the village recruited 293 soldiers; only 63 returned. A Lemont Civil War Memorial Committee has formed to build a statue in Memorial Park to honor Lemont's Civil War veterans.
By 1854, railroads transported goods faster than water, and the I&M became obsolete as Lemont evolved into a railroad community; the village was incorporated on June 9, 1873.
Increasingly, the canal was used to carry wastes away from Chicago. In 1900, the larger Sanitary and Ship Canal went into operation, carrying both wastes and larger, more modern barges. All use of the I&M Canal ended in 1933, with the opening of the canal's modern successor - the Illinois Waterway.
By about 1920, the quarries declined as styles changed and builders began to use Bedford limestone from Indiana and less expensive materials like concrete.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation establishing the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor as the nation's first National Heritage Corridor. The status recognizes the historic importance of this region and the waterway that connected Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. Today, it is a 100-mile-long (160 km) cultural park between Chicago and LaSalle/Peru, representing an ongoing partnership between the public and private sectors created to achieve a successful mixture of preservation, public use and industrial activity.
Lemont is home to the Argonne National Laboratory. Sacred architecture is another strong suit of Lemont, whose skyline is dominated by two landmark religious edifices: the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago and SS. Cyril and Methodius church in the Polish Cathedral style. Interestingly enough, both are situated on the sides of hills, giving an even more dramatic backdrop to their monumental architecture.
On June 13, 1976, a few minutes after 5:00 PM, a killer tornado struck Lemont and took three lives. 23 were injured, 87 homes were destroyed and 82 more were damaged. Damage to the high school alone was estimated at $500,000. Many people reported watching neighbors' homes explode, implode, shattering before their eyes. Cited as an unusual tornado, it backed up on its path before heading North, somewhat parallel to its path of origin.
On the same day, an F5 had laid to ruins Jordan, Iowa, 250 miles (400 km) away.
On March 27, 1991, Lemont was again hit by a tornado.
Lemont was featured in the movie Save the Last Dance starring Julia Stiles. The first five minutes of the movie take place in various areas of Lemont. Lemont High School was depicted as Johnson's white Midwestern high school. Portions of the front of the high school were shown, along with the main staircase inside the school. A Lemont home and flower shop and Theo J. Gorski & Sons Bus Company were also featured in the beginning of the film.
Lemont has also been featured in The Hunter (1980), Straight Talk (1992), Evil Has a Face (1996), Children on Their Birthdays (2002), The Poker House (2008), Witless Protection starring Larry the Cable Guy (2008), and Under the Bus (2000). Furthermore, several commercials and a made-for-TV movie, "Enememies" (2006), were filmed in the downtown location.
In 2007, Kid Rock filmed a music video for the song "Rock Star" at The Carousel, a Lemont bar that closed in 2007 and later reopened as the Illinois Bar and Grill.
In 2006, the Lemont Little League All-Star team traveled to the 60th Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The team, which represented the Great Lakes region, received 4th place after losing to the Beaverton, Oregon, team and was the only team to beat the champions from Georgia. Upon returning home, the Lemont team received a parade down State Street in honor of their achievements.
The BMW Championship (PGA Tour), and the prior Western Open, were held in unincorporated Lemont township between 1991 and 2007, and 2009 to 2011. Cog Hill Golf & Country Club has subsequently rejected incorporation into Lemont and has agreed to incorporate into Palos Park. The tournament was played at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, which was founded in 1927.
In 2008, the girls 11-year-old Lemont Little League All-Star team traveled to Beardstown, Illinois, for the state tournament and won the state title.
In 2009, a new group of 11-year-old All-Stars from Lemont won the State Championship for a second consecutive year.
The Lemont High School varsity cheerleading team placed first at the IHSA State Championships in the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2017.
Lemont is located at 41°40′8″N 87°59′20″W (41.668784, -87.988845).
According to the 2010 census, Lemont has a total area of 8.354 square miles (21.64 km2), of which 7.97 square miles (20.64 km2) (or 95.4%) is land and 0.384 square miles (0.99 km2) (or 4.6%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,098 people, 4,420 households, and 3,407 families residing in the village. The population density was 2,029.9 people per square mile (784.1/km²). There were 4,553 housing units at an average density of 705.6 per square mile (272.5/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 98.60% White, 0.01% African American, 0.05% Native American, 0.32% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.36% from other races, and 0.64% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.00% of the population.
Ancestries: Polish (33.7%), German (25.7%), Irish (20.8%), Italian (12.1%), English (4.5%), Lithuanian (4.1%).
There were 4,420 households out of which 39.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 67.4% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.9% were non-families. 19.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.85 and the average family size was 3.32.
In the village, the population was spread out with 27.7% under the age of 18, 6.1% from 18 to 24, 29.2% from 25 to 44, 22.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.4 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $70,563, and the median income for a family was $80,558. Males had a median income of $52,464 versus $37,314 for females. The per capita income for the village was $28,354. About 1.7% of families and 3.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.4% of those under age 18 and 11.5% of those age 65 or over.
Schools located in Lemont include the following:
Lemont has a station on Metra's Heritage Corridor, which provides weekday rail service between Joliet and Chicago Union Station.
In 2007, the Interstate 355 tollway extension opened, providing Lemont with more direct access to the Chicago expressway system. An interchange is located on 127th Street.
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