Sunday, December 13, 2009

City of Steel and Stone

...and prisons. This past weekend my husband and daughter flew to my hometown of Joliet, Illinois for the first time. I was too sick to make the journey - don't ask. It was hard not being there, but I'm glad everyone got to meet June.

My mom's siblings came in from all over the country to go over my grandparents "affairs." (They both died this summer). I lived with my grandparents growing up, so they essentially raised me. It was grandpa who helped me with my homework (he taught math on the USS Caldwell) and Grandma did all the discipling and showed me how to make potica, a Slovenia tradition.

Joliet is quite an interesting place. A gritty, post-industry steel town outside of Chicago. With a recent history of gangs and unemployment, but some gorgeous old homes, a great history, and even more recent progress. It also has the second largest Slovenian population in the US (only Cleveland has more). Both my grandparents were 100% Slovenian and their families immigrated to Joliet to work in the steel mills.

Joliet is mostly famous for the Blues Brothers. The prison that Joliet Jake is released from in the beginning of the film is near my grade school downtown. Our bus route went past the prison for a couple years there. Joliet Prison was built in 1858 with convict labor and limestone quarried on- site. It closed in 2002 but has since been used by the TV show Prison Break.



Joliet Prison was very slow to modernize and that's what ultimately closed it down. This was not a prison of comfort. It didn't get running water or toilets in the cells until 1910. The first electricucian in Illinois also took place at Joliet Prison.

There is another prison down the road in Crest Hill, which is often confused with Joliet Prison. Stateville Correctional Center is interesting for two reason. One, a kid who grew up a couple doors down from my mom is there on a life sentence. And two, Stateville has a roundhouse design. Based on the panopticon concept by British social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The idea allowed guards to observe all prisoners without them knowing they were being watched. It was also supposed make them behave better because of that surveillance.

Can you believe this place???

Joliet is also home to the gorgeous Rialto Theater with it's Greek, Roman, and Byzantine architecture. It was used in the Kevin Bacon movie "Stir of Echoes" and for the wedding reception of that Top Model/Brady girl. No offense, Adrianne Curry, but if you didn't go to grade school downtown with the hookers outside the public library and bums peeing on the side of your school....then you ain't from Joliet, girl.

Union Station in downtown Joliet was also used in Stir of Echoes...

Here a smattering of other Joliet gems.....

These great photos were taken by Katherine of Chicago (found on her Flickr site)

Stefanich's is next door to my grade school

And here is my church, St. Joseph's - my grade school is behind it

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