In 1837, the town of Lockport was laid out by the Illinois and Michigan Canal commissioners, and an office was constructed and became headquarters for administrative of the waterway. The office played a central role in the design, financing, and construction of the I & M Canal, which connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. The canal extended ninety-six miles from the south branch of the Chicago River near Lake Michigan to the Illinois River at LaSalle-Peru, and was in operation from 1848 to 1914.
In 1876, a residence for the Canal Superintendent was added to the office building, and a bank vault was installed in the administration office to store canal records. It later served as headquarters for the Sanitary and Ship Canal. In 1969, the I & M Canal Headquarters was transferred to the Will County Historical Society, and our Grand Opening was on April 16, 1970. The Will County Historical Society moved into the building in 1971 and began accessioning artifacts, and exhibits, and officially opened to the public in 1972.
In 1972, the building was recognized by the National Park Service with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. This building is now operated by the Will County Historical Museum and Research Center, and is part of the I & M Canal National Heritage Area.
The Will County Historical Society exists so that people and organizations may be connected to the rich history of Will County, Illinois
In 2019, with the help of WCHS Board Member Dr. Larry McClellan, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was designated as 1 of over 600 locations associated with the Underground Railroad associated with the National Park Service. You can visit the National Park Service's website telling more about the Network to Freedom here: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/undergroundrailroad/index.htm
We love our guests, so feel free to visit during normal business hours.
Photographs are allowed, so please bring your camera!
We are also a volunteer based organization. Please contact us ahead of your visit to make sure a volunteer will be at the museum.
Group tours of the Museum and Heritage Village are also available. Please contact the Museum to schedule your tour time.
The Heritage Village is also available for event rentals. Please contact the Museum with any rental requests you
803 S State St, Lockport, Illinois 60441, United States
The Museum is open to the public.
Admission is free.
Donations are appreciated.
We are closed major holidays.