The Gaylord Building and busy Lockport Landing circa 1880
(courtesy of Gerald W. Adelmann)

Gaylord Building History

Construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal began on the 4th of July, 1836. Little headway was made during the first two years, however. The major problem was a lack of supplies and manpower, most of which had to be brought from the East Coast. Lockport had no building large enough to accommodate the steady stream of materials coming into Lockport so they decided to erect a stone warehouse. Some people were upset over the use of state funds to build the warehouse, but the building has certainly withstood the test of time.

The foundation for the building was dug in May 1838, under the supervision of two brothers, Erastus and William Newton, contractors on the I&M Canal. By September of that year the building had been painted and was ready for use. Total costs for the building came to $4,014. 29.

Items stored in the warehouse included provisions, shovels, picks, wheelbarrows, lumber, ropes, iron and steel for making tools and machinery, chains, cordage, cranes, black powder and staple provisions for winter sustenance of the workmen.

When the canal was finally completed in 1848 the Canal Board of Trustees had no need for the building. After briefly renting it to the firm of Norton and Blackstone, which made thorough repairs on the building, it was sold in September 1848 for $4,000. Shortly afterwards the firm of Martin and Townsend rented out the space for grain storage, and by 1850 they were doing a booming business. George B. Martin purchased the building in November 1853.

Shortly after Gaylord’s death Norton & Company bought the building for $7,500. The 1859 addition was used to store barbed wire in the 1880s. During the Barrows Lock Company era the building housed machine shops, a brass foundry, a carpentry shop, and storerooms. In 1945 the Will County printing Company had a specialty print shop here. From 1948 until the early 1980s the building was occupied by the Hyland Plumbing Supply Building.

In 1983 George’s Gaylord’s grandson, Gaylord Donnelley, retired chairman of Chicago’s R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., formed a private development company to rehabilitate the structure. The Gaylord Lockport Company, named for Donnelley’s grandfather, spent four years and $2.8 million returning the derelict building to its former beauty and adapting it to modern-day use.



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