In 1673, Louis Jolliet, along with Father Jacques Marquette, paddled up the Des Plaines River and camped on a huge mound, a few miles south of present-day Joliet. Maps from Jolliet's exploration of the area, placed a large hill or mound on what is now the southwest corner of the city, since there is no point that is farther southwest. That hill was named Mound Jolliet. The spot was mined by early settlers and is now a depression.
In 1833, following the Black Hawk War, Charles Reed built a cabin along the west side of the Des Plaines River. Across the river in 1834, James B. Campbell, treasurer of the canal commissioners, laid out the village of "Juliet", named after his daughter. Just before the economic depression of 1837, Juliet incorporated as a village, but to cut tax expenses, Juliet residents soon petitioned the state to rescind that incorporation. In 1845, local residents changed the community's name from "Juliet" to "Joliet". Joliet was reincorporated as a city in 1852. Cornelius Cohenhoven Van Horne was active in getting the city its first charter, and because of this he was elected Joliet's first Mayor. When the city later built a new bridge it was named The Van Horne Bridge.
Joliet is located at 41°31′14″N 88°09′02″W (41.5204200, -88.1505261).
According to the 2010 census, Joliet has a total area of 62.768 square miles (162.57 km2), of which 62.11 square miles (160.86 km2) (or 98.95%) is land and 0.658 square miles (1.70 km2) (or 1.05%) is water. It has a sprawling, irregular shape that extends into nine different townships, more than any other Illinois city. They are: Joliet, Plainfield, Troy, New Lenox, Jackson, Channahon, and Lockport in Will County, and Na-Au-Say and Seward in Kendall County. Joliet is a Des Plaines River town, with the downtown located in the river valley. This is especially evident on Interstate 80 if one is coming from the east or the west where it has been flat for many miles and suddenly the land drops as you approach the river. This offers a great view looking north to see downtown Joliet. For most of its existence Joliet geographically has had its "west side" and "east side", referring to areas to the west or the east of the Des Plaines River, which runs through the city. Both sides were roughly proportionate throughout most of its history until the 2nd half of the 20th century when westward expansion began. Many businesses moved from the downtown area to the expanding areas west of the river. Many stores relocated to the west side in new strip malls and shopping centers with more parking and easier access. This began the decline of the downtown shopping district which is still felt today. Today Joliet has a "west side" and a far "west side" (which includes all city limits in Kendall County). This has given rise to a newly referenced "Central Joliet" portion of the city which essentially is all land west of the Des Plaines River and east of Interstate 55. This new reference may soon change the current meaning of "west side" to west of Interstate 55.
While the heart and history of Joliet is centered around the Des Plaines River Joliet actually expands across both the Des Plaines River and the DuPage River. There are several other waterways that traverse through the city limits including Hickory Creek, Spring Creek, the historic Illinois and Michigan Canal, Jackson Creek, and Aux Sable Creek. Some small lakes and bodies of water include Chase Lake, Lake Juco, Michigan Beach, the Brandon Road Quarry, and Leisure Lake.
Joliet has a hot summer humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa).
As of July 2014, Joliet was the 169th most populous city in the United States.
As of the census of 2000, there were 106,221 people, 36,182 households, and 25,399 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,790.9 people per square mile (1,077.6/km²). There were 38,176 housing units at an average density of 1,003.1 per square mile (387.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.32% White, 18.16% African American, 0.28% Native American, 1.14% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 8.97% from other races, and 2.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 18.41% of the population.
There were 36,182 households out of which 38.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.9% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.8% were non-families. 24.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.81 and the average family size was 3.39.
In the city, the population was spread out with 29.5% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 33.1% from 25 to 44, 16.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $47,761, and the median income for a family was $55,870. Males had a median income of $41,909 versus $29,100 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,390. About 7.7% of families and 10.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.5% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.
From April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011, Joliet was the fastest-growing city in the Midwestern United States and the 18th fastest-growing city in the United States among incorporated places with more than 100,000 people.
Like many Midwestern cities dependent on manufacturing industries, Joliet has experienced past economic troubles, with the unemployment rate reaching as high as 26% in 1983. However, current rates of unemployment in Joliet are around 8.6%. In part due to Joliet's proximity to the Chicago metropolitan area and the notion that the city is increasingly evolving from its status as a steel-town to an exurb. Still, most new migrants to the area are moving to Joliet to live, choosing to work in bordering Cook and DuPage counties. The downtown area, though downtrodden, is undergoing revitalization. It's still difficult to attract new businesses to the downtown area. The main attractions in Joliet's City Center are the Harrah's Casino, Joliet Slammers baseball (Silver Cross Field), Hollywood Casino (formerly, Argosy Empress Casino) and the Rialto Square Theatre, the 'Jewel of Joliet', which has been called one of the world's 10 most beautiful theaters. The 1999 film Stir of Echoes starring Kevin Bacon had scenes shot on location in Joliet at the Rialto Square Theatre (the hypnotism scenes in which James saw the word "Dig" on the movie screen), at the corner of Scott Street and Washington, and at the old Menards that took over the Wieboltd's building at Jefferson Square Mall. The lobby of the Rialto Square Theatre also served the filming of John Goodman's "Balto".
According to the City's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the largest employers in the city were:
Among local landmarks are the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Visitors Center as well as the Chicagoland Speedway (NASCAR) and the Route 66 Raceway (NHRA).
The Joliet Prison is located near Joliet's downtown district on Collins Street. The prison has been featured in both television shows and movies. One such television series filmed at Joliet Prison was Prison Break. The Prison was also used for the opening scenes in the 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers, which starred John Belushi as "Joliet" Jake Blues and Dan Aykroyd as Elwood Blues.
The first Dairy Queen store opened in Joliet. The location is now occupied by Universal Church.
The Rialto Square Theatre, a favorite haunt of Al Capone and filming location for scenes from Kevin Bacon's film Stir of Echoes, is on Chicago Street, downtown.
Near the theatre, the Joliet Area Historical Museum commemorates the history of Joliet, especially its heritage as a stopping point on U.S. Route 66.
There are two casinos which originated as riverboat casino in Joliet: the Hollywood Casino near Channahon and a Harrah's hotel and casino downtown. Joliet is the only city in the State of Illinois to have two casinos.
The Louis Joliet Mall is located near the intersection of I-55 and U.S. Route 30.
The Auditorium Building is located at the northeast corner of Chicago and Clinton streets. Designed by G. Julian Barnes and built of limestone in 1891, it was controversial as one of the first buildings to combine religious, civic and commercial uses. Nonetheless, people such Theodore Roosevelt visited and spoke at the building. The building was originally built for the Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet; however, the church sold the building in 1993, and it is no longer home to the congregation.
The Jacob A. Henry Mansion, 20 South Eastern Avenue is a three-story, red brick, Second Empire/Italian Renaissance style structure built on a Joliet limestone foundation in 1873 (completed in 1876). The structure is set on bedrock and the entire basement floor is made of Joliet limestone from the building owner's quarry. The walls of the structure are constructed of red Illinois sandstone and deep red brick specially fired in Ohio (wrapped individually and shipped by barge to Joliet). A commanding three-story tower is the focal point of the structure. The structure has steel trim with slate shingles on a Mansard roof. The front and side porches are single slabs of limestone. The largest stone ever quarried lies in the sidewalk under the front entry gate. The stone is 9'×22'×20" thick. In 1885, an immense Byzantine dome was added to the south façade. The interior of the mansion has elaborate polished walnut woodwork, massive, carved pocket doors, original wood mantles and a solid walnut staircase. The original owner, Mr. Henry, was a railroad magnate, building railroads in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. He had ownership in a local quarry and was a principal stockholder in Will County National Bank. The mansion won the Architecture Award at the American Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876, and is claimed to be the largest and best example of Renaissance Revival architecture still standing in the state of Illinois. The structure is a local landmark, part of the East Side National Register District and individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The former Joliet Arsenal (now the site of both the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie) is in nearby Elwood.
One of Joliet's nicknames is the "City of Champions". This label stems from the numerous state and national titles won by the Joliet Township High School and grade school bands as well as by the Joliet American Legion Band over several decades.
Joliet is home to three high schools that bear its name: Joliet Central, Joliet West, and Joliet Catholic Academy (JCA), in addition to the closed Joliet East, each of which has sports programs. JCA has been a major football powerhouse for many years and has won more state football titles than any other team in the state, with 13 as of 2009.
Joliet also is home to a minor league baseball team, the Joliet Slammers of the independent Frontier League. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, they have played their home games at Silver Cross Field. The Slammers replace the former Joliet JackHammers of the Northern League. The Joliet Slammers won the 2011 Frontier League Championship in their first season as a team.
Chicagoland Speedway hosts annual events from NASCAR. During major races, the large influx of fans means that the number of people in the city is double that of the official figure. Next door to the Speedway, the Route 66 Raceway features National Hot Rod Association events on its drag-strip. Joliet Central has become actively involved in Route 66 by building an alternative fuel vehicle. Autobahn Country Club, also located in Joliet, has held the SCCA World Challenge, Atlantic Championship and Star Mazda Championship races since 2009.
There are four golf courses located in the city of Joliet, they are:Inwood Golf Course
Woodruff Golf Course
Wedgewood Golf Course
Joliet Country Club
Joliet has 2 miniature golf courses at Haunted Trails located off of Broadway Street.
Joliet has a water park on Route 6 called Splash Station.
The Pilcher Park Nature Center, located in Pilcher Park, hosts many youth and educational programs.
Pilcher Park, one of Joliet's oldest parks, is home to over 640 acres (260 ha) of land that provide a habitat for abundant wildlife and outdoor recreation. Pilcher Park also contains Native American Indian remains and was the site of a Potowatami Indian village. There is a burial mound just south of the entrance on Gougar Road. On the south side of the bridge next to gougers farm house. And a marked burial plot inside the park grounds.
Hammel Woods is also located in Joliet with miles of hiking trails and even a seven-acre dog park.
Splash Station Waterpark featuring the Midwest's only 6 person slide is also located on Route 6 in Joliet.
Louis Joliet Mall located on Route 30 in Joliet hosts a large Cinemark theatre
There are several miles of bike trails, which wind through Joliet. The Rock Run and Joliet Junction Trails are roughly North/South routes that begin at the Theodore Marsh in Crest Hill, Illinois and have southern terminuses on the I&M Canal State Trail. These three paths can be used as a 16-mile loop through western Joliet. The I and M Canal State Trail stretches about 60 miles to Peru, Illinois for longer bike rides.
As of 2009 almost all public school students in Joliet attend schools in Joliet Public Schools District 86 and Joliet Township High School District 204. and Plainfield Consolidated School District 202.Joliet Junior College, the nation's first public community college
University of St. Francis
School districts serving Joliet include Joliet Township High School District 204, Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202, Oswego Community Unit School District 308, Minooka Community High School District 111.
Elementary and middle school districts serving Joliet include:Joliet Public Schools District 86
Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C (Also serves neighboring communities of Plainfield, Illinois and Shorewood, Illinois)
Since the early 1980s, the Job Corps of the U.S. Department of Labor has operated the Joliet Job Corps Center on the campus of the former Joliet East High School.
Joliet current city limits reach as far as follows:To the north: Theodore Street (older main section of the city)/Renwick Road (in the NW Crystal Lawns subdivision)
To the south: Noel Road
To the east: Wirt Road
To the west: Grove Road (Kendall County)
The Illinois Youth Center Joliet (IYC Joliet), a juvenile correctional facility of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, opened in April 1959.
Stateville Correctional Center, one of five maximum security prison for the state of Illinois, is located in the neighboring city of Crest Hill. It is a part of the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Situated approximately 40 miles (64 km) southwest of central Chicago, Joliet has long been a significant transportation hub. It lies on both sides of the Des Plaines River, a major waterway in Northern Illinois, and was one of the principal ports on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The Chicago & Rock Island Railroad and Michigan Central came through in the 1850s, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and Chicago & Alton Railroad soon followed, with the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway and Milwaukee Road lines built around the turn of the century. U.S. Highways 6 (the Grand Army of the Republic Highway), 30 (the Lincoln Highway), 45, 52, and 66 (Route 66) all ran through the city. In the 1960s, Interstate 55 and Interstate 80 made their way through Joliet, linking up near Channahon just west of the city limits. The phrase "Crossroads of Mid-America", found on the Joliet seal, is an allusion to the intersection of I-80 and I-55. Joliet's Union Station is the final stop on the Metra rail lines from Chicago for the Heritage Corridor route from Chicago Union Station and the Rock Island District route from LaSalle Street Station. A third line would also terminate at the station, The STAR Line, from O'Hare Transfer with an additional stop at Division St. PACE provides local bus service six days a week (no service on Sundays) with buses leaving from a terminal in downtown Joliet once an hour. Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, also serves Joliet, operating its Texas Eagle daily in each direction between Chicago and San Antonio, Texas.
The Joliet Regional Airport is located off of Jefferson Street near Interstate 55. Lewis University Airport is located to the north in the nearby village of Romeoville and is owned by the Joliet Regional Port District.
Major highways in Joliet include:
Joliet currently has one hospital within its city limits: Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center (also known as St. Joe's), located on the west side. Silver Cross Hospital, now located in neighboring New Lenox, was located on Joliet's east side. These were the only two hospitals in the history of the existence of Will County until Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital opened in January 2008. In September 2008, Silver Cross Hospital broke ground for a new facility on Maple Road (U.S. Route 6) in New Lenox, immediately west of Interstate 355. All patients were transferred to the new hospital on February 26, 2012, and the old facility was completely vacated.
Joliet is home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet, with Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Siegel. Bishop J. Peter Sartain, former bishop of Joliet, was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Archbishop of Seattle. Joliet holds a very large Catholic population, and many Catholic institutions, including Joliet Catholic Academy.
According to the official website for the city of Joliet:
Joliet's diverse faith community represents over 60 denominations and offers residents services at more than 150 churches, synagogues, and houses of worship. Along with their spiritual offerings, these houses of worship enrich the Joliet area by providing some of the area's finest examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine, and Renaissance architecture. The spiritual community in Joliet welcomes newcomers with open arms, offering regular worship services and religious education.
In the 1973 Academy Award-winning film, The Sting, the protagonist Johnny Hooker is from Joliet, and the film's story begins there.
In The Blues Brothers, John Belushi's Jake Blues is nicknamed "Joliet Jake" as he was imprisoned at the now closed Joliet Correctional Center.
The Joliet Prison has been a site for many other films and television shows, such as the film Let's Go to Prison, and the opening season of Fox's Prison Break was filmed predominately at the Joliet Prison, at which time part of the prison was still in use.
Joliet is portrayed in the television series Supernatural in the Season 2 episode "What Is and What Should Never Be" when the main characters stay at the fictional Joliet Motel.