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Robert Milne House – Lockport, IL

Robert Milne House – Lockport, IL

The Illinois and Michigan Canal (I&M Canal) played a leading role in the early growth of Lockport. The all-water route stretched 96 miles from Bridgeport to LaSalle, comprising 15 locks, four feeder canals, and four aqueducts.


Robert H. Milne, one of the earliest settlers of Lockport and the owner of the Robert Milne House on 535 E. 7th St, built five of the 15 locks.


Significance Of The Illinois And Michigan Canal In Lockport, IL

The 60 feet wide by 6 feet deep Illinois and Michigan Canal was a major transport route between 1848 and 1933 when the Illinois Waterway was completed. It opened up Lockport for business with the neighboring towns and made Chicago one of the transport hubs in the US before the railroad era.


With the discovery of good stone and quality cement in Lockport, Illinois, the United States, the canal’s completion made stone quarry a large business area as businessmen could easily transport construction materials to the smaller cities on the canal banks. 


In addition, the canal helped early settlers to start exporting grain to the neighboring towns, making Lockport a major grain center for northern Illinois.


However, the project was on and off due to a financial crisis. This forced the government to sell part of its land to raise funds to complete the project. 


Robert Milne bought the 240-acre 97 ha land patted as the town of East Lockport in 1840 to build his home, the Robert Milne House. He built a farm called Kelvyn Grove, which remained in the Milne family ownership until 1979 when listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


Today much of the canal is part of the Illinois and Michigan National Heritage corridor. The government has also included it in the Lockport Historic District, which was created to protect the historic sites and structures in the village. 


The area between the 7th and 11th streets and public landing is also part of the Lockport historic district.  


The community uses the Illinois & Michigan Canal for picnics, hiking, and biking. Other popular state parks and historic places near the canal are:


  • Lincoln Home historic residence in Lockport
  • Reubens Rialto Square Theatre 
  • Robert Milne House
  • Channahon State park
  • Aux Sable access area
  • Gebhard Woods State Park
  • Buffalo Rock State Park
  • Lewis & Clark historic trail


A Brief History of Robert Milne of Lockport, Illinois

Robert Milne was born in 1805 in Banffshire, Scotland. In 1836, he moved to Lockport after winning a contract to build five of the 15 locks on the I&M Canal. 


While in Lockport, he ventured into the lumber business and stockbreeding. In 1840, he built the Robert Milne House, where he lived with his wife Isabella and siblings who had accompanied him to the United States.


However, after completing the canal in 1848, Milne moved to Chicago, where he briefly pursued business interests. He sold his Chicago business interests in 1854 to focus on his Lockport ranch, successfully becoming one of the first breeders of shorthorn cattle in the US.


In 1871, Illinois Governor John M Palmer appointed Milne the Canal Commissioner. Milne held the Canal commissioner position for four years. 


The letters of recommendation to the Governor and certificates proclaiming him as Canal Commissioner are still available. However, part of the Robert Milne farm now belongs to the Lockport school district.


Fun Facts About The Robert Milne House in Lockport, Illinois

Robert Milne House, also known as the Old Stone House, is a historic residence in Lockport, Illinois, United States. Build-in 1840, as the Milne family home, the two-story building was constructed using locally quarried limestone using the Greek Revival and Federal designs. 


The house is a rectangular structure with stone cornice and cut stone facades, with two interior brick chimneys, a porch, and two rear additions. There is also a stone milk house and a modern frame garage on the plantation. Four generations of the Robert Milne family lived in this house for over 100 years. 


In 1978, Lois Adelman and her husband, Howard, bought the Robert Milne historic residence in Lockport, Illinois. Lockport, Lois Adelman, helped restore the Robert Milne house to its original state and then listed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. 


The Old Stone House is among the few historical residences in Lockport, Illinois, that have retained their original state. The writings, papers, pictures, and ephemera by its initial owners are available at the Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, where they were taken for preservation and protection.


Other historical places in the Lockport School District include:


  • Will County Historical Society Headquarters
  • John Heck House
  • Fitzpatrick House
  • Joliet Steel Works


  Stone Manor                           Palos Historical Society


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