Friday, March 20, 2015

Illinois Cement Company

Brochure
Cement World: Advertisement
In 1897 a German company built German-American Portland Cement Works, a Portland cement plant on the east side of Lasalle, IL because of its vast limestone reserves, abundance of coal, and access to the Rock Island and Illinois Central railways. It used the brand name "Owl Cement." WWI transferred ownership to the U.S. Alien Property Custodian. Alpha Portland Cement Company of Easton, Philadelphia bought it in 1920. On July 2, 1970 management announced that they were shutting down the facility, and it was officially closed by November, 1970.
Satellite
In 1972, a partnership, now known as Illinois Cement Company, purchased the plant and reserves of Alpha. It built a new 1,125 ton/day plant during 1972-74 that used the "dry process" with a 200-foot preheat tower and just one kiln. They started a major expansion in 1999 and finished in 2006. (History)

Satellite
Looking at a satellite image, I noticed the new plant is not connected to a railroad nor is it next to a quarry. They have opened a new quarry in Dimmick Township. The oval near the bottom in the satellite image is the plant. The oval near the top is the quarry. You can see that both locations are close to Interstate exits.

Photo from Ray's Lasalle County Online Museum
It appears about the only thing the 1970s plant used from the Alpha plant was some concrete storage silos, which is a very small fraction of what they built new. So why didn't they build the new plant next to the new quarry and build condos on the old site since they don't care about railroad access?

A 1939 aerial map that I downloaded from the ILHAP site shows the railroads were still important and a close quarry was still available. You can also see that they used three kilns back then.
ILHAP site: 1939 aerial map

Photo from Rays Lasalle County Online Museum
The 1939 plant appears to be a rebuild of the original, 6-kiln plant. So this site has had at least three different plant designs, each using fewer kilns but probably with greater total production.

They finished their expansion in 2006, just in timer for the construction industry to collapse in the 2008 recession.  But production of cement was cut in half so that prices went down only 9%. (NewsTrib) Hopefully their improved efficiencies allowed them to weather the recession.

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