Friday, January 26, 2018

Gasometers around Goose Island

In this aerial, we can see a couple of gasometers just east of Kingsbury Street north of North Street.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP

This painting captures the northern of those two gasometers.
Nanny Suidman van der Wal posted
I am trying to find the origin of a 1929 painting made by my a great uncle (Peter Casper Maria Suidman) who lived in Chicago. The name of the boat and the proximity of Chicago does assume this must be Calumet river. Does anybody recognize this scenery on the painting around 1929? Thanks in advance!

Nanny Suidman van der Wal commented on her post
Update: we found an actual photo so this must have been a real spot along calumet or Chicago river (Goose Island)
[I provided this 1952 aerial to help confirm a 1948 date for the painting and photo.]
EarthExplorer: Mar 29, 1952 @ 23,600; AR1SA0000040040

A 1952 aerial photo ( has the foundation for the big gas holder shown in this 1954 photo. It  was built west of Kingsbury Street and north of North Street.

David H. Nelson commented on his posting with this 1954 photo

A 1962 aerial photo ( shows that the southern 1938 tower is hidden by the new one in the 1954 photo and that the northern one is gone. It also reinforces how massive the new one is compared to the old one because of the shadows in the 1962 photo.

VintageTribune also has a photo of the above gas holder.

There were two  more gasometers south of Division and east of the North Branch Canal. Judging by the rail spurs and the pile of coal as well as the big building with a conveyor, this is one of the places where they manufactured the gas. There was still a coal pile in 1952. The tanks and building existed in 1962, but the coal piles were gone.. It was all removed by 1963.


I think the gasometer in the background of this photo is the northern most in the aerial photo above. It looks like it was completely full in this photo.
Jim Shortz posted via Dennis DeBruler

WBEZ posted
Fun fact: Until the 1980s, enormous gas holders storing natural gas stood tall in Chicago - one was more than 350 feet high. Go back and see what Chicago looked like more than 40 years ago, before these landmarks were taken down.
Karen Operabuffa commented on a post
This photo shows two sets of gasometers - one on North Avenue, one on Division.
Darla Zailskas posted
Corner of Milwaukee & Chicago Avenues, picture came from a 1939 textbook titled Illinois, looks like a ghost in lower left corner, any info on the structures?
[I spent some time trying to find this tank before I learned that the caption is wrong. This is the corner of Milwaukee and Racine. [cushman] So we are looking north up Racine and this is the tall tank south of Division.]

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader as to which gasometer this was. If you figure it out, leave a comment. It looks like the poles on the trolly is slanting forward. The ones in Fort Wayne, IN, that slanted backwards makes more sense to me.
Millard Iverson posted
North Ave and Clybourne 1965

The gas manufacturing plants made life unpleasant for the residents in the area.
"Little Hell" via Polluted Rivers, Public Domain
"Four girls standing in an empty lot in Little Hell in September 1902."
"The overcrowded, impoverished area on and around Goose Island became known as “Little Hell,” a reference to the conditions on the island as well as the coal-gasification plant that belched out smoke and flames nearby. It was occupied by a succession of immigrant groups who came to work in the steel mills and other factories along the North Branch."


  1. The construction of the gasometers may have preceded the introduction of natural gas. In the 19th and early 20th century, municipal gas was coal gas (aka syngas), hence the coal pile. The plants on Division and North were constructed by People's Gas Light and Coke Company, predecessor to today's People's Gas. Their activities caused considerable ecological contamination which is still being remediated to this day. Once natural gas was widely available this industry became redundant and the plants were closed.

    1. Indeed, gasometers proceeded natural gas because they stored manufactured gas that was produced by making coke. In the case of gas plants, coke was considered the byproduct. It was the development of high pressure compressors that made long distance pipelines for natural gas possible that caused manufactured gas and their gasometers to become obsolete.