Incorporated in 1888, Lyons is steeped in even earlier historical roots. In 1673, French explorer, Louis Joliet, and Jesuit missionary, Father Pierre Marquette, left Green Bay, Wisconsin by canoe in search of a western passage to the Pacific. As they traveled into the Spanish-controlled area of Louisiana, they realized that the mighty Mississippi drained into the already well-known Gulf of Mexico. With winter approaching, they headed north as quickly as possible. To save time, the Pottawatomie Indians that were with them encouraged a change in the course to the Illinois River. This shortcut led to the Des Plaines River and caused these travelers to discover “Le Portage.” This half mile wide area of land connecting the Chicago River and the Des Plaines River, over which they could carry their canoes and supplies, would soon be their claim to fame. Later known as the Chicago Portage, this small area became the “Gateway to the West,” and was used by thousands of early settlers and traders traveling both east and west. The discovery of “Le Portage” was the impetus that led to Chicago becoming a center for the world trade.
Louis Joliet conceived the idea of constructing a canal to connect the two waterways. This idea was to become a reality 200 years later with the opening of the Illinois—Michigan Canal. Today, a statue stands in Lyons at the Chicago Portage National Historic Site just north of Interstate 55 along Harlem Avenue, commemorating this historic National Heritage Corridor which stretches southwest through LaSalle, Illinois.
Hofmann Tower – Post 1908
Hofmann Tower Museum
Hofmann Tower is one of the most impressive historical sites in the suburban area. This eight-story castle-like concrete structure was built in 1908 by George Hofmann, Jr. The tower was the centerpiece of a large recreational area that included powered boat rides, canoeing, picnicking, dancing and orchestral concerts plus a large beer garden. For years, Hofmann Tower was the tallest building west of the Chicago’s Loop and thrilled thousands of visitors with a breathtaking view of Chicago and the surrounding area.