It was a case of the right place at the right time. Much of the iron ore required for steel manufacture coming from Michigan and Minnesota traveled on Lake Michigan. Chicago and its environs became the hub of the steel industry by the turn of the twentieth century. A plentiful labor pool, efficient rail lines and cheap land sealed the deal. A plant that could handle the country’s increased demands for steel was necessary.
In 1901, U.S. Steel settled in Lake County Indiana, to build what would become the world’s largest integrated steel mill. The region was already home to Standard Oil and Inland Steel. The construction of U.S. Steel’s Gary Works, named after board chairman Elbert H. Gary, involved removing over twelve million cubic yards of sand, laying two million yards of concrete, rerouting the Calumet River, and dredging the lake for a mile-long harbor. More than 42 million dollars were spent in Gary, which came to be known as the ” Magic City ” and the “City of the Century.”
Mills in Indiana and Illinois provided a fifth of the total US steel output just after the Second World War. Decreased demand and increased imports from abroad, however, began to signal steel’s decline in the 1970s, a trend from which the industry has yet to recover.