Home > Traveling > Joliet, IL: soda pop, barbed wire, and theater

Joliet, IL: soda pop, barbed wire, and theater


We had some time to explore Joliet, IL today and found some interesting historical items.  Turns out that Joliet was famous for its limestone back in the 1800’s, and produced much of the building materials used in those days.  Also little known is that bottled soda pop was invented here in the 1870’s, which we all know today as one of the most ubiquitous drinks in the world.  The first soda pop was made at the Joliet bluffs, at the location shown below.  Of course, a building was here, but a very humble beginning!

The Hiram B. Scutt Mansion is a west-facing, three-story, red brick, Second Empire/Italianate style structure built circa 1882 on a Joliet  limestone foundation. The Mansion was designed by architect James Weese for Hiram Scutt, a prominent Joliet businessman who was President of Citizens Electric Company and held numerous early patents on barbed wire.  The mansion thus became known as “Barb Villa”.  Tours were available, the house is being restored to 1880’s condition inside and it was chock full of old items, ranging from furniture, to stereoscopes, and a collection of old toys and dolls.

An exterior view of the house

The Rialto Theater is consider one of the most beautiful theaters in the US.  And in fact, inside it was gorgeous.  Beautiful stone and artwork, gold gilding, and a very open atmosphere really stand out.  The railroad is a block away, and in the early 1900’s many famous artists such as Bob Hope would arrive in a private rail car, perform, and be on their way.  The theater is in active use today.

Street side view of the Rialto entrance

A graceful, arched foyer leads to the theater

Looking at the left entry side of the foyer

A view from the balcony, organ at the lower right

Looking up at the ceiling, main hall

Above the stage

Stage left, chandelier and frescoes

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