High winds knock trees into historic Norton Building
By Tony Graf email@example.com July 3, 2012 6:28PM
A view of fallen trees along the Norton Building Tuesday, July 3, 2012, in Lockport. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 5, 2012 6:21AM
LOCKPORT — Four unusual, but very familiar, canal barges docked at the Norton Building during Friday night’s storm.
However, no mules brought in these barges. They actually might have come in by sail.
The “barges” were four large trees, blown over by the high wind and coming to rest against the historic 1850 Norton Building, formerly a warehouse on the adjacent Illinois & Michigan Canal in downtown Lockport.
The fallen trees damaged doors and a balcony in a private residence at the building.
On Tuesday, the trees were pressing against the west side of the building, which houses the Illinois State Museum-Lockport Gallery, said Jennifer Jaskowiak, curator of the museum.
The eastern cottonwood trees are large, but they are less than 100 years old. They were not there at the building’s inception, but they are familiar neighbors.
And whereas mules once pulled barges along the canal, these cottonwood barges might have been propelled by sail. Their canopies, full of leaves at this time of year, might have acted as sails in Friday’s high winds, according to Homer Tree Care.
No injuries were reported in Friday night’s storm, though Lockport had many downed trees and power lines, Mayor Dev Trivedi told The Herald-News on Monday.
On Tuesday morning, officials with the Lockport Township Park District and Homer Tree Care met at the Norton Building. The trees, on the east bank of the I&M Canal, fell eastward toward the building, which is just south of Ninth Street.
Jeff Loeschen, director of park services with the district, and Dan Reposh of Homer Tree Care observed the four trees, hanging over the path of the I&M Canal Trail.
Straight-line winds came through during Friday night’s storm and uprooted the trees, Homer Tree Care said. Lockport received winds as high as 85 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Romeoville.
When the trees were uprooted, a lot of turf came up with them. It was amazing to see how much ground came up. The trees did not snap in the wind; they remained intact. The ground beneath them, and the root system, was brought up in the wind.
History of the building
The Norton Building once was a warehouse for grain, located directly on the I&M Canal.
“The canal was wide enough and deep enough to where the water would have come right up to the building,” Jaskowiak said. “The large windows were the doors where they would load through from the warehouse to the barges.”
Yes, those large windows are exactly where the trees fell Friday night. The trees docked exactly where the barges used to dock.
Grain was shipped along the canal in barges pulled by mules. The Norton Building stored that grain for shipment into and out of the area, Jaskowiak said.
The mule trail was located where Canal Street is today, on the opposite side of the canal.
However, if anyone had a mule named Sal, he was nowhere to be found Friday night. And there was no call of: “Low bridge! Everybody down!”
Only high winds and cottonwoods down.