Joliet is a city in Will county in the U.S. state of Illinois, located 40 miles southwest of Chicago. It is the county seat of Will County. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 106,221. Its estimated population in 2007 was 145,800. It continues to be Illinois' fastest growing city and one of the fastest growing in the United States.
Maps from Jolliet's exploration of the area placed a large hill or mound on what is now the southwest corner of the city. That hill was named Mound Jolliet, and was made up entirely of clay. The spot was mined by early settlers and is now a depression. That depression was settled soon after and became known as the town of Rockdale.
Like many Midwestern cities dependent on manufacturing industries, Joliet has experienced past economic troubles, with the unemployment rate reaching as high as 25% in the early 1980s. Joliet's proximity to the Chicago metropolitan area has provided some relief; the city is increasingly evolving from its status as a steel-town to an exurb. Still, most new migrants to the area are moving to Joliet to live, choosing to work in bordering Cook and DuPage counties, and the downtown area, once downtrodden, is undergoing a total revitalization. The main attractions in Joliet's City Center are the Harrah's Casino and Hotel, Joliet Jackhammers baseball (Silver Cross Field), and the Rialto Square Theatre, the 'Jewel of Joliet', which has been called one of the world's 10 most beautiful theatres. The 1999 film Stir of Echoes starring Kevin Bacon had scenes shot on location in Joliet at both the Rialto Theatre (the hypnotism scenes in which Bacon saw the word "Dig" on the movie screen) and at the corner of Western Avenue and Center Street (sequences showing the front of Kevin Bacon's house). Even though the movie was set in Chicago, the location in Joliet had the right "south side" appearance and was an easier location to shoot than the large urban setting of Chicago.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 38.3 square miles (99.3 km²), of which, 38.1 square miles (98.6 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²) of it (0.76%) is water. It has a sprawling, irregular shape that extends into nine different townships, more than any other Illinois city. They are: Joliet, Plainfield, Troy, New Lenox, Jackson, Channahon, and Lockport in Will County, and Na-Au-Say and Seward in Kendall County. Joliet is a Des Plaines River town, with downtown located on the river. On each side of the river there are steep, high bluffs. This is especially evident on Interstate 80 if one is coming from the east or the west where it has been flat for many miles and suddenly the land drops as you go into the river valley. This offers a great view looking north to see downtown Joliet.
There were 36,182 households out of which 38.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.9% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.8% were non-families. 24.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.81 and the average family size was 3.39.
In the city the population was spread out with 29.5% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 33.1% from 25 to 44, 16.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $47,761, and the median income for a family was $55,870. Males had a median income of $41,909 versus $29,100 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,390. About 7.7% of families and 10.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.5% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.
A special census conducted in 2006 pegged the city's population at a certified 142,700. Joliet is currently the fastest-growing city in the Midwest and the 12th-fastest-growing city in the United States among cities with more than 100,000 people.
The famous Joliet Prison (now closed) is near downtown on Collins Street and is featured in the television show Prison Break. It was also used for the opening scenes in the popular 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers (which starred John Belushi as Joliet Jake). The Joliet Arsenal (now the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie) is in nearby Elwood. Stateville Correctional Center, the principal prison for the state of Illinois, is located in the neighboring city of Crest Hill. The Rialto Square Theatre, a favorite haunt of Al Capone and filming location for scenes from Kevin Bacon's film Stir of Echoes, is on Chicago Street downtown. There are two riverboat casinos in Joliet: the Empress Casino near Channahon and Rockdale, and a Harrah's hotel and casino downtown. (There are also many restaurants and shops, including the Westfield Louis Joliet mall located on Rt. 30 at the intersection of I-55.)
Located at the northeast corner of Chicago and Clinton Streets, in downtown Joliet, is the historic Auditorium Building. Designed by G. Julian Barnes and built of limestone in 1891, it was controversial as one of the first buildings to combine religious, civic, and commercial uses.
Chicagoland Speedway is in Joliet, hosting annual events from NASCAR and the Indy Racing League. During major races, the population of the city more than doubles due to the large influx of fans. Next door to Chicagoland Speedway, Route 66 Motor Speedway features National Hot Rod Association events on its drag-strip. Joliet Central has become actively involved in Route 66 by building an Alternative Fuel Source Vehicle