The Acme Coke Plant is the only remnant of Chicago's steel industry. Demolition had begun but was halted when the Chicago Steel Heritage Project stepped in to buy the property. Sadly the demo crews had done a lot of damage by the time a deal was made. However, many important structures were saved.
It might help to mention at this point that we are not dealing with coke, as in Coca-Cola. Also, not steel cans for Coca-Cola! Coke is a vital part of the steel making process. Coal is brought to the ovens and baked into coke. Coke is then sent to the blast furnace and used as fuel to melt iron ore to produce steel.
One highlight of the property is the quenching tower. The tower was named one of the 10 most endangered historic sites by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.
On the north end of the property is the rail dumper. Coal was brought in by rail. Strings of coal cars would surround the property as they were slowly brought to the dumper. This machine would latch on to a coal car and turn it completely over to dump coal onto the conveyor.
The plant consists of two oven batteries that would bake coal into coke. There are a total of 100 ovens that stretch for almost a city block.When operating the average gross coking time was 19 hours, and daily coke production averaged 1,530 tons. The coke plant produced almost 490,000 tons per year and employed an average of 250 people. Acme had said the ovens could last till at least 2015, they only lasted till 2001. The ovens were turned off when the plant was shutdown. When coke ovens go cold they are essentially ruined.
Between the two batteries of ovens is the mixer building used to sort various grades of coal.