For Release: 06/28/2019

Peoples Gas retires natural gas pipe in use since before Civil War

Pipe under Orleans Avenue was installed in 1859

CHICAGO – Peoples Gas today announced the retirement of its oldest working natural gas pipe –– a cast iron pipe that served Chicagoans since before the Civil War until last week. To mark the occasion, a company crew removed a 17-foot section of the 160-year-old, 20-inch-diameter pipe running under Orleans Street at its intersection with Hubbard Street in the River North neighborhood.

Peoples Gas will donate a portion of the pipe to the Chicago History Museum and also display a section at the Peoples Energy Training Center alongside a wooden natural gas pipe and other historic company items.

“This is truly an authentic piece of Chicago history that’s all the more remarkable because it was in use until just last week,” said Tim Samuelson, cultural historian for the City of Chicago.

In 1859, the year the main was installed:

  • Chicago's population was about 110,000, compared to 2.7 million today.
  • Oregon was admitted to the union as the 33rd state.
  • Abolitionist John Brown led his raid on a federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
  • Henry McCarty, later known as outlaw Billy the Kid, was born.
  • he nation’s first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania.
  • London’s Big Ben began ticking for the first time.
  • Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species"; and Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities were published.

Looking at this gas main is like looking into a time capsule. It went into service a year before Abraham Lincoln was nominated for president of the United States and 12 years before the Great Chicago Fire," Samuelson said.

Peoples Gas replaced the aging iron pipe with a modern polyethylene natural gas main as part of its System Modernization Program (SMP), a multi-decade effort to improve the long-term safety and reliability of Chicago’s natural gas delivery system.

"The natural gas main removed today served generations of Chicago residents and businesses very well, but it was time for it to go," said Andy Hesselbach, vice president – construction. “Modern plastic piping is more flexible, less prone to leaks and won’t corrode or rust like the iron and steel gas pipes of the past.”

Peoples Gas launched SMP in 2011 in response to a federal call to action to pipeline operators to upgrade aging natural gas delivery systems. The program is approximately 25% complete and eventually will touch every neighborhood in Chicago. This year, Peoples Gas will install more than 90 miles of new pipes and retire more than 60 miles from service, including the main under Orleans Avenue.

"We thank the many hardworking men and women of Gas Workers Local 18007 who are out here every day, in the elements, performing critical work to upgrade and maintain our systems-- making sure that We Keep Life Moving for Chicagoans," said Hesselbach, vice president – construction.

"We would also like to thank our construction contractor and trade-union partners, along with numerous diverse services providers that are involved in the design and installation of portions of our new modern system."

For more information about the Peoples Gas System Modernization Program, visit

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For More Information, Contact:

  • Contact: Vanessa Hall


WEC Energy Group