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Chicago, Illinois

(Redirected from Chicago, IL)
For other uses of the term, see Chicago (disambiguation)
Chicago skyline
Chicago skyline

Chicago is the third largest city in the United States with an official population of 2,896,016 as of the 2000 US Census and when combined with its suburbs a metro area population rapidly approaching ten million. A recent (2003) population estimates put the number for the city proper at 2,869,121 while suburban populations continue to grow with estimates at 9,650,137 for the combined city and suburbs, although there is skepticism about the accuracy of this estimate with regard to the city proper. (See the Demographics section for more details.)

Chicago is located in the state of Illinois on the shores of Lake Michigan. When combined with its surrounding suburbs and with Milwaukee Wisconsin, Chicago is part of a megalopolis cluster of cities.

The city of Chicago is the county seat of Cook County. The Chicago metropolitan area is known colloquially as Chicagoland, after a term promoted by the Chicago Tribune in the early 20th century. The name Chicago comes from "Checagou" (Chick-Ah-Goo-Ah) or "Checaguar" which in the language of the Potawatomi Indians means 'wild onions' or 'skunk.' The area was so named because of the smell of rotting marshland onions that used to cover it.

Four ships called the USS Chicago were named after the city by the U.S. Navy.

Chicago, Illinois
Us_illinois_chicago-l.gif Chicago-cityseal.gif
City flag City seal
City nickname: "The Windy City"
Location in the state of Illinois
County Cook County, Illinois
 - Total
 - Water

606.1 km^2 (234.0 mi²)
17.8 km² (6.9 mi²) 2.94%

 - Total (2000)
 - Metropolitan

 - Density


Time zone Central: UTC-6


41°54' N
87°39' W

External link: City web page


Chicago was first settled by Europeans when Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian of African descent, settled on the Chicago River. In 1795, the area of Chicago was ceded by the Native Americans in the Treaty of Greenville to the United States for a military post. In 1803, Fort Dearborn was built and remained in use until 1837, except between 1812 and 1816 when it was destroyed in the Fort Dearborn Massacre during the War of 1812.

On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was incorporated as a town with a population of 350. Within 7 years of being incorporated, the primarily French and Native American town had a population of over 4,000. Chicago was granted a city charter by Illinois on March 4, 1837. The opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848, allowed shipping from the Great Lakes through Chicago to the Mississippi River and so to the Gulf of Mexico. The first rail line to Chicago, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad was completed the same year. Chicago would go on to become the transportation hub of the United States with its road, rail, water and later air connections. Chicago also became home to nationwide retailers offering catalog shopping utilizing these connections like Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Company.

A simulated-color image of Chicago, taken by NASA's Landsat 7
A simulated-color image of Chicago, taken by NASA's Landsat 7

Because of the geography of Chicago early citizens faced many problems. The prairie bog nature of the area provided a fertile ground for disease-carrying insects. Early on, Chicago's population and commerce growth was stymied by lack of good transportation infrastructure, history shows that this problem soon remedied itself. In the spring Chicago was so muddy from the high water that horses would often be stuck waist deep in the street. One dirt road was so hazardous that it became known as the "Slough of Despond". Comical signs proclaiming "Fastest route to China" or "No Bottom Here" were placed out to warn passersby of the deep mud.

To address these transportation problems, the board of Cook County commissioners, at its second meeting after being created by the Illinois legislature on January 15, 1831, decided to improve two country roads toward the west and southwest. The first road went west, crossing the "dismal Nine-mile Swamp," crossed the Des Plaines River, and went southwest to Walker's Grove, which is today known as Plainfield. There is a dispute about the route of the second road to the south.

Early Chicago was also plagued by sewer and water problems. Many people described it as the filthiest city in America. To solve this problem Chicago embarked on the creation of a massive sewer system. In the first phase sewage pipes were laid across the city above ground with gravity moving the waste. Then in 1855 the level of the city was raised 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m), with individual buildings jacked up and fill brought in to raise streets above the swamp and the newly laid sewer pipes.

Aerial view of Chicago
Aerial view of Chicago

Next the city decided to work on their water problem. Because Lake Michigan—the primary source of fresh water for the city—was already highly polluted from the rapidly growing industries in and around Chicago, a new way of procuring clean water was needed. The city embarked on a large tunnel excavation project and started building tunnels underneath Lake Michigan to newly built Water Cribs . The water cribs were 2 miles (3.2 km) off the shore of Lake Michigan but they still didn't bring enough clean water because spring rains would wash the polluted water from the Chicago River into them. To solve this problem the direction of flow of the Chicago River was reversed in 1900 by the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent sewage from running into Lake Michigan.

By 1857 Chicago was the largest city in then what was known as the Northwest. In a period of 20 years Chicago grew from 4,000 people to over 90,000.

The 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago nominated home state candidate Abraham Lincoln.

In 1871, most of the city burned in the Great Chicago Fire. By this time the city had grown to a population of over 300,000. As a result of the fire much of the city needed to be rebuilt; this gave city planners a clean slate to fix the problems of the past. In the following years, Chicago architecture would become influential throughout the world because of this. The first skyscraper in the world was constructed in 1885 using novel steel skeleton construction.

On December 2, 1942, the world's first controlled nuclear reaction was conducted at the University of Chicago as part of the top secret Manhattan Project.

Mayor Richard J. Daley was elected in 1955, in the era of so-called machine politics. During Daley's tenure (he died in office in 1976), the 1968 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago, four major expressways were built, the Sears Tower became the world's tallest building and O'Hare Airport (which later became the world's busiest airport) was constructed. In 1983, Harold Washington became the first African American mayor of Chicago. Richard M. Daley, son of Richard J. Daley, became mayor in 1989.

See Also

Important Historical Events


  • "The Windy City" - It is often recited that this nickname was first used by Charles Gibson Dana , editor of the New York Sun and former editor of the Chicago Republican in 1890 in reference to the city's claims for the World Columbian Exposition. In this theory, it is said the nickname was inspired by the speechmaking proclivities of its politicians more than by its prevailing weather conditions. Ardent word sleuth Barry Popik, however, has found a reference to the "Windy City" in the Cleveland Gazette dated 19 September 1885 and the Cincinnati Enquirer dated 12 February 1877 (pg. 5, col. 2). The name may indicate the summer breezes as is described at Weather Doctor's Weather History.
  • "Second City" - So called because it was, for many years, the second-largest city in the United States (after New York City), and also because of its rebirth after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The term was originated in an article by A.J. Liebling that appeared in The New Yorker. The improvisational comedy troupe The Second City, based in Chicago, took their name from this article as well.
  • "Chi-town" or simply "Chitown" - Pronunciation of this nickname can vary from "TCHI-town" to "SHAI-town" to "CHEE-town."
  • "City of Big Shoulders" - From a Carl Sandburg poem.
  • "Hog-Butcher To The World" - From a Carl Sandburg poem.
  • "Slaughterhouse to the World"
  • "Cowtown"
  • "City by the Lake" - Used in the Smashing Pumpkins' song "Tonight, Tonight."
  • "City of the Century"
  • "My Kind of Town" - According to the song "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)" (music by James Van Heusen, words by Sammy Cahn, 1964) popularized by Frank Sinatra.
  • "That Toddling Town" - According to the lyrics of the song "Chicago" (music and words by Fred Fisher, 1922) also popularized by Frank Sinatra (as well as Tony Bennett). Surprisingly enough Chicago does not have an official song, according to the Chicago Public Library.
  • "Sweet Home, Chicago" for those who live or have ever lived there, and have wandered away.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 606.1 km² (234.0 mi²). 588.3 km² (227.1 mi²) of it is land and 17.8 km² (6.9 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 2.94% water.

Urban Setting

As mentioned later in the Street Layout subsection in the Transportation section, Madison Street in the heart of Chicago separates the city into North and South sides. More than just an address landmark, it serves as Chicago's own version of the Mason-Dixon Line. Part of this is in someway linked to history of segregation in Chicago; the South Side has large African American neighborhoods while the North Side tends to be hugely Caucasian. Unfortunately, history has not been too kind to the South Side, so while it is undergoing a resurgeance in recent years, it was the sight of many urban renewal projects that decimated the urban geography as well as upset the local economy. This is not particularly helped by the fact that common literature tends to spread the notion that the South Side is largely undesirable or unsafe (usually stemming from the segregationist sentiments about all-African American areas) despite the fact that large areas of the South Side are stable and/or middle-to-upper class. Regardless, residents identify with their side, and this fact is expressed in the tendency for South Siders to be strict adherents to the White Sox (whose stadium is on the South Side), and the tendency for North Siders to be strict adherents to the Cubs (whose stadium is on the North Side).

The West Side, that is, the area loosely west of the Loop and South Loop, while long considered a part of either the South Side or not even considered at all, as well as home to some of the most neglected and blighted neighborhoods in the city, is beginning to develop its identity, thanks in part to massive economic development in the Near West Side (bordering the Loop), city investment in the area, and a surging immigrant population. In fact, office/high-rise development in Chicago is slowly creeping across the river into the Near West Side, where transit connections are as strong, if not stronger, than the actual Loop itself.

When it comes to skyscrapers, Chicago is king, being the first US city to reach new heights, shortly joined by New York City. Chicago, along with New York City and Hong Kong, makes up the "big three" when it comes to city skylines.

Realistically by modern standards, Chicago has very little reason to build up: being located in the Midwest, Chicago has plenty of room to sprawl outwards on almost Euclidean-esque flat ground. There is, of course, the Chicago River, which may bring some argument as to geographic restriction, but the impact of which was strongly lessened by the strict adherence to the Chicago grid across the river. Mostly though, Chicago runs on energy and inertia. Even today, Chicago is going through a massive skyscraper building boom, with projects like 55 East Erie (the tallest residential building in the US outside New York City) and Trump International Hotel (to be completed in 2007, to be the fourth tallest in Chicago and the tallest building built in the US for nearly three decades) breaking ground frequently. All this can really be attributed to precedent: Chicago has always had a history of frantic skyscraper building, mostly beginning after the Great Chicago Fire, and since this time developers simply follow the pattern set before them.

Community areas

Chicago is divided into 77 Community Areas. The community areas were defined by sociologists at the University of Chicago during the 1920s, and at that time corresponded to neighborhoods. Now, many of the communities no longer correspond to any neighborhood, and many have fallen out of use as a useful signifier. However, census data and zipcodes are tied to the community areas, and they are considered more durable than the names of neighborhoods which can change very rapidly.

For purposes of relevancy, community area designation is useful more as a historical curiosity, since its use for census data and zipcodes are quite independent of the actual character of the once neighborhood. A full listing and a map is available in the article Chicago community areas.


Chicago has many informal or traditional neighborhoods that do not correspond to a community area.

Map of Chicago Neighborhoods
Albany Park Fuller Park Norwood Park
Altged Gardens Galewood O'Hare
Andersonville Garfield Park Old Town
Ashburn Garfield Ridge Oriole Park
Ashburn Estates Grand Crossing Park Manor
Austin Gresham Pilsen
Avondale Guage Park Portage Park
Back of the Yards Hamilton Park Pullman
Belmont Central Heart of Chicago Ravenswood
Beverly Hegewisch Rogers Park
Brainerd Hermosa Rosehill
Bridgeport Humboldt Park Roseland
Brighton Park Hyde Park Sauganash
Bronzeville Irving Park Scottsdale
Bucktown Lakeview (contains Boystown) South Chicago
Burnside Lathrop Homes South Deering
Canaryville Lawndale South Shore
Chatham Lincoln Park Stoney Island
Chicago Lawn Lincoln Square Streeterville (contains the Magnificent Mile)
Chinatown Little Village The Loop
Clearing Logan Square Ukrainian Village
Craigin Marquette Park Uptown
East Side Mayfair Washington Heights
Edgewater Monteclare Washington Park
Edison Park Morgan Park West Elsdon
Elsdon Mount Greenwood West Lawn
Englewood Near North Side West Pullman
Fairview Near South Side West Town
Fernwood Near West Side Wicker Park
Ford City North Center Woodlawn
Forest Glenn North Park Wrightwood

Other fairly notable neighborhoods not on the map are Buena Park, Cabrini-Green, Greektown , and Gold Coast.

Major Parks

Chicago boasts the largest park district in the United States and is managed by the Chicago Park District . The Park District manages over 220 facilities throughout the city with 7,300 acres (2,954 hectares) of parkland. Each year the Park District holds thousands of special events for the citizens. The Park District also has the excellent reputation of spending the most per capita on its parks, beating out even Boston in terms of park expenses per capita. Some of the more famous parks and facilities include:

  • Grant Park, which is often considered "Chicago's Front Lawn." Squeezed right between downtown and Lake Michigan, it is host to many regular festivals.
  • Northerly Island, the former Meigs Field before Mayor Richard M. Daley shut it down, has been converted into a nature preserve, trying to recreate the ecosystem that Chicago built up on, as well as serving as a sanctuary point for birds that have Chicago in the middle of their migratory paths. It also features small pedestrian trails so that people can walk through the area.
  • Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains around and noted for its regular light show. It is located at the heart of Grant Park.
  • Millennium Park is a redeveloped section of Grant Park opened on July 16, 2004 and features various smaller parks. Millennium Park is home to such landmarks as the Crown Fountain, Cloud Gate and the Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry.
  • Lincoln Park, perhaps one of the most well-known parks in the city of Chicago, spanning across a significant portion of the north side. It is home to the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is a free public zoo, a rarity in the US.
  • Jackson Park, probably the south side's answer to Lincoln Park. Among other things, it features lagoons, a Japanese wooded isle, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
  • Washington Park, connected to Jackson Park by the Midway Plaisance and west of the University of Chicago, it features the DuSable Museum of African American History as well as several sculptures, among other normal park amenities.
  • Garfield Park Conservatory, located on the west side, right off the Green Line, it was in danger of falling into decline, despite being one of the nation's most impressive conservatories. Fortunately, reinvestment and redevelopment has kept it in prime shape.
  • Oak Street Beach , along with Rainbow Beach are two of the more popular of the many beaches among Chicago's lakefront, north and south sides respectively.

See also


People living in the Chicago area are sometimes called Chicagoans.

As of the census of 2000, there are 2,896,016 people, 1,061,928 households, and 632,909 families residing in the city of Chicago proper. The population density is 4,923.0/km² (12,750.3/mi²). There are 1,152,868 housing units at an average density of 1,959.8/km² (5,075.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 41.97% White, 36.77% African American, 0.36% Native American, 4.35% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 13.58% from other races, and 2.92% from two or more races. 26.02% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 1,061,928 households out of which 28.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.1% are married couples living together, 18.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 40.4% are non-families. 32.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.67 and the average family size is 3.50.

In the city the population is spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 33.4% from 25 to 44, 18.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $38,625, and the median income for a family is $42,724. Males have a median income of $35,907 versus $30,536 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,175. 19.6% of the population and 16.6% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 28.1% are under the age of 18 and 15.5% are 65 or older.

As of census estimates of 2003, there are 2,869,121 people estimated to be residing in the city. However, this number has been met with some skepticism. First, this would mean a marked change in the 1990-2000 trend of population growth. Second, it seems contrary to the expectations of residents who are witnessing the largest building boom in Chicago since the Great Fire. Third, the census bureau uses different standards when estimation population numbers, and the newer population methodlogies are critiqued for understating the presence of minorities in urban centers, of which Chicago has many. Fourth, years earlier, the census had estimated a constant decline in population for Chicago until the official census of 2000 proved it wrong (vastly). Fifth, the suburban population according to this same estimate growth is continuing at a rapid pace and with new revitalization projects in place and new architecture and upper and upper-middle class townhomes and duplexes appearing on the cities near West and Northern sides with many new people moving into the city proper So, there is reason for healthy skepticism about this numbers, especially since some forms of federal funds are dependent on population numbers.

Law & Government

The City of Chicago is divided into executive and legislative branches. The mayor is the Chief Executive, elected by general election for a term of four years. The mayor appoints commissioners who oversee the various departments. The current Mayor is Richard M. Daley.

The city council is the legislative branch and made up of 50 aldermen, one elected from each ward in the city. The city council makes local ordinances and passes the city budget.

Government priorities and activities are established in a budget ordinance usually adopted in November of each year. The city takes official action through the passage of ordinances and resolutions.

In addition to the mayor, Chicago's two other city-wide elected officials are the clerk and the treasurer.

Chicago is considered to be one of the largest Democratic strongholds in the United States, as an example, the citizens of Chicago have not elected a Republican mayor since 1927 when William Thompson was voted into office.

Municipal flag of Chicago

Municipal Flag of Chicago

The three white stripes of the flag represent, from top to bottom, the North, West and South sides of the city. The top blue stripe represents Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River. The bottom blue stripes represents the South Branch of the Chicago River and the Great Canal . Finally, the four red stars on the center white stripe represent, from left to right, Fort Dearborn Massacre, the Great Chicago Fire, the World Columbian Exposition, and the Century of Progress Exposition.

In addition, each of the six points of the stars stand for a value of the city:

Sister Cities

Chicago actively pursues the sister cities program and has, in fact, the largest number of sister city connections of any city in the United States. Chicago's sister cities are:

See also

A picture of the Chicago skyline in the fog.
A picture of the Chicago skyline in the fog.

Communications & media

Broadcast television stations

  • CBS (WBBM-2)
  • NBC (WMAQ-5)
  • ABC (WLS-7)
  • WB (WGN-9)
  • PBS (WTTW-11)
  • WFBT (WFBT-23)
  • WCIU (WCIU-26)
  • FOX (WFLD-32)
  • PAX (WCPX-38)
  • TEL (WSNS-44)
  • UPN (WPWR-50)
  • WJYS (WJYS-62)
  • UNI (WGB0-66)

Radio stations

According to Arbitron, Chicago is the America's 3rd largest radio market trailing New York and Los Angeles.

AM Radio Stations

Registered Name Call Sign AM Frequency Format Network(s)
Chicago News & Talk Radio 720 WGN-AM 720 News Talk Information WGN
Newsradio 780 WBBM-AM 780 All News CBS, CNN, AP Radio
None Listed with Arbitron WAIT-AM 850 Variety Independent
Newstalk 890 WLS-AM 890 News Talk Information ABC
Air America WNTD-AM 950 News Talk Information Air America (temporarily off the air)
Chicago ESPN Radio 1000 WMVP-AM 1000 All Sports Westwood, ESPN, Premiere Radio Networks
Gospel Radio 1390 WGRB-AM 1390 Gospel American Urban Radio , Premiere Radio Networks
The Score Sports Radio WSCR-AM 670 All Sports CBS, Westwood, FoxSports Net
The Talk of Chicago WVON-AM 1450 Talk/Personality Westwood, ABC, American Urban Radio

FM Radio Stations

Registered Name Call Sign FM Frequency Format Network(s)
The New Killer Bee WBBM-FM 96.3 Rhythmic Contemporary Hit Radio CBS
Chicago Public Radio WBEZ-FM 91.5 News Talk Information NPR
The Great 105.9 WCKG-FM 105.9 Talk/Personality Westwood One Source
Chicago's Fine Arts Station WFMT-FM 98.7 Classical Independent
107.5 #1 For Hip-Hop &amp R &amp B WGCI-FM 107.5 Urban Contemporary Clear Channel
WHPK WHPK-FM 88.5 Variety Independent
Oldies 104.3 Magic WJMK-FM 104.3 Oldies Westwood, CNN
ONDA 92 WKIE-FM 92.7 Spanish Contemporary Independent
The Alternative Q101 WKQX-FM 101.1 Alternative Independent
La Ley 107.9 WLEY-FM 107.9 Mexican Regional Independent
The Lite Soft Rock Less Talk WLIT-FM 93.5 Adult Contemporary Premiere Radio Networks
The Loop WLUP-FM 97.9 Classic Rock Independent
Windy 100 80's &amp 90's WNND-FM 100.3 Adult Contemporary Independent
Smooth Jazz WNUA-FM 95.5 Smooth Jazz Premiere Radio Networks
La Que Buena 105.1 FM WOJO-FM 105.1 Mexican Regional Independent
The Mix WTMX-FM 101.9 Modern Adult Contemporary Independent
Power 92.3 WUBT-FM 92.3 Urban Contemporary ?
US99 America's Country WUSN-FM 99.5 Country Westwood
Today's R &amp B &amp Old School V103 WVAZ-FM 102.7 Urban Adult Contemporary ABC, Premiere Radio Networks
Chicago's Finest Rock WXRT-FM 93.1 Album Adult Alternative Independent
The New 103.5 KISS-FM WKSC-FM 103.5 Today's Hits Independent


By far, the Chicago Tribune enjoys the highest readership among the two main principle papers, the other being the Chicago Sun-Times. Aside from these two main giants, there are some smaller papers that enjoy city-wide readership, as well as various smaller, community-level papers. Downtown Chicago has a reputation for being filled with newspaper dispensers, a characteristic enjoyed and treasured by many residents, but many of the newspaper dispenser hotspots have been replaced with sleek, group dispensers designed to reduce clutter and improve visual aesthetics. Critics have argued that, due to the limited number of positions available in these conglomerated dispensers, smaller, independent newspapers cannot enjoy a relative freedom in display, but on the flip side, newspapers that do have a position in these dispensers get the same, clean, equal presentation as all the other papers.



Arts & culture

For its relative youth compared to eastern cities and older Californian cities, Chicago has made many significant pop-cultural contributions. In the field of music, Chicago is very well-known for its Chicago blues, but it is also the origin of House style of music, whose history is related to the development and fostering of an electronic style of music in nearby Detroit. In addition, in the field of culinary arts, Chicago provides the antithesis to New York styles of pizza and hot dogs, being synonymous with deep dish pizza in addition to being linked to a robustly complex hot dog that challenges the relative simplicity of a New York coney dog. In addition, Chicago Schools have developed in various aspects of study, such as the famed Chicago School of architecture and the University of Chicago-founded Chicago Schools of economic theory, literary criticism and urban sociology.

Chicago is a well-known theater town and is a national nexus for improvisational comedy. It is home to The Second City and ImprovOlympic, two of the largest comedy training programs in the country.

Historically, Chicago is remembered for machine politics ("Vote early and vote often" and "A city run of the Daleys, by the Daleys, for the Daleys" are two phrases associated with Chicago politics), meat packing (as mentioned in the nicknames section and made infamous by Upton Sinclair's The Jungle), and gangster violence during Prohibition (some key figures are linked to Chicago, such as Al Capone or John Dillinger).

Important Citizens or people born here

Famous attractions, landmarks & areas of interest

Chicago large-letter postcard
  • Adler Planetarium, part of the Museum Campus, offers many stellar exhibits.
  • Art Institute of Chicago, located in Grant Park, contains the largest collection of impressionist paintings outside of Paris.
  • Auditorium Building, an architectural marvel also home to Roosevelt University .
  • Biograph Theater, where John Dillinger was shot.
  • Buckingham Fountain, the great fountain located in the heart of Grant Park.
  • Chicago Historical Society
  • Chicago River, a significant natural feature that divides the city into north, west, and south sides. It has a natural green color to which several skyscrapers pay homage, and is further enhanced yearly on St. Patrick's Day, when it is dyed into an even sharper green.
  • Civic Opera House
  • Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox, successor to original Comiskey Park which functioned from 1909 to 1990. The original was torn down after the club's owner threatened to move the team to Florida if the more modern stadium was not built.
  • Daley Center
  • Drake Hotel
  • Garfield Park Conservatory, a conservatory with a well-deserved reputation for grandeur, located in the west side in the heart of Garfield PArk.
  • Grant Park, "Chicago's Front Lawn," and home to many festivals and round-the-year recreations.
  • Field Museum of Natural History, part of the Museum Campus, contains some rare exhibits, like the complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  • Fort Dearborn Site
  • John Hancock building, an architectural symbol and one of the tallest buildings in Chicago as well as the United States. It is particularly note-worthy due to its innovative use of cross-bracing.
  • Lincoln Park, one of the more well-known and significant parks (as well as the name of a nearby neighborhood) that stretches along the lakeside on the northside.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo, a large, free zoo located within Lincoln Park.
  • Maxwell Street Market
  • McCormick Place, a massive convention center (the largest in North America), frequently referred to as "The Mistake on the Lake" due to the imposing presence the dark structure creates on the lakeshore, although with continual expansions its aesthetic appeal increases.
  • McGraw Hill Building
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Museum of Science and Industry, located in Jackson Park, it is home to many interactive displays that celeberate the history of industry and innovation.
  • Navy Pier, located right north of the Loop, it is, literally, a pier that is home to a Ferris wheel and many shopping/entertainment venues that tends to be very touristy in nature.
  • Oriental Institute, within proximity of the University of Chicago, offering many exhibits from the eastern hemisphere.
  • Palmer House Hotel
  • Peggy Notebaert Museum
  • Riverview Park (1904-1967), a hugely popular amusement park on the North Side for many years.
  • Sears Tower, as of 2004 the tallest building in the United States. For several years it held the title of tallest building in the world, until the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur snatched away 1 of the 4 possible categories for victory, although this meant that during this time the Sears Tower still beat the Petronas Towers on 3 categories. With the completion of Taipei 101, Sears Tower is definitely bested, but remains a significant U.S. architectural feature.
  • Shedd Aquarium, the largest indoor aquarium in the world, located right on the lake in Museum Campus.
  • Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears
  • Standard Oil building
  • Tribune Tower, a very well-liked architectural structure that has, embedded in its walls, fragments of history (such as old fossils) that the journalists at the Tribune volunteered for such purpose.
  • Water Tower, a recognizable landmark located off Michigan Avenue north of the loop, this building is remembered for being a lone survivor of the Great Chicago Fire.
  • Wrigley Building
  • Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, and centerpiece of the Wrigleyville neighborhood.

Colleges & universities

Nearby Evanston has Northwestern University, which also has a Chicago campus in Streeterville, north of the loop. Hamburger University, a training facility for McDonald's, is located in Oak Brook.

Business & commerce

Downtown Chicago
Downtown Chicago

Chicago has been a hub for commerce in the United States for most of its modern history. Before it was incorporated as a town in 1833 the primary industry was fur trading. Chicago's early explosive growth led many land speculators and enterprising individuals to the area. Located on the Great Lakes and with so many new people settling the area Chicago became an ideal location for shipping and receiving goods to other parts of the country and world. With that, many railroads started to be built from Chicago to other parts of the country further aiding in the growth of the city. Additionally, the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal helped move goods south down the Mississippi River.

During the 1840s Chicago became the largest grain port in the world shipping food from the Mississippi Valley region which was also growing into the largest food producing region in the world. In 1848 Chicago built its first grain elevator, by 1858 there were 12 grain elevators dotting the skyline. Carl Sandburg described Chicago as a "stacker of wheat" and some would argue that the grain elevators built were Chicago's first skyscrapers.

In the 1850s and 1860s Chicago's pork and beef industry exploded. Great entrepreneurs such as Gustavus Swift and Philip Armour helped the area to become the largest producer of meat products in the world at the time. By 1862 Chicago had displaced Cincinnati, OH as "Porkapolis". During the 60's two factors helped push this more than anything else. First, the Civil War increased the demand for food products and Chicago's vast transportation ensured that goods could be delivered to soldiers quickly all over the northern United States. The second factor in increasing Chicago's meat production was the utilization of ice in meat packing plants. Before this time meat production/distribution facilities, otherwise known as dis-assembly plants had to shut down in the hot summer months. Increased operating months created hundreds of thousands of new man-hours in which people could work.

The efficiency of Chicago's meat packing industry, and particularly the dis-assembly plants inspired others such as Henry Ford later on when he developed his assembly lines for the Model-T. Today, we consider industries such as steel, oil and banking to be the great global market segments. But, in the 1860's Chicago's pork and beef industry represented the first global industry. As the major meat companies grew in Chicago many like Armour, created global companies and communicated with divisions spread across the globe via telegraph.

Modern day futures and commodity trading markets were pioneered in Chicago. A number of events led to this along with Chicago's grand transportation systems and geographic proximity to the rest of the country. Because of this, massive amounts of goods that passed through Chicago from places such as the Mississippi Valley and St. Louis. All of this grain was stored and people began buying contracts on the grain stored there. Later people as far away as New York City began buying contracts, via telegraph, on the goods that would be stored there in the future. From this the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) was established and the modern systems we use today for futures & commodity trading.

Major Companies with locations Chicago & surrounding suburbs

The following companies have locations within the city limits:

The following companies are based in Chicago's suburbs:

Sports teams


  • Taste of Chicago - Annual event in the week leading up to U.S. Fourth of July holiday in which hundreds of restaurateurs sell samples in Grant Park while bands play. This event draws millions each year.
  • Celtic Fest Chicago
  • Grant Park Free Concerts
  • Chicago Air & Water Show
  • Chicago Blues Festival
  • Chicago Country Music Festival
  • Chicago Gospel Music Festival
  • Chicago Jazz Festival
  • Chicago Venetian Night
  • Chicago SummerDance[2]
  • Saint Patrick's Day parade when the Chicago River runs green
  • Bud Billiken Day Parade, the city's main African American public event
  • Neighborhood Street Festivals - Annual events from May through September occurring in the various Chicago neighborhoods. These include:
    • Andersonville Midsommarfest
    • Bucktown Arts Fest
    • Canal Street Art Fair
    • North Halsted Market Days
    • Gold Coast Art Fair
    • Goose Island Fest
    • Retro on Roscoe
    • Rogers Park Jazz Series
    • Pulaski Day
    • Von Steuben Day
    • Wicker Park Bucktown Arts & Music Festival


The United States has the largest healthcare system in the world and Chicago is arguably the capital of that system. The city is home to the sprawling Illinois Medical District on the Near West Side as well as the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association , the American Dental Association, the American College of Surgeons . In addition, the University of Illinois is the largest medical school in North America as well as many other health-related organizations, schools and institutions.


Listed below are the ten largest hospital systems in the Chicagoland region.

Rank Name # of Beds
1. Northwestern Memorial Hospital 621
2. University of Chicago Hospitals 552
3. Loyola University Medical Center 523
4. Avocate Christ Medical Center (Oak Lawn) 586
5. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Ctr. 598
6. Advocate Lutheran (Park Ridge) 475
7. Evanston Hospital (Evanston) 416
8. Central DuPage (Winfield) 345
9. Advocate/Illinois Masonic Medical Center 467
10. University of Illinois Medical Ctr. 393


Chicago has long been considered the transportation hub of America. Much of this stems from its geographic proximity during a time when the United States was growing quickly. The Illinois and Michigan Canal completed in 1848 allowed for transport around the world with connecting waterways through Chicago all the way to New York and the Atlantic, west to St. Louis and south to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. Chicago then became one of the largest grain and lumber ports in the world with grain sent to more established populations and lumber being sent to the forest-starved prairies where new settlers needed to build.

In the 1850's the railroads started growing from Chicago faster than anywhere else in the world. By 1856 Chicago was the railroad hub of America and by the end of the decade more than 100 trains were coming and going each and every day. This network allowed Chicago to become the center of the meatpacking industry.

In the 20th century Chicago held on to its status as a transportation hub with the building of three major airports. O'Hare Airport, Midway Airport and Meigs Field. Meigs Field, which was closed by Mayor Richard M. Daley in a night coup, was a relatively small airstrip but unique because of its proximity to Chicago's downtown and, as a private airstrip, it was one of the busiest in the world. With it closed, plans to use the land are to create new parkspace along the lake.

In the 21st century Chicago is working towards maintaining its status as a transportation hub for the United States and the world by working to expand O'Hare International Airport. Additionally, a new airport is being proposed for Peotone and the city administration is working towards expanding its ties with the Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary.


Name Airport Code (Location Identifier)
Meigs Field (closed - see history) CGX
Midway Airport MDW
O'Hare International Airport ORD

Mass transit

The Regional Transportation Authority ("RTA"), installed by referendum in 1974, funds three subordinate agencies:

  • The Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA") serves the City of Chicago and its adjacent suburbs with 146 bus routes and the Chicago 'L', a network of seven rapid transit lines. The 'EL'evated nature of much of the system as well as the L-shaped curves that make up the loop of elevated tracks in downtown Chicago give the system its nickname, the L. The seven rapid transit lines are referred to by color (Blue, Red, Brown, Purple, Yellow, Green, and Orange). The Purple line, connecting Chicago to Evanston, Illinois and Wilmette, Illinois, runs through the Loop only during rush hour. The Blue and Red lines are the only 24/7 lines, although this gives Chicago the rare distinction of having 24/7 lines (only New York City shares this distinction). Currently, the Blue line has been undergoing massive infrastructure renovation. The Brown line, due to massively increased ridership, is proposed for an ambitious renewal and capacity expansion project and has already been promised federal funding. A general increase in ridership in general (despite minor drops early 2004) has led to extension in service hours, especially on the increasingly popular Brown and Purple lines. A new, eighth line has been proposed, the Circle line, which would form a large circle around the Loop (a small rectangular nexus for the Chicago 'L') and connect other various lines and Metra trains.
  • The Northeastern Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation , under its trademark Metra, operates eleven commuter rail lines that serve 200+ stations across the RTA's six-county service area. Unlike the 'L' lines, fare pricing is based on zones instead of a flat boarding fee. In addition, being mainly commuter rail service, frequent service is generally only provided during rush hours, although Metra is known for its speed and reliability. The eleven lines (while there are eleven, the Metra Electric line has three different branches) connect into one of four different downtown stations: Union Pacific North, West, and Northwest arrive in the Richard B. Oglivie Transportation Center (known more casually as the "Northwestern Station"); Milwaukee District North and West, North Central Service, Southwest Service, Burlington Northern, and Heritage Corridor converge in Union Station (along with being the nexus of Amtrak); the Rock Island Line arrives in the La Salle Street Station; and the Metra Electric arrives in the Randolph Street Station.
  • The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District ("NICTD"), separate from the RTA, operates the South Shore Line , an interurban line that runs between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana. It arrives and departs from the Randolph Street Station.
  • Pace buses serve suburban Chicagoland.

Street layout

The streets of Chicago for the most part follow the grid system which was established by the City Council in 1908 and implemented on September, 1st 1909. The baseline from which all streets and houses in Chicago are numbered are State Street, which runs North and South, and Madison Street, which runs East and West. Street numbers begin at "1" at the base lines and run numerically in directions indicated to the city limits. Letters, N,S,E and/or W indicate directions.

The City of Chicago is divided into one mile sections which on average contain 8 blocks to the mile. Every average block is assigned a new series of 100 numbers. Therefore, every 800 in numbers is approximately one mile.

Even numbers are found on the North and West sides of the street. Odd numbers are found on the South and East sides.

Lowest and highest house numbers for all streets are given regardless of the continuity of the street.

South of Madison street many of the streets are simply numbered. These streets run East and West and the number of the street indicates its location and distance.

Many of the suburbs of Chicago continue with the Chicago numbering system, and their exact location can be determined by street names and numbers. However, some suburbs do have their own numbering system.

Interesting Facts

  • On the first day of implementing the modern street numbering system 75% of the mail was incorrectly addressed.
  • There were 13 streets named Washington at the turn of the 20th Century.
  • Chicago's longest thoroughfare is Western Avenue at 23.5 miles.

See also

External links

Last updated: 11-07-2004 01:01:10