You can only image as the third largest city in the United States that Chicago, Illinois has a rich history that got this Midwestern metropolis to where it is today. Home to close to three million people it follows only New York City and Los Angeles in total population. Those people of many, many nationalities and backgrounds reside in 237 square miles. A growth that is totally locked on the east side by Lake Michigan.
The area was originally inhabited by the Algonquian Indians. The name was actually derived from a French rendering of “chicagoua”, which meant the area was abundant with wild garlic. Back in the mid 1700’s the Chicago area started with French explorers, missionaries and fur traders. There was even a fort built on the Illinois River at that time, Fort St. Louis, to help define regions for the several Indian tribes that had gathered. In 1812 the soldiers and settlers were driven out of the settlement and fort.
City of Today
In 1829 the legislative body of Illinois appointed commissioners to lay out the town. The city as we know it today then actually started growing in 1837 when businessmen understood the importance of the city geographically. It had a commanding position with the growth of transportation; routes supplying the growing west, railroad growth, shipping traffic. With the rapid expansion of the rail industry, Chicago became the world’s largest rail hub and actually influenced the nation’s economy. With the shipping traffic came all the commodity resources for processing such as lumber, iron and coal. Manufacturing and retail sectors blossomed as well. The great fire of 1871 destroyed the central business district.
18,000 buildings were destroyed and 300 people died. The city recovered and quickly rebuilt with new stringent fire codes in place.
Immigration from 1890 to 1914
Evident yet today are the specific neighborhoods settled by the many immigrants that came to Chicago to forge out a living. The first to arrive were the Germans, Irish and Scandinavians. Then came folks from Eastern and Southern Europe, represented by the Polish, Hungarians, Greeks, Italians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks and Jewish. It was the foundation for labor unions and ward-based politics, which brought violent strikes and high wages. This was a ground swell until World War I when immigration was stopped. Now we saw a migration of African Americans from the south as well as Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. This all told accumulated into 77 communities containing more than 100
As late as 1970 the slowdown of the Industrialization era closed the stockyards, steel mills and many factories. Chicago did though maintain its leadership as both a financial and transportation hub, as well as running second to New York City in the marketing communications industry of advertising. With this abundance of history involving so many different nationalities you can only imagine the tourist traffic today and the countless different day to day living experiences available in the Windy City of Chicago!
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Staying closer to River North? Here's some ideas for some great food to grab!