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Chicago, IL Area Guide

Chicago is the largest city in Illinois, and with a population of nearly three million people, it is the 3rd largest city in the United States. Located on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is the third-most densely populated major city in the U.S., and anchor to the world's 26th largest metropolitan area with over 9.5 million people across three states.

After a series of wars with the local Native Americans, Chicago was founded in 1833, near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed. The city became a major transportation and telecommunications hub in North America. Today, the city retains its status as a major hub, both for industry and infrastructure, with its O'Hare International Airport as the second busiest airport in the world. In modern times, the city has taken on additional dimension as a center for business and finance, and is listed as one of the world's top ten Global Financial Centers. Chicago is a stronghold of the Democratic Party, and has been home to influential politicians, including the current President of the United States, Barack Obama. The World Cities Study Group at Loughborough University rated Chicago as an alpha world city. Chicago has become a global city, a thriving center of international trade and commerce, and a place where people of every nationality come to pursue the American dream. Chicago has a heritage for hosting major international, national, regional, and local events that include commerce, culture, entertainment, politics, and sports.

Globally recognized, Chicago has numerous nicknames, which reflect the impressions and opinions about historical and contemporary Chicago. The best known include: "Chi-town"; the "Windy City" with reference to Chicago politicians and residents boasting about their city; "Second City," due to the city generally being the second most prestigious in the nation in terms of culture, entertainment, and finance; and because for much of the twentieth century Chicago's population was the second largest of any city in the United States, and the "City of Big Shoulders", referring to its numerous skyscrapers (whose steel frame designs were largely pioneered in Chicago), described as being husky and brawling. For this and more information, please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago.

Chicago History

Chicago is home a very rich and vibrant history that no guide could ever do justice. Therefore we included only part of the history that makes Chicago what it is today. Discover more about the vast history of Chicago by visiting: http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en/about_the_city/our_history.html.

Early Chicago

Chicago’s first permanent resident was a trader named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a free black man apparently from Haiti, who came here in the late 1770s. In 1795, the U.S. government built Fort Dearborn at what is now the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. It was burned to the ground by Native Americans in 1812, rebuilt and demolished in 1857.

A Trading Center

Incorporated as a city in 1837, Chicago was ideally situated to take advantage of the trading possibilities created by the nation’s westward expansion. The completion of the Illinois & Michigan Canal in 1848 created a water link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, but the canal was soon rendered obsolete by railroads. Today, 50 percent of U.S. rail freight continues to pass through Chicago, even as the city has become the nation’s busiest aviation center with O’Hare and Midway International airports.

The Great Fire of 1871

In the 1850s, residents raised many of the streets five to eight feet to install a sewer system – and then raised the buildings, as well. Unfortunately, the buildings, streets and sidewalks were made of wood, and most of them burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Chicago Fire Department training academy at 558 W. DeKoven St. is on the site of the O’Leary property where the fire began. The Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station at Michigan and Chicago avenues are among the few buildings to have survived the fire.