2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: North American Geography

Chicago, Illinois
Skyline of Chicago, Illinois
Official flag of Chicago, Illinois
Official seal of Chicago, Illinois
Flag Seal
Nickname: " The Windy City, The Second City, Chi Town, "The City of Big Shoulders""
Motto: Urbs In Horto" (Latin: "City in a Garden"), "I Will"
Location in Chicagoland and Illinois
Location in Chicagoland and Illinois
Coordinates: 41°54′N 87°39′W
Country United States
State Illinois
County Cook
Incorporated March 4, 1837
Mayor Richard M. Daley ( D)
 - City 606.2 km²  (234.0  sq mi)
 - Land 588.3 km²  (227.2 sq mi)
 - Water 17.9 km² (6.9 sq mi)  3.0%
 - Urban 5,498.1 km² (2,122.8 sq mi)
 - Metro 28,163 km² (10,874 sq mi)
Elevation 179 m  (587 ft)
 - City (2006) 2,873,790
 - Density 4,867/km² (12,604/sq mi)
 - Urban 8,711,000
 - Metro 9,661,840
Time zone CST ( UTC-6)
 - Summer ( DST) CDT ( UTC-5)

Chicago (pron. ʃɪˈkɑːgoʊ ) refers to a major city in Illinois and a metropolitan area that includes the city and surrounding areas. The City of Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest and the third-most populous city in the United States, with approximately 2.9 million people. The Chicago Metropolitan area, sometimes informally called Chicagoland, has a population of 9.4 million in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana making it the third largest in the United States. Chicago is located along the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and is a centre of transportation, industry, politics, finance, medicine and higher education. Chicago is informally called the " Second City,"(referring to the fire in 1873 that destroyed nearly all of the city) the " Windy City," the " City of Big Shoulders", and "Chi-town."

Chicago was founded 1833 as a town to link the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River system It soon became a transportation hub of the Old Northwest, with major connections by steamboats, canals and (by 1855), railroads. By 1890 it was one of the ten most influential world cities.


Chicago, looking north from State and Washington Streets in the 19th Century
Chicago, looking north from State and Washington Streets in the 19th Century
 Chicago City Hall just before completion in 1911.
Chicago City Hall just before completion in 1911.

During the mid-1700s the Chicago area was inhabited primarily by Potawatomis, who took the place of the Miami and Sauk and Fox people. The first non-native settler in Chicago, Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, was Haitian and arrived in the 1770s, married a Potawatomi woman, and founded the area's first trading post. In 1803, the United States Army built Fort Dearborn, which was destroyed in 1812 in the Fort Dearborn Massacre. The Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi later ceded the land to the United States in the Treaty of St. Louis of 1816. On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was organized with a population of 350, and within seven years it grew to a population of over 4,000. The City of Chicago was incorporated on March 4, 1837.

Chicago in its first century was one of the fastest growing cities in the world, heavily promoted by Yankee entrepreneurs and land speculators. It reached 1 million people by 1890.

Starting in 1848, the city became an important transportation link between the eastern and western United States with the opening of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, Chicago's first railway, and the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which allowed steamboats and sailing ships on the Great Lakes to connect through Chicago to the Mississippi River. With a flourishing economy that brought many new residents from rural communities and German American, Irish American, Swedish American and numerous other immigrants, Chicago grew from a city of 299,000 to nearly 1.7 million between 1870 and 1900. The city's manufacturing and retail sectors dominated the Midwest and greatly influenced the American economy, with the Union Stock Yards' dominating the meat packing trade.

State Street in 1907
State Street in 1907

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Chicago experienced rapid rebuilding and growth. During Chicago's rebuilding period, the first skyscraper was constructed in 1885 using steel-skeleton construction. In 1893, Chicago hosted the World's Columbian Exposition on former marshland at the present location of Jackson Park. The World's Columbian Exposition drew 27.5 million visitors, and is considered among the most influential world's fairs in history. The University of Chicago was founded one year earlier in 1892 on the same location. The term "midway" for a fair or carnival referred originally to the Midway Plaisance, a strip of park land that still runs through the University of Chicago campus & connects Washington & Jackson parks.

The city was the site of labor conflicts and unrest during this period, which included the Haymarket Riot on May 4, 1886. Concern for social problems among Chicago's lower classes led to the founding of Hull House in 1889, of which Jane Addams was a co-founder. The city also invested in many large, finely-landscaped municipal parks, which also included public sanitation facilities.

Lake Michigan - the primary source of fresh water for the city - was already highly polluted from population growth and the rapidly growing industries in and around Chicago. The city responded by embarking on several large public works projects, including a large excavation project which built tunnels below Lake Michigan to newly built water cribs which were two miles (3 km) off the lakeshore. However, the cribs failed to bring enough clean water since spring rains would wash the polluted water from the Chicago River into them. Beginning in 1855, Chicago constructed the first comprehensive sewer system in the U.S. In 1900, the problem of sewage was solved by reversing the direction of the River's flow with the construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal leading to the Illinois River.

The Chicago River at night
The Chicago River at night

The 1920s brought international notoriety to Chicago as gangsters such as Al Capone battled each other and the law during the Prohibition era. Nevertheless, the 1920s also saw a large increase in Chicago industry as well as the first arrivals of the Great Migration that would lead thousands of mostly Southern blacks to Chicago and other Northern cities. 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. Starting in the 1950s, many upper and middle-class citizens left the inner-city of Chicago for the suburbs and left many impoverished neighborhoods in their wake. Nevertheless, the city hosted the 1968 Democratic National Convention and saw the construction of the Sears Tower (which became the world's tallest building), McCormick Place, and O'Hare Airport. In 1979 Jane Byrne, the city's first female mayor, was elected. She popularized the city as a movie location and tourist destination, but also failed to manage its finances well.

In 1983 Harold Washington became the first African American to be elected to the office of mayor; during his time in office, Chicago spent the same amount of public funds in each of its wards for the first time in its history. Current mayor Richard M. Daley, son of Richard J. Daley, was first elected in 1989. New projects during the younger Daley's administration have made Chicago larger, more environmentally friendly, and more accessible.

Since the early 1990s, Chicago has seen a turnaround with increased ethnic diversity and many formerly abandoned neighborhoods starting to show new life. As a part of its environmentally friendly image, Chicago declared the peregrine falcon, a protected species that started to build its nests in Chicago skyscrapers, the official bird of the city in 1999. Under the current Mayor Daley, Chicago has seen considerable investment in infrastructure, revitalizing downtown theatres and retail districts, and improving lakefront and riverfront cityscapes.

Origin of name

The indigenous Potawatomi tribe called the marshes on which Chicago was later built "Checagou (prounounced 'She-Ka-Gan')," which translates to "wild onion" or "garlic." European explorers assigned the name to the Chicago River, followed by settlers' delegating it as the name of the city. Before Chicago's founding, the name of the river was spelled several ways, such as "Chetagu" or "Shikago."

The origin of Chicago's nickname as "The Windy City" is debated (see List of nicknames for Chicago). The most common explanation had been that the phrase was created by New York newspapers in the 1880s during a national debate over which city would host the 1893 World's Fair, making reference to the long-windedness of the city's supporters. However, "Windy City" was used before this by the Chicago Fire. As a result, the name remains in common usage.



Landsat image of the Chicagoland area
Landsat image of the Chicagoland area

Located in northeastern Illinois at the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan, Chicago's official geographic coordinates are 41°53′0″N, 87°39′0″W. It sits on the continental divide at the site of the Chicago Portage, connecting the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes watersheds. The city lies beside Lake Michigan and two rivers: the Chicago River in downtown and the Calumet River in the industrial far South Side flow entirely or partially through Chicago. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal connects the Chicago River with the Des Plaines River, which runs to the west of the city.

When Chicago was founded in the 1830s, most of the early building began around the mouth of the Chicago River. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago has a total area of 234.0 square miles (606.1  km²), of which 227.1 square miles (588.3 km²) is land and 6.9 square miles (17.8 km²) is water. The total area is 2.94% water.

The city has been built on relatively flat land; the average elevation of land is 579 feet (176  m) above sea level. The lowest points are along the lake shore at 577 feet (176 m), while the highest point at 735 feet (224 m) is in the landfill on the city's far south side ( 41°39′18″N, 87°34′44″W).


Chicago, like much of the Midwest, has a climate that is prone to extreme, often volatile, weather conditions. The city experiences four distinct seasons. In July, the warmest month, high temperatures average 84 ° F (29 ° C) and low temperatures 63 °F (17 °C). In January, the coldest month, high temperatures average 29 °F (−2 °C) with low temperatures averaging 13 °F (−11 °C). According to the National Weather Service, Chicago's highest official temperature reading of 105 °F (40 °C) was recorded on July 24, 1934. The lowest temperature of −27 °F (−32 °C) degrees was recorded on January 20, 1985.

Chicago's yearly precipitation averages about 38 inches (965  mm). Summer is the rainiest season, with short-lived rainfall and thunderstorms more common than prolonged rainy periods. Winter is the driest season, with most of the precipitation falling as snow. Chicago's highest one day precipitation total was 6.49 inches (164 mm) which fell on August 14, 1987.


Downtown Chicago at night
Downtown Chicago at night
The El
The El

The city’s streets are organized in a grid pattern. The pattern is modified by the shoreline, the three branches of the Chicago River, the system of active/inactive rail lines, several diagonal streets (including Clybourn Street, Milwaukee, Lincoln, Elston, Archer, Broadway, and Ogden Avenues), the expressways, and hundreds of bridges and viaducts. In addition, the baselines for numbering streets and buildings are State Street (for east-west numbering) and Madison (for north-south numbering). Street numbers begin at "1" at the baselines and run numerically in directions indicated to the city limits, with N, S, E, and W indicating directions. Chicago is divided into one-mile sections which usually contain eight blocks to the mile. Chicago streets were renumbered in 1909. This adjustment was responsible for the current eight blocks to one mile rule, with the exception of the streets for three miles immediately south of Madison. Between Madison and Roosevelt (12th), twelve blocks are used per mile, between Roosevelt and Cermak (22nd Street), ten blocks make one mile, and between Cermak and 31st Street nine blocks make a mile. Even-numbered addresses are on the north and west sides of streets; odd-numbered addresses are on the south and east sides.

Madison Street, in addition to simply being an origin point for north-south numbering, also divides the city into two well-established areas, the North Side and the South Side. The rivalry between the North and South sides are distinct, etched from different ethnic origins and historical developments, as well as culminating in the contemporary rivalry between the two Chicago baseball teams - the Chicago Cubs are considered to be the representative team for the North Side, whereas the Chicago White Sox are considered to be the South Side's counterpart. Note that despite the primary focus on the North-South rivalry, there are other geographic designations for the city, most commonly being the West Side, which broadly encompasses the area west of both the north and south branches of Chicago River. The Northwest and Southwest sides of the city area also referenced with frequency, though they tend to be subsumed under one of the three aforementioned areas.

Since the first steel-framed high-rise building of the world was constructed in the city in 1885, Chicago has been known for its skyscrapers. Today, many high-rise buildings are located in the downtown area, notably in the Loop and along the lakefront and the Chicago River. The three tallest buildings are the Sears Tower (also the tallest building in the United States), the Aon Centre, and the John Hancock Centre. The rest of the city consists of low-rise buildings and single-family homes. There are clusters of industrialized areas, including the lakefront near the Indiana border, the area south of Midway Airport, and the banks of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Future building sites that will contribute to Chicago's skyline include Waterview Tower, the Chicago Spire, and the Trump International Hotel and Tower. The 60602 zipcode was named by Forbes as the hottest zipcode in the country with upscale buildings such as The Heritage at Millennium Park (130 N. Garland) leading the way for other buildings such at Waterview Tower, The Legacy and Momo. The median sale price for residential real estate was $710,000 in 2005 according to Forbes.

Along Lake Shore Drive, parks line the lakefront. The most notable of these parks are Grant Park and Millennium Park,

Cloudgate at Millennium Park
Cloudgate at Millennium Park

which border the east end of the Loop, Lincoln Park on the north side, and Jackson Park in the Hyde Park neighbourhood on the south side. Interspersed within this system of parks are 31 beaches, a zoo and several bird sanctuaries, McCormick Place Convention Centre, Navy Pier, Soldier Field, the Museum Campus, and a water treatment plant.

Pushed along by the national real estate boom in recent years, Chicago has seen an unprecedented surge in skyscraper construction, most notably in the area directly south ( South Loop) and north ( River North) of the Loop. This has been accompanied by a rapid gentrification of many parts of the city, as once-dormant areas become "hip" neighborhoods replete with an increased level of commercial services. An example is a section of the near-west-side neighbourhood West Town called Wicker Park.

Chicago Skyline stretching from Shedd Aquarium to Navy Pier taken from Adler Planetarium Oct. 06
Chicago Skyline stretching from Shedd Aquarium to Navy Pier taken from Adler Planetarium Oct. 06


See also: Chicago Neighborhoods

North Side

Boystown in Chicago's North Side during a Gay Pride Parade
Boystown in Chicago's North Side during a Gay Pride Parade

The North Side encompasses neighborhoods such as Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, Lakeview, Logan Square, Ravenswood, and Rogers Park. Due to historical economic developments and trends, the North Side is also the most densely developed and, on average, wealthiest side of Chicago. The North Side is primarily served by the Red Line on the CTA, though the further one lives from Lake Michigan, the less dense rail service of any kind becomes.

Ethnically, the North Side perhaps serves as also the primary melting pot of Chicago. Originally the main destination for German, Swedish, and Polish immigrants, the legacy of immigration has created diverse areas, particularly the extremely popular area around Devon Avenue, which is home to primarily Near Eastern and South Asian residents, and the accompanying restaurants and accoutrements. Strong Vietnamese and other Southeast and East Asian populations are also prevalent, especially within and about the Uptown neighborhood. Of particular note, however, is the significant gay population, much of it concentrated in an area in the Lakeview neighbourhood coyly referred to as "Boystown," stretching along the north-south Halsted Avenue. Recent city-sponsored community projects have even resulted in numerous rainbow-colored abstract pillars being erected here to symbolize gay pride and to display Chicago's general acceptance of the gay community.

Much of the North Side has benefited from Chicago's massive building and economic boom since the 1990s, resulting in the fast redevelopment and escalation of land values in now extremely popular neighborhoods such as Lincoln Park and Lakeview. River North, in particular, an area just north the Chicago River and the Loop, has undergone a rapid transition from a former and rather derelict warehouse district (aside from Michigan Avenue and its nearby developments) into a dense commercial, residential, and entertainment district, filled with numerous, modern skyscrapers.

South Side

Chicago's Chinatown, located on the South Side
Chicago's Chinatown, located on the South Side

The South Side encompasses neighborhoods such as Armour Square, Back of the Yards, Beverly, Bridgeport, Bronzeville, Hyde Park, historic Pullman, Morgan Park, Washington Park, and South Shore. In the 1860-1940 era the South Side was home to numerous European ethnic groups, under the political leadership of the Irish. After 1945 most of the European ethnics moved to suburban areas, and were replaced by African American migrants from the South and Puerto Ricans. Recently Hispanics, especially Mexicans, have arrived in large numbers. The large industrial plants have mostly closed, most famously the Chicago stockyards that in the 1920s employed upwards of 50,000 men.

Parts of the South Side historically were home to Chicago's elite and wealthy, as evidenced by the sprawling mansions in areas south of the Loop. The South Side is also less dense than the North Side, both in part due to historical trends in development but also due to significant loss of population in several of the South Side's neighborhoods. Redevelopment and reintegration of the South Side has also been hampered by historical actions that have had far-reaching consequences in segregating areas of the South Side. Of particular note was the routing of the Dan Ryan Expressway in such a way as to act as a dividing line between white neighborhoods (such as Bridgeport) and black neighborhoods (Bronzeville). In addition, a vast swath of South State Street was covered in a massive housing development project known as the Robert Taylor Homes, which had a reputation for high rates of crime and poverty. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others tried direct action to replace slums through the Chicago Freedom Movement in the late 1960s, with little tangible success. However, these buildings have now been all but demolished in Chicago's recent movement to replace public housing with mixed-income, progressive new housing developments, known as the Plan for Transformation (see The Chicago Housing Authority).

Many areas of the South Side are stable, middle-class, and diverse. Chinatown, for example, has seen a constant surge in growth and popularity, and has become a site of East Asian culture and restaurants. Hyde Park is home to the prestigious University of Chicago and most of its faculty. Rehabilitation and gentrification can be seen in parts of Woodlawn, Bronzeville, Bridgeport and McKinley Park. Historic Pullman is one of Chicago's most historic neighbourhood and is in the process of gentrification.

Southwest Side

The southwest side of Chicago is comprised predominantly of residential neighborhoods, many of them home to significant Irish-American communities (unlike the predominantly black areas of the south side to the east). The area is host to the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the city (the other being downtown).

The " Bungalow Belt" reaches deeply into the southwest side of the city, giving the area a distinctive architectural look and significance, as well as a lower overall population density than areas closer to the lakefront.

Midway International Airport is located in the southwest side of the city. The area is served by the Orange line elevated train (to Midway) & also the 54th/Cermak line on the Pink/(Blue) line train as well.

West Side

The West Side encompasses neighborhoods such as Austin, Pilsen, Garfield Park, West Town, and Humboldt Park. This area has heavily industrialized sections and a vast swath of run-down neighborhoods through Lawndale and Garfield Park. These are areas of high crime and gang activity from Latin Kings & Vice Lords. However, other parts, such as West Town and the West Loop have been extensively gentrified and are now home to many transplanted suburbanites and are havens for new yuppies relocating from all over the Midwest. The southernmost neighborhoods are home to a large part of Chicago's Hispanic population while farther north are several working- and middle-class neighborhoods. The United Centre is located on the West Side.


A Chicago jazz club
A Chicago jazz club

In 1998, the city officially opened the Museum Campus, a 10- acre (4- ha) lakefront park surrounding three of the city's main museums: the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Shedd Aquarium. The Museum Campus was constructed on the southern section of Grant Park. Grant Park is also home to Chicago's other major downtown museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, which is partnered with The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, located in the Hyde Park neighbourhood, is housed in the only in-place surviving building from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

The Oriental Institute, part of the University of Chicago, has an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeological artifacts, while the Freedom Museum is dedicated to exploring and explaining the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Other museums and galleries in Chicago are the Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African-American History, Mexican Fine Arts Centre Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Chicago has a major theatre scene, and is the birthplace of modern improvisational comedy. The city is home to two renowned comedy troupes: The Second City and I.O. (formerly known as ImprovOlympic). Renowned Chicago theatre companies include the Steppenwolf Theatre Company (on the city's north side), the Goodman Theatre, and the Victory Gardens Theatre. Other theatres, from nearly 100 storefront performance spaces such as the Strawdog Theatre Company, the House Theatre Company, TimeLine Theatre Company and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company in the Lakeview area to landmark downtown houses such as the Chicago Theatre, present a variety of plays and musicals. The city is home to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Joffrey Ballet, and several modern and jazz dance troupes. The city's classical music scene is also home to companies including Music of the Baroque, Chicago Opera Theatre, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, Chicago a cappella, and many others.

Chicago is known for its Chicago blues, Chicago soul, Jazz, and Gospel. This strong tradition of music and musical innovation have continued into contemporary styles. The city is the birthplace of the House style of music, and is the site of an influential Hip-Hop scene. In the 1980s the city was a centre for industrial, punk and new wave (spawning the famous Wax Trax! label); this influence continued into the alternative scene of the 1990s. Chicago was an epicenter of the development of rave culture in the 1980's even through today. There is a flourishing independent rock scene, including the recent explosion of Chicago emo acts, with multiple festivals featuring various acts each year ( Lollapalooza, the Intonation Music Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival being the most prominent).

Chicago has several signature foods which reflect the city's ethnic and working-class roots. These include the deep-dish pizza and the Chicago hot dog, which is almost always made of Vienna Beef and loaded with mustard, chopped onion, sliced tomato, pickle relish, celery salt, sport peppers, and a dill pickle spear (however, putting ketchup on a Chicago hot dog is often viewed as 'sacrilegious'). Chicago is also known for Italian Beef sandwiches and the Maxwell Street Polish (always served topped with grilled onions and mustard). The city has many upscale dining establishments as well as many ethnic restaurant districts. These include "Greektown" on South Halsted, "Little Italy" on Taylor Street, just west of Halsted, "Chinatown" on the near South Side, and South Asian on Devon Avenue. Each summer at the end of June there is a food festival called the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park. The park is home to the famous Buckingham fountain and is located right in the midst of downtown off the lake. Every type of food in the city is represented, with free concerts and events daily.


Navy Pier
Navy Pier

Thirty-three million foreign and domestic visitors came to Chicago in 2005. Luxury shopping along the Magnificent Mile, thousands of restaurants, as well as Chicago's position as global architectural capital, have attracted millions of tourist over the years. The city is also a convention hub, being America's third largest city for conventions, behind only Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Navy Pier, a 3000- foot (900 m) pier housing restaurants, shops, museums, exhibition halls, auditoriums, and a 150-foot-tall (45 m) Ferris wheel, is located north of Grant Park on the lakefront, and is one of the most visited landmark in Midwest attracting over 8 million people in 2005.

The Chicago Cultural Centre, built in 1897 as Chicago's first permanent public library, now houses the city's Visitor Information Centre, galleries, and exhibit halls. The ceiling of Preston Bradley Hall includes a 38-foot (11 m) Tiffany glass dome. Millennium Park is a rebuilt section of Grant Park that was planned for unveiling at the turn of the 21st century, though it was delayed for several years. The park includes the original sculpture Cloud Gate (known locally as The Bean). When visitors face The Bean and Lake Michigan, a curved image of the Chicago skyline is reflected back. Millennium Park also contains a restaurant with an outdoor seating section that is transformed into an ice skating rink in the winter. Two tall glass sculptures make up the Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa. The fountain's two towers display huge LED images of Chicagoans' faces, with water spouting from their pursed lips. Frank Gehry's ornate stainless steel bandshell, Pritzker Pavilion, is home to the Grant Park Music Festival, a free summer series of classical concerts. Behind the pavilion's stage is the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, an indoor venue for mid-sized performing arts companies, including Chicago Opera Theatre and Music of the Baroque. Gehry's stainless steel BP Bridge connects Millennium Park with Daley Bicentennial Plaza.


U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago's South Side. Home of the Chicago White Sox
U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago's South Side. Home of the Chicago White Sox

Chicago has 15 sports teams. Chicago is one of only a few cities to have its major sports teams play within its city limits. It is one of three U.S. cities that has two Major League Baseball teams, and the only city to have always had more than one baseball team since the forming of the American League in 1900. The Chicago Cubs of the National League play at Wrigley Field, which is located in the North Side neighbourhood of Lakeview, commonly referred to as "Wrigleyville." The Chicago White Sox of the American League, who recently won the World Series in 2005, play at U.S. Cellular Field, located in the city's South Side Bridgeport neighbourhood.

Wrigley Field on the North Side. Home of the Chicago Cubs
Wrigley Field on the North Side. Home of the Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association are one of the world's most recognized basketball teams, thanks to their enormous success during the Michael Jordan era, when they won six NBA titles in the 1990s. The Bulls play at the United Centre on Chicago's Near West side. They share the "UC" with the Chicago Blackhawks, of the National Hockey League. The Hawks are an Original Six franchise, founded in 1926, and last won the Stanley Cup in 1961.

The Chicago Bears of the National Football League play at Soldier Field. The Chicago Bears have won nine American Football championships (eight NFL Championships and Super Bowl XX) trailing only the Green Bay Packers, who have twelve.

The Chicago Fire, members of Major League Soccer, won one league and four US Open Cups since 1997. After eight years at Soldier Field, they recently moved to the new Toyota Park in Bridgeview at 71st and Harlem Avenue during the summer of 2006.

The Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League and Chicago Rush of the Arena football League both play at the Allstate Arena in nearby Rosemont. The Rush are the defending Arenabowl champions. The Wolves have won league champonships in 1998, 2000, and 2002. Their first season was 1994-95.

Chicago United, USAFL members, are the Australian Rules football club in the city, competing in the MAAFL.

The city has offered an official Olympic bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and is considered a strong contender among the two candidate American cities.. Chicago also hosted the 1959 Pan American Games, and Gay Games VII in 2006.


The Chicago Board of Trade Building at night
The Chicago Board of Trade Building at night

Chicago has the third largest gross metropolitan product in the nation - approximately $390 billion. The city has also been rated as having the most balanced economy in the United States due to its high level of diversification. Additionally, the Chicago metropolitan area recorded the greatest number of new or expanded corporate facilities in the United States for four of the past five years.

Chicago is a major financial centre with the second largest central business district in the U.S. The city is the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (the Seventh District of the Federal Reserve). The city is also home to four major financial and futures exchanges, including the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (the "Merc"). Chicago and the surrounding areas also house many major brokerage firms and insurance companies, such as Allstate Corporation and Zürich North America. In addition, despite Chicago commonly being perceived as a rust-belt city, a study indicated that Chicago has the largest high-technology and information-technology industry employment in the United States.

Manufacturing (which includes chemicals, metal, machinery, and consumer electronics), printing and publishing, and food processing also play major roles in the city's economy. Nevertheless, much of the manufacturing occurs outside the city limits, especially since World War II. Several medical products and services companies are headquartered in the Chicago area, including Baxter International, Abbott Laboratories, and the Healthcare Financial Services division of General Electric. Moreover, the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which helped move goods from the Great Lakes south on the Mississippi River, and the railroads in the 1800s made the city a major transportation centre in the United States. In the 1840s, Chicago became a major grain port, and in the 1850s and 1860s Chicago's pork and beef industry expanded. As the major meat companies grew in Chicago many, such as Armour, created global enterprises. Though the meatpacking industry currently plays a lesser role in the city's economy, Chicago continues to be a major tranportation and distribution centre. The city remains the third busiest intermodal port in the world after Hong Kong and Singapore.

The city is also a major convention destination; Chicago is third in the U.S. behind Las Vegas and Orlando as far as the number of conventions hosted annually. In addition, Chicago is home to eleven Fortune 500 companies, while the metropolitan area hosts an additional 21 Fortune 500 companies. Chicago also hosts 12 Fortune Global 500 companies and 17 Financial Times 500 companies. The city and its surrounding metropolitan area are also home to the second largest labor pool in the United States with approximately 4.25 million workers. In 2006, Chicago placed 10th on the UBS list of the world's richest cities.


City of Chicago
Population by year
Population Rank
1840 4,470 92
1850 29,963 24
1860 112,172 9
1870 298,977 5
1880 503,185 4
1890 1,099,850 2
1900 1,698,575 2
1910 2,185,283 2
1920 2,701,705 2
1930 3,376,438 2
1940 3,396,808 2
1950 3,620,962 2
1960 3,550,404 2
1970 3,366,957 2
1980 3,005,072 2
1990 2,783,726 3
2000 2,896,016 3

As one of the largest cities in North America, the population of Chicago is cosmopolitan. Chicago's citizens speak over 100 different languages, and draw from a diverse range of peoples, cultures and religions. Residents of Chicago are referred to as Chicagoans.

A 2006 estimate puts the city's population at 2,873,790. As of the 2000 census, there were 2,896,016 people, 1,061,928 households, and 632,909 families residing within Chicago. This encompasses about one-fifth of the entire population of the state of Illinois and 1% of the population of the United States. The population density was 12,750.3 people per square mile (4,923.0/km²). There were 1,152,868 housing units at an average density of 5,075.8 per square mile (1,959.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 36.39% Black or African American, 31.32% White, 26.02% Hispanic or Latino, 4.33% Asian and Pacific Islander, 1.64% from two or more races, 0.15% Native American, and 0.15% from other races. The city itself makes up 23.3% percent of the total population of Illinois, down from a high of 44.3% in 1930.

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

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

The median income for a household in the city was $38,625, and the median income for a family was $46,748. Males had a median income of $35,907 versus $30,536 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,175. Below the poverty line are 19.6% of the population and 16.6% of the families. Of the total population, 28.1% of those under the age of 18 and 15.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Chicago has a large Irish-American population on its South Side. Many of the city's politicians have come from this population, including current mayor Richard M. Daley. Other European ethnic groups are the Germans, Italians and Polish. The majority of African Americans are also located on Chicago's South Side, although there is a sizable population on Chicago's less impoverished West Side. Chicago also has the largest number of African Americans in it's metropolitan area, behind New York City. Chicago has the largest population of Swedish-Americans of any city in the U.S. with approximately 123,000. After the Great Chicago Fire, many Swedish carpenters helped to rebuild the city, which led to the saying the Swedes built Chicago. Swedish influence is particularly evident in Andersonville. Chicago is the home of the Evangelical Covenant Church .

Chicago has the largest Bulgarian community in the world (outside Bulgaria) with more than 150,000 Bulgarians living in the city. The city has the largest ethnically Polish population outside of Poland, making it one of the most important Polonia centers. Chicago is also the second-largest Serbian and Lithuanian city, and the third largest Greek city in the world. Chicago has a large Romanian-American community with more than 100,000, as well as a large Assyrian population with about 80,000. The city is home to the seat of the head of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV, the Evangelical Covenant Church , and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America headquarters.

The Chicago Metropolitan area is also a major centre for Indian-Americans and South Asians. Chicago has the third-largest South Asian population in the United States, after New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Devon Avenue corridor on Chicago's north side is one of the largest South Asian neighborhoods in North America. Chicago also has the second-largest Puerto Rican population in the United States after New York City. There are also around 185,000 Arabs in Chicago and with the majority located in the suburban parts of Cook County around Chicago. There are about 75,000 more Arabs who live in the five counties around Cook County including Lake, Kendall, Will, and DuPage.

Chicago's 2006 population estimate of 2,873,790 is debated by some since there has been significant construction in the city in the 6 years since the 2000 census.

Over 1/3 of the population of Chicago is concentrated in the lakefront neighborhoods of the city (from Rogers Park in the north to Hyde Park in the south). Encompassing roughly 55 square miles & 1.2 million people with a population density of 21,205 people per square mile. This makes Chicago's lakefront the most densely populated area in the United States outside of New York City.

Law and government

A Critical Mass gathering on the Daley Plaza, with the Chicago City Hall in the background
A Critical Mass gathering on the Daley Plaza, with the Chicago City Hall in the background

Chicago is the county seat of Cook County. The government of the City of Chicago is divided into executive and legislative branches. The Mayor of Chicago is the chief executive, elected by general election for a term of four years. The mayor appoints commissioners and other officials who oversee the various departments. In addition to the mayor, Chicago's two other citywide elected officials are the clerk and the treasurer.

The City Council is the legislative branch and is made up of 50 alderman, one elected from each ward in the city. The council enacts local ordinances and approves the city budget. Government priorities and activities are established in a budget ordinance usually adopted each November. The council takes official action through the passage of ordinances and resolutions.

During much of the last half of the 19th century, Chicago's politics were dominated by a growing Democratic Party organization dominated by ethnic ward-healers. During the 1880s and 1890s, Chicago had a powerful radical tradition with large and highly organized socialist, anarchist and labor organizations. For much of the 20th century, Chicago has been among the largest and most reliable Democratic strongholds in the United States, with Chicago's Democratic vote totals' leading the state of Illinois to be " solid blue" in presidential elections since 1992. The citizens of Chicago have not elected a Republican mayor since 1927, when William Thompson was voted into office. The strength of the party in the city is partly a consequence of Illinois state politics, where the Republicans have come to represent the rural and farm concerns while the Democrats support urban issues such as Chicago's public school funding.

Former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley's mastery of machine politics preserved the Chicago Democratic Machine long after the demise of similar machines in other large American cities. During much of that time the city administration found opposition mainly from a liberal "independent" faction of the Democratic Party. The independents finally won control of city government in 1983 with the election of Harold Washington. Since Washington's death, Chicago has since been under the leadership of Richard M. Daley, the son of Richard J. Daley. Because of the dominance of the Democratic Party in Chicago, the Democratic primary vote held in the spring is generally more significant than the full November elections.


A Chicago police officer
A Chicago police officer

In addition to its gangland problems, Chicago historically saw a major rise in violent crime starting in the late 1960s. Nevertheless, like most major American cities, Chicago has experienced a decline in overall crime since the 1990s. Murders in the city peaked first in 1974, with 970 murders when the city's population was over three million (resulting in a murder rate of around 29 per 100,000), and again in 1992, with 943 murders when the city had fewer than three million people, resulting in a murder rate of 34 per 100,000. It peaked again in 1993 with 931 murders. Following 1992, the murder count slowly decreased to 705 by 1999; by this time, it had the most murders of any big city in the U.S. After adopting crime-fighting techniques recommended by Los Angeles' and New York City Police Departments in 2004, Chicago recorded 448 homicides, the lowest total since 1965. Nevertheless, this murder rate of 15.65 per 100,000 population is still above the U.S. average.

Chicago has been among the first U.S. cities to build an integrated emergency response center to coordinate the city's response to terrorist attacks, gang violence, and natural disasters. Built in 1995, the centre is integrated with over 2000 cameras, a direct link to the National Counterterrorism Centre, and communications with all levels of city government. Recently installed anti-crime cameras have been introduced and are capable of pinpointing gunshot sounds, calculating where the shots were fired, and pointing and zooming the cameras in the direction of the shots within a two block radius. Early results show these new cameras to be highly effective in reducing crime. Placed in residential areas, these cameras cause some Chicagoans to feel uneasy about being so closely watched. They have prompted some calls of discrimination since these cameras tend to be prevalent in Black and Latino communities with higher than average crime rates.

The FBI often does not accept crime statistics submitted by the Chicago Police Department, which tallies data differently than other cities. The police record all criminal sexual assaults as opposed to only rape as with other police departments. Aggravated battery is counted along with the standard category of aggravated assault. As a result, Chicago is often omitted from studies like Morgan Quitno's annual "Safest/Most Dangerous City" survey.


Public education

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the school district that controls over 600 public elementary and high schools in Chicago. The school district, with more 400,000 students enrolled, is led by CEO Arne Duncan. The CPS also includes several selective-admission magnet schools, such as Whitney Young Magnet High School, Jones College Prep High School, Walter Payton College Prep, Lane Tech College Prep,[Paul Laurence Dunbar Vocational Career Academy], and Northside College Preparatory High School.

Like many urban U.S. school districts, CPS suffered many problems throughout the latter half of the 20th century, including overcrowding, underfunding, mismanagement and a high dropout rate. In 1987, then U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett named the Chicago Public Schools as the "worst in the nation." Several school reform initiatives have since been undertaken to improve the system's performance. Reforms have included a system of Local School Councils, Charter Schools, and efforts to end social promotion. The most notable and public of these reforms has been a concerted effort at aggressively closing down underperforming schools while at the same time renovating and improving successful ones or building new ones .

Higher education

View of the University of Chicago from the Midway Plaisance, a long stretch of parkland that bisects the campus.
View of the University of Chicago from the Midway Plaisance, a long stretch of parkland that bisects the campus.

Since the 1890s Chicago has been a world centre in higher education and research. Two of America's top research universities are University of Chicago in Hyde Park on the South Side and Northwestern University in northside suburb Evanston. Catholic universities are located in Chicago, such as DePaul University (the largest Catholic university in the U.S.), St. Xavier University, and Loyola University, which also maintains a campus on Michigan Avenue.

DePaul University's College of Commerce at State Street and Jackson Boulevard downtown in the Chicago Loop.
DePaul University's College of Commerce at State Street and Jackson Boulevard downtown in the Chicago Loop.

The University of Illinois at Chicago is the city's largest university and features the nation's largest medical school. The Illinois Institute of Technology in Bronzeville has renowned engineering and architecture programs. Dominican University, outside Chicago in River Forest, teaches many library courses at the Chicago Public Library's Harold Washington Building. North Park University, a small Christian liberal arts university affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, is located on the northwest side in the North Park neighbourhood. The Chicago region has 12 accredited theological schools representing Catholic and most Protestant denominations. The United Church of Christ-related Chicago Theological Seminary is the city's oldest institution of higher education. These accredited seminaries are joined in a consortium known as the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS). The Moody Bible Institute is near downtown. Chicago State University and Northeastern Illinois University are other state universities in Chicago. The city also has a large community college system known as the City Colleges of Chicago. Additionally, there are several smaller colleges noted for their fine arts education programs - Roosevelt University, Columbia College Chicago, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Newberry Library is a major research centre in the humanities, while the Art Institute is one of the strongest in the country.


Health and medicine

The new Prentice Women's Hospital at Northwestern University's medical center
The new Prentice Women's Hospital at Northwestern University's medical centre

Chicago is home to the Illinois Medical District on the Near West Side. It includes Rush University Medical Centre, the University of Illinois at Chicago medical centre, and John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, the largest trauma-centre in the city. The University of Chicago operates the University of Chicago Hospitals, which was ranked the fourteenth best hospital in the country by U.S. News and World Report. It is the only hospital in Illinois ever to be included in the magazine's "Honour Roll" of the best hospitals in the United States.

The University of Illinois College of Medicine at UIC is the largest medical school in the United States (1300 students, including those at campuses in Peoria, Rockford and Urbana-Champaign). Chicago is also home to other nationally recognized medical schools including Rush Medical College, the Pritzker School of Medicine of the University of Chicago, and the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University. In addition, the Chicago Medical School and Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine are located in the suburbs of North Chicago and Maywood, respectively. The Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine is in Downers Grove.

The leading healthcare informatics organizations are located in Chicago, including the American Medical Informatics Association and the Health Information Management Systems Society. These organizations include as members many healthcare IT vendors and the CIO/VP Technology leaders of most American healthcare operations. The American College of Surgeons, American Dental Association, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and the American Osteopathic Association are based in the city.


CTA Blue Line station at O'Hare Airport
CTA Blue Line station at O'Hare Airport

Chicago is the premier transportation hub in America. It is an important component in global distribution, as it is the third largest inter-modal port in the world after Hong Kong and Singapore. Additionally, it is the only city in North America in which all six Class I railroads meet.

Chicago is one of the largest hubs of passenger rail service in the nation. Many Amtrak long distance services originate from Chicago Union Station. Such services provide connections to New York, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Amtrak also provides a number of short-haul services throughout Illinois and toward nearby Milwaukee.

Seven interstate highways run through Chicago. Segments that link to the city centre are named after influential politicians, and traffic reports tend to use the names rather than interstate numbers. The Kennedy Expressway is I-90 from the Loop to O'Hare International Airport. The Dan Ryan Expressway is I-90/ 94 from south of the "Circle Interchange" to the I-57 Split, and from the I-57 Split south is the Bishop Ford Freeway. The rest of I-94 is called the Edens Expressway. I-90 becomes the Chicago Skyway when it breaks off from the Dan Ryan Expressway. Other named highway segments are the Stevenson Expressway ( I-55), Eisenhower Expressway ( I-290) and Reagan Memorial( I-88).

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) handles public transportation in Chicago and a few adjacent suburbs. The CTA operates an extensive network of buses and a rapid transit system known locally as the 'L' (for "elevated"), which among other things provides rail service from downtown to Midway and O'Hare airports. Pace provides bus and paratransit service in over 200 surrounding suburbs with some extensions into the city.

Metra operates commuter rail service in Chicago and its suburbs. The Metra Electric Line shares the railway with the South Shore Line's NICTD Northwest Indiana Commuter Rail Service, which accesses Gary/Chicago Airport. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) coordinates the operation of the three service boards: CTA, Metra, and Pace.

Chicago is served by Midway Airport on the south side and O'Hare International Airport, one of the world's busiest airports, on the far northwest. In 2005, O'Hare was the world's busiest airport by aircraft movements and the second busiest by total passenger traffic (due to government enforced flight caps). Both O'Hare and Midway are owned and operated by the City of Chicago. Gary/Chicago International Airport, located in nearby Gary, Indiana, serves as the third Chicagoland airport, although SkyValue offers the only scheduled passenger service. The State of Illinois has debated opening a new airport near Peotone.


Electricity for all of northern Illinois is provided by Commonwealth Edison, also known as ComEd. Their service territory borders Iroquois County to the south, the Wisconsin border to the north, the Iowa border to the west and the Indiana border to the east. In northern Illinois, ComEd (a division of Exelon) operates the greatest number of nuclear generating plants in any US state. Because of this, ComEd reports indicate that Chicago receives about 75% of its electricity from nuclear power.

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