I was yearning to get out of town and wanted some good cityscape photos. With many cities as possible options, Chicago came to mind with its quintessential urban setting.
In the late 18th century, the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan was nothing more than a desolate marshy swamp. Only a few non-natives lived in the area. It wasn’t until 1803 when the US Army established a fort at the mouth of the Chicago River. The fort had little to defend itself and was subsequently burned by the natives during War of 1812. After a peace treaty was signed between the natives and the US which the former ceded the land to the latter, the fort was rebuilt.
The unstable land along the shoreline was not suitable for a city. But some still saw its potential. Sitting at the mouth of the Chicago River, there were opportunities to connect parts of what was then the American frontier to the Great Lakes, the Eerie Canal, and thus, more populated areas of the country. A canal was built, completing a path to the Mississippi River and with it, brought commerce and people to the area. The development of railroads and the role Chicago played as a transportation hub caused the population to continue to skyrocket. From 1830 to 1857 the population rose from only 100 to over 90,000. By 1870, Chicago was the second most populated city in the country.
In 1871, a devastating fire destroyed the city. A third of the population was left homeless. The disaster was a wake up call and catalyst to changing building code, safety regulations, and how buildings were constructed. The city was resilient and rebuilt. Steel was used to frame buildings instead of wood which incidentally allowed taller buildings to be built. Chicago was the birthplace of modern skyscrapers, something the city would continue to cultivate for many years to come. In 1893, the city hosted the World’s Fair which gave Chicago the opportunity to establish itself as a world-class city and show off its innovative ideas and creativity.
Growth throughout the 19th and early 20th century also brought a lot of undesirable effects along with it, including crime. Chicago was home to infamous mobsters like Al Capone who held a lot of influence in the city during the prohibition era. The riots in 1968 also put the city in the limelight in an undesirable way. Nevertheless, the city continued to grow until about 1970 when the population began to decrease as more people moved towards a suburban lifestyle. While some areas of the city were developed, other neighborhoods became neglected. In 1974, the Sears Tower was completed which held the title as the world’s tallest skyscraper until 1998.
In the 1990’s, the city began revitalizing run down areas of the city, beautifying more parks and creating a safer environment for people to visit and live. Railyards and deserted parking lots in the central business district were transformed into walkable beautiful parks. With this and other beautification efforts, new developments came to central Chicago.
Today, Chicago is the country’s third largest city and the largest in the Midwest. It remains vital to our country’s trade and commerce. It is a city rich in culture and the arts of all varieties. The city, with its magnificent parks and beautiful architecture, is itself a work of art. With its recognizable landmarks and architecture both inside and out, many notable artists and architects such have left their mark on the city in one way or another.
Visiting Chicago should be on everybody’s list. The city is full of things to do year-round. I must say I was never at any point bored during my three day visit. The city is very visitor friendly and getting around is quite easy with many of the most popular attractions located within walking distance or a short cab or public transit ride away. If you do visit, come prepared for the elements. They aren’t joking about the wind. Not only does it mess up your hair, it will make it feel much colder than the thermostat says. Luckily, I had some nice weather on the last day of my visit.
For me, I really liked walking around the city and seeing the things other people may pay less attention to. Coming from Utah, where nature takes care of its beauty, I felt the beauty of Chicago was almost entirely human-made (I mean this as a compliment to the city). From walking under the L train to seeing the buildings tower above me, it is remarkable how much work went into building a city of this size. It is a true feat of the human ingenuity.
I also couldn’t pass on seeing things like the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Theater, the Lincoln Park Zoo (It’s a free zoo!), the several large museums, or the Chicago River Walk to name a few. And if you are looking for some good views, check out the observation decks at the Willis Tower or 360 Chicago at the John Hancock Building. Oh and who could forget the food!