Largest city in Illinois; located on Lake Michigan; Also called: Windy City.
Financial and industrial city in Illinois, US, on Lake Michigan. It is the third largest US city; metropolitan area 8,065,000. Industries include iron, steel, chemicals, electrical goods, machinery, meatpacking and food processing, publishing, and fabricated metals. The once famous stockyards are now closed.
The world’s first skyscraper was built here 1885 and some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, including the tallest, the Sears Tower at 443 m/1,454 ft, are in Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry, opened 1893, has “hands-on” exhibits including a coal mine, a World War II U-boat, an Apollo spacecraft and lunar module, and exhibits by industrial firms.
The Chicago River cuts the city into three “sides”. Chicago is known as the Windy City, so called from the breezes of Lake Michigan, as well as from its citizens’ (and, allegedly, politicians’) voluble talk; the lake shore (“the Gold Coast”) is occupied by luxury apartment blocks. It has a symphony orchestra, an art institute, the University of Chicago (site of the first controlled nuclear reaction), DePaul and Loyola universities, a campus of the University of Illinois, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Chicago-O’Hare International Airport is the nation’s busiest. The Board of Trade, Mercantile Exchange, and Options Exchange are among the world’s largest commodity markets.
The site of Chicago was visited by Jesuit missionaries 1673, and Fort Dearborn, then a frontier fort, was built here 1803. The original layout of Chicago was a rectangular grid, but many outer boulevards have been constructed on less rigid lines. As late as 1831 Chicago was still an insignificant village, but railroads from the east coast reached it by 1852, and by the time of the great fire of 1871 it was a city of more than 300,000 inhabitants. Around a third of the city was destroyed in the fire, producing rapid and innovative urban expansion, including the first telephone exchange 1878, and the first skyscrapers 1881. By 1900 the population had reached 1.5 million and chicago was the second largest city in the US. Rapid development began again in the 1920s, and during the years of Prohibition 1919–33, the city became notorious for the activities of its gangsters. The opening of the St Lawrence Seaway 1959 brought Atlantic shipping to its docks.