The “Windy City” is the nickname of North American Chicago because it often blows from Lake Michigan. Today, the third most populous city in the United States of America has grown up right on its banks. Almost ten million people live in the entire metropolitan area of Chicago.
But Chicago (located in the state of Illinois) is proud of another nickname – the Americans call it the “City in a Garden”, a city in a garden, because it is said to be much cleaner and greener than other American cities. This nickname has been the motto of city officials for many years, who make sure that there are as many well-maintained parks as possible.
Chicago’s history dates back to 1673, when two French travelers, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, established a temporary base on the marshy shores of Lake Michigan. The place was very inhospitable, but still traders and fur trappers passed through. In 1770, the Haitian Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable built a log cabin in the swamp and established a permanent trading post. The station was of great importance as the frontier of the United States moved westward and farmers who settled in what was originally Native American territory needed to get their produce east. In 1803, the American army built Fort Dearborn here. On March 4, 1837, the city of Chicago was officially established. Strategically located and thanks to the expanding railroad, Chicago became the industrial and commercial center of the Midwest in the mid-1800s.
Chicago grew due to its strategic location. All agricultural products from the Midwest and Great Prairies are brought directly to Chicago for processing. There are large mills and slaughterhouses. In addition to the food industry, the manufacturing industry (engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, consumer electronics) and the Hi-Tech industry and the information technology industry thrive in Chicago. Over the past five years, a large number of industrial companies and factories (e.g. Boeing from Seattle) have been established or moved here in Chicago.
According to existingcountries, Chicago is also a seaport, as large ships can arrive here by waterway, the St. Lawrence River from the Atlantic. In addition, Chicago is also connected by several canals to the Mississippi, through which ships reach New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. There are 27 rail lines leading from Chicago in various directions, on which trains import and export coal, iron ore, steel, and chemical and food products.
Chicago is the only city in North America to be served by all six Class I railroads. Chicago Union Station has long-haul connections to New York, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Washington DC. At the same time, there are shorter connections throughout Illinois and towards the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Chicago is also crossed by seven interstate highways. They are often named after famous politicians, such as I-90 “The Kennedy Expressway”.
Transportation in the city and suburbs is provided by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). Chicago has an extensive bus network and a subway/elevated rail system, called the “L” (from the English elevated). It is essentially a subway train that runs underground for a while (like a subway) and for a while on or above ground (an elevated track).
People living in Chicago are called Chicagoans. Almost three million of them live directly in the city, which is a fifth of the population of the state of Illinois and 1% of the population of the USA. Chicago had the largest population – 3.6 million – in 1950, after which people decreased significantly, only in recent years the city has seen a significant increase, mainly thanks to immigrants from all over the world. Chicago is a melting pot of many cultures and nationalities. The Irish, Germans, Poles, Italians, Chinese and Mexicans are most represented in the city.
Irish Americans, who live mostly in the south and southwest of the city, have also produced many of the city’s politicians, including the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. He has been the mayor of Chicago since 1989 and wants to run for re-election in this year’s elections. The Daley family is one of the most influential political clans in America. Like the Kennedys, the Daleys are involved in politics for the Democratic Party. Before Richard M., his father Richard J. was the mayor of the city, his younger brother William served as Secretary of Commerce in the administration of Bill Clinton. Mayor Daley is a liberal, supports women’s abortion rights and gay rights. In addition to that, however, he takes a hard line against crime and is heavily involved in environmental politics. His popularity is evidenced by the fact that in the last election in 2003 he won a full 78% of the votes in competition with two other candidates.
But Chicago is truly a multi-ethnic city, and even a large Czech minority lives here, which founded the Czech district of Pilsen (Pilsen) in the West Side. Most Czechs who went to the USA for work agree that Chicago is a “Polish” city. If you want to learn English, you’d better head elsewhere. According to statistics, the largest number of Poles live here, after the Polish capital, Warsaw. Chicago is considered to be the second largest Serbian and Latvian city in the world and the third largest Greek city in the world.
Chicago is divided into four main parts: North Side, South Side, Southwest Side and West Side, each with its own specifics. You’ll find Downtown between the North and South Sides, and this section is further divided into the Loop, Near North Side and Near South Side.
The richest part of the city is the North Side, which is considered the main “melting pot” of Chicago. Many immigrants live here, which you can tell by the typical restaurants and shops. Immigrants gradually transformed the abandoned and warehouse precinct into a commercial, residential and entertainment zone with several modern skyscrapers. Most of them stand in the central district of The Loop. The most famous buildings in Chicago include the 443-meter-high Sears Tower (the tallest building in the USA and the third tallest in the world), but also the “slightly” lower Aon Center (347 m) and the John Hancock Center (344 m).
The South Side was home to many European ethnicities from the 1860s to the 1940s, mainly the Irish. After 1945, most Europeans moved to the suburbs. In their place came African Americans from the South and Puerto Ricans. Recently, a large number of Hispanics, mainly Mexicans, have joined them. Large industrial complexes and factories in this part of the city were mostly closed, including the famous slaughterhouse, which employed over 50,000 people in 1920. However, many areas are also inhabited by the middle class, and they are thriving. For example, Chinatown became a place of East Asian culture. A number of shops and restaurants have sprung up here. Hyde Park is home to the prestigious University of Chicago. In areas such as Woodlawn, Bronzeville, Bridgeport and McKinley Park, old dilapidated buildings continue to be demolished and new ones are rising in their place. As a result, a better suburban type environment is created here.
In the southwestern part of the city (Southwest Side) there are mainly residential areas where Irish Americans live, who maintain the traditions of their native country. For example, spectacular St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (the patron saint of the Irish) take place here every year. The Southwest Side is also home to Midway International Airport, the second largest international airport in the world (after Atlanta). The West Side is characterized by its ubiquitous greenery – there are three large parks: Douglas Park, Garfield Park and Humboldt Park. In addition, you will also find the above-mentioned Czech district of Pilsen.
In Chicago, the climate is quite high, although it is decreasing year by year. For example, the number of murders in the city in 2006 was half of what it was in 1990. The biggest problems are traditionally in poor neighborhoods. Thanks to the demolition of old buildings, the situation has improved significantly in the city center, now it is most dangerous in the south, where most of the poor people have gone.
Chicago is also well known to all sports fans. If you are one of them, don’t miss the unforgettable spectacle of an NHL hockey game at the Chicago Blackhawks arena or a Chicago Bulls basketball game.