“Let me tell you something. I’m from Chicago… I don’t break.”
– President Barrack Obama, 2009
One of the world’s great cities, Chicago emerged from humble roots and a devastating fire as the most important inland economic hub of the North American continent. From the world’s first modern skyscraper to McDonald’s fast food, Chicago, without debate, holds its own as one of the birthplaces of Americana. As the city’s growth exploded in the late 19th and 20th centuries, the nicknames piled on: The Second City. The City of Broad Shoulders. Chi-town. The Windy City.
First time visitors marvel as they take the many attractions that fill this Midwestern metropolis. The true spirit of Chicago, however, lies in the nearly unparalleled local pride of long-time residents. There is, in fact, something very powerful when you hear people tell you they are “from Chicago”. Over the years, Chicagoians have fiercely defended all things local, all things born Chicago. The weathered signs of Old Style brews on neighborhood pubs, the deafening roar as the city cheers on one of their seven professional sports teams, the best Chicago-style pizza joint in town (which just happens to be just down the street from just about everyone’s house). As a local where Macy’s department store is while downtown on State Street, and most will still correct you, “You mean Marshall Fields? We don’t call it Macy’s.”
In a city where the terrain is about as flat as they come, the layout of the city post the aforementioned fire of 1871 takes advantage an organized grid occasionally interrupted by diagonal avenues that generally step outward from the massive downtown core. Neighborhoods have been provided the space to take on unique identities – even as gentrification has taken hold of many to the north and near northwest of the city’s core. The city’s neighborhoods have become destinations in and of themselves, from the posh boutiques of Lincoln Park, to the LGBT-strongholds of Lakeview (known colloquially as Boystown) and Andersonville. Diverse ethnic neighborhoods abound, as well, from one of largest Desi communities along Devon Avenue to the longtime Polish businesses along Archer Avenue near Midway Airport.
Beyond the glass and steel of one of America’s largest skylines, Chicago is indeed a city built upon transportation. O’Hare and Midway airports combined serve over 85 million passengers a year. The Chicago “L” system, along with a commuter rail system that extends into outstate Illinois and northwest Indiana, are among the nation’s most extensive. The city connects to its economy to more of the nation’s population than any other metropolitan area through the extensive freight rail and interstate highway lines that act as arteries and veins leading to the shores of Lake Michigan. As James Bryce, the British Ambassador to the United States, stated in 1888, Chicago is “Perhaps the most typically American place in America.”