Chicago is the largest city by population in the state of Illinois and the American Midwest of the United States. Adjacent to Lake Michigan, the Chicago metropolitan area (commonly referred to as Chicagoland) has a population of over 9.7 million people in three U.S. states, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, and was the third largest metropolitan area in 2000. One of the largest cities in North America, Chicago is among the world's twenty-five largest urban areas by population, and rated an alpha world city by the World Cities Study Group at Loughborough University. It is the third-most populous city in the United States after New York City and Los Angeles, with a population of nearly 3 million people.
Chicago incorporated as a city in 1837 after being founded in 1833 near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed. The city soon became a major transportation hub in North America and the transportation, financial and industrial center of the Midwest. Today the city's attractions bring 44.2 million visitors annually. Chicago became notorious worldwide for its violent gangsters in the 1920s, most notably Al Capone, and for the political corruption in one of the longest lasting political machines in the nation. Chicago was once the capital of the railroad industry and until the 1960s the world's largest meatpacking facilities were at the Union Stock Yards. O'Hare International is one of the world's busiest airports and the second busiest in the nation. The city has long been a stronghold of the Democratic Party and has been home to numerous influential politicians including the current presidential nominee, Barack Obama.
Chicago is called the Windy City and the City of Broad Shoulders.
The city began its step toward regional primacy as an important transportation hub between the eastern and western United States. Chicago’s first railway, Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, opened in 1848, which also marked the opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The canal allowed steamboats and sailing ships on the Great Lakes to connect to the Mississippi River. A flourishing economy brought residents from rural communities and immigrants abroad. Manufacturing and retail sectors became dominant among Midwestern cities, influencing the American economy, particularly in meatpacking, with the advent of the refrigerated rail car and the regional centrality of the city's Union Stock Yards.
In February 1856, the Chesbrough plan for the building of Chicago's and the United States' first comprehensive sewerage system was approved by the Common Council. The project raised much of central Chicago to a new grade. Untreated sewage and industrial waste now flowed into the Chicago River, thence into Lake Michigan, polluting the primary source of fresh water for the city. The city responded by tunneling two miles (3 km) out into Lake Michigan to newly built water cribs. In 1900, the problem of sewage was largely resolved when Chicago reversed the flow of the river, a process that started with the construction and improvement of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and completed with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal leading to the Illinois River which joins the Mississippi River.
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed a third of the city, including the entire central business district, Chicago experienced rapid rebuilding and growth. Ever since the city was rebuilt, it became known as the Second City, since the first city was largely destroyed in the Fire. During Chicago's rebuilding period, the world's first skyscraper was constructed in 1885 using steel-skeleton construction. Labor conflicts and unrest followed, including the Haymarket affair on May 4, 1886. Concern for social problems among Chicago’s lower classes led Jane Addams to be a co-founder of Hull House in 1889. Programs developed there became a model for the new field of social work. The city also invested in many large, well-landscaped municipal parks, which also included public sanitation facilities.
In 1893, Chicago hosted the World's Columbian Exposition on former marshland at the present location of Jackson Park. The Exposition drew 27.5 million visitors, and is considered among the most influential world's fairs in history. The University of Chicago was founded in 1892 on the same South Side 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 and connects Washington and Jackson Parks.
The 1920s brought notoriety to Chicago as gangsters, including the notorious Al Capone, battled each other and law enforcement on the city streets during the Prohibition era. The 1920s also saw a major expansion in industry. The availability of jobs attracted African Americans from the South. Arriving in the tens of thousands during the Great Migration, the newcomers had an immense cultural impact. It was during this wave that Chicago became a center for jazz, with King Oliver leading the way. In 1933, Mayor Anton Cermak was assassinated while in Miami with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. On December 2, 1942, physicist Enrico Fermi conducted the world’s first controlled nuclear reaction 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 machine politics. Starting in the 1960s, many residents left the city for the suburbs, taking out the heart of many neighborhoods, leaving impoverished and disadvantaged citizens behind. Structural changes in industry caused heavy losses of jobs for lower skilled workers. The city hosted the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention, which featured physical confrontations both inside and outside the convention hall, including full-scale police riots in city streets. Major construction projects, including the Sears Tower (which in 1974 became the world’s tallest building), McCormick Place, and O'Hare Airport, were undertaken during Richard J. Daley's tenure. When he died, Michael Anthony Bilandic was mayor for three years. His loss in a primary election has been attributed to the city’s inability to properly plow city streets during a heavy snowstorm. In 1979, Jane Byrne, the city’s first female mayor, was elected. She popularized the city as a movie location and tourist destination.
In 1983 Harold Washington became the first African American to be elected to the office of mayor, in one of the closest mayoral elections in Chicago. After Washington won the Democratic primary, racial motivations caused a few Democratic alderman and ward committeemen to back the Republican candidate Bernard Epton, who ran on the slogan Before it’s too late, a thinly veiled appeal to fear. Washington’s term in office saw new attention given to poor and minority neighborhoods. His administration reduced the longtime dominance of city contracts and employment by ethnic whites. Current mayor Richard M. Daley, son of the late Richard J. Daley, was elected in 1989. He has led many progressive changes to the city, including improving parks; creating incentives for sustainable development, including green roofs; and major new developments. Since the 1990s, the city has undergone a revitalization in which some lower class neighborhoods have been transformed as new middle class residents have settled in the city.
Chicago is located in northeastern Illinois at the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan. 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. Chicago's history and economy are closely tied to its proximity to Lake Michigan. While the Chicago River historically handled much of the region's waterborne cargo, today's huge lake freighters use the city's far south Lake Calumet Harbor. The Lake also moderates Chicago's climate, making it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
When Chicago was founded in the 1830s, most of the early building began around the mouth of the Chicago River, as can be seen on a map of the city's original 58 blocks. The overall grade of the city's central, built-up areas, is relatively consistent with the natural flatness of its overall natural geography, generally exhibiting only slight differentiation otherwise. The average land elevation 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 a landfill located in the Hegewisch community area on the city's far south side.
Lake Shore Drive runs adjacent to a large portion of Chicago's lakefront. Parks along the lakeshore include Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Burnham Park and Jackson Park; 29 public beaches are found all along the shore. Near downtown, landfills extend into the Lake, providing space for the Jardine Water Purification Plant, Navy Pier, Northerly Island and the Museum Campus, Soldier Field, and large portions of the McCormick Place Convention Center. Most of the city's high-rise commercial and residential buildings can be found within a few blocks of the Lake.
Chicagoland is an informal name for the Chicago metro area, used primarily by copywriters, advertising agencies, and traffic reporters. There is no precise definition for the term "Chicagoland," but it generally means "around Chicago" or relatively local. The Chicago Tribune, which coined the term, includes the city of Chicago, the rest of Cook County, eight nearby Illinois counties; Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Grundy, Will and Kankakee, and two counties in Indiana; Lake and Porter. The Illinois Department of Tourism defines Chicagoland as Cook County without the city of Chicago, and only Lake, DuPage, Kane and Will counties. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce defines it as all of Cook, and DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties. The Tribune's Robert R. McCormick defined Chicagoland as comprising everything in a radius in every direction (which would then include other larger cities such as Milwaukee, Rockford and Indianapolis) and reported on many different places within the area as being "local news."
The Loop contains downtown's commercial, cultural, and financial institutions. The North Side is the most densely populated residential section of the city and the River North neighborhood features the nation's largest concentration of contemporary art galleries outside of Manhattan. The South Side is also home to two of the city's largest parades, the annual African American Bud Billiken Day parade and the South Side Irish Parade. It is home to two of Chicago's largest public parks. Jackson Park, which hosted the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, is currently the site of the Museum of Science and Industry. Washington Park, which is connected to Jackson Park by the Midway Plaisance, is currently being considered as the primary site of the Olympic Stadium for the 2016 Summer Olympics if Chicago wins the bid. The West Side holds the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest collections of tropical plants of any U.S. city. Cultural attractions include Humboldt Park's Puerto Rican Day festival, and the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen.
Summers are warm & humid with average high temperatures of 80-84°F (27-29°C) and lows of 61-65 °F (16-19°C). Winters are cold, snowy and windy with temperatures below freezing. Spring and Fall are mild with low humidity. According to the National Weather Service, Chicago’s highest official temperature reading of 105 °F (41 °C) was recorded on July 17, 1995. The lowest temperature of −27 °F (−33 °C) was recorded on January 20, 1985.
Chicago’s yearly precipitation averages about 34 inches (860 millimeters). Summer is typically the rainiest season, with short-lived rainfall and thunderstorms more common than prolonged rainy periods. Winter precipitation tends to be more snow than rain. Chicago's snowiest winter on record was that of 1929–30, with of snow in total. Chicago’s highest one-day rainfall total was 6.63 inches (168.4mm) on September 13, 2008. The previous record of 6.49 inches (164 mm) had been set on August 14, 1987.
As of the 2000 census, there were 2,896,016 people, 1,061,928 households, and 632,909 families residing within Chicago. More than half the population of the state of Illinois lives in the Chicago metropolitan area. The population density of the city itself was 12,750.3 people per square mile (4,923.0/km²), making it one of the nation's most densely populated cities. There were 1,152,868 housing units at an average density of 5,075.8 per square mile (1,959.8/km²). 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. 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. Below the poverty line are 19.6% of the population and 16.6% of the families.
The racial makeup of the city was 41.97% White (31.32% White Non-Hispanic), 36.77% African American, 4.35% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.36% Native American, 13.58% from other races, and 2.92% from two or more races. 26.02% of the population were Hispanic of any race. 21.72% of the population was foreign born; of this, 56.29% came from Latin America, 23.13% from Europe, 17.96% from Asia and 2.62% from other parts of the world.
The main ethnic groups in Chicago are African American, Irish, German, Italian, Polish, Chinese, Mexican and Puerto Rican. Chicago's Irish American population is on the South Side. Many of Chicago's politicians have come from this massive Irish population, including the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Poles in Chicago constitute the largest ethnically Polish population outside of the Polish capital, Warsaw, making it one of the most important Polonia centers, , a fact that the city celebrates every Labor Day weekend at the Taste of Polonia Festival in Jefferson Park. The Chicago Metropolitan area is also becoming a major center for Indian Americans and South Asian Americans. Chicago has the third largest South Asian American population in the country, after New York City and San Francisco.
Chicago has the third largest gross metropolitan product in the nation — approximately $440 billion according to 2007 estimates. The city has also been rated as having the most balanced economy in the United States, due to its high level of diversification. Chicago was named the fourth most important business center in the world in the MasterCard Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index. Additionally, the Chicago metropolitan area recorded the greatest number of new or expanded corporate facilities in the United States for six of the past seven years. In 2008, Chicago placed 16th on the UBS list of the world's richest cities.
Chicago is a major financial center 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 three major financial and futures exchanges, including the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (the "Merc"), which includes the former Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Perhaps due to the influence of the Chicago school of economics, the city also has markets trading unusual contracts such as emissions (on the Chicago Climate Exchange) and equity style indices (on the US Futures Exchange).
In addition to the exchanges, Chicago and the surrounding areas house many major brokerage firms and insurance companies, such as Allstate and Zurich North America. The city and its surrounding metropolitan area are home to the second largest labor pool in the United States with approximately 4.25 million workers. Chicago has the largest high-technology and information-technology industry employment in the United States.
Manufacturing, printing, publishing, and food processing also play major roles in the city's economy. 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 of the railroads in the 19th century made the city a major transportation center 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 and Company, created global enterprises. Though the meatpacking industry currently plays a lesser role in the city's economy, Chicago continues to be a major transportation and distribution center.
Late in the 19th Century, Chicago was part of the bicycle craze, as home to Western Wheel Company, which introduced stamping to the production process and significantly reduced costs, while early in the 20th Century, the city was part of the automobile revolution, hosting the brass era car builder Bugmobile, which was founded there in 1907.
Chicago is also a major convention destination. The city's main convention center is McCormick Place. With its four interconnected buildings, it is the third largest convention center in the world. Chicago also ranks third in the U.S. (behind Las Vegas and Orlando) in 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. The state of Illinois is home to 66 Fortune 1000 companies. Chicago also hosts 12 Fortune Global 500 companies and 17 Financial Times 500 companies. The city claims one Dow 30 company as well: aerospace giant Boeing, which moved its headquarters from Seattle to the Chicago Loop in 2001.
Chicago attracted a combined 44.2 million people in 2006 from around the nation and abroad. Upscale shopping along the Magnificent Mile, thousands of restaurants, as well as Chicago's eminent architecture, continue to draw tourists. The city is the United States' third-largest convention destination. Most conventions are held at McCormick Place, just south of Soldier Field. The historic Chicago Cultural Center (1897), originally serving as the Chicago Public Library, now houses the city's Visitor Information Center, galleries, and exhibit halls. The ceiling of Preston Bradley Hall includes a 38-foot (11 m) Tiffany glass dome. Millennium Park, initially slated to be unveiled at the turn of the 21st century, and delayed for several years, sits on a deck built over a portion of the former Illinois Central rail yard. The park includes the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture (known locally as "The Bean"). A Millennium Park restaurant outdoor transforms into an ice rink in the winter. Two tall glass sculptures make up the Crown Fountain. The fountain's two towers display visual effects from LED images of Chicagoans' faces, with water spouting from their lips. Frank Gehry's detailed stainless steel band shell Pritzker Pavilion, hosts the classical Grant Park Music Festival concert series. 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 Theater and Music of the Baroque.
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 joins the southern section of Grant Park which includes the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Buckingham Fountain anchors the downtown park along the lakefront. The Oriental Institute, part of the University of Chicago, has an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeological artifacts. Other museums and galleries in Chicago are the Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African-American History, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Polish Museum of America, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
The city's waterfront allure and nightlife has attracted residents and tourists alike. Over one-third of the city population is concentrated in the lakefront neighborhoods (from Rogers Park in the north to Hyde Park in the south). The North Side has a large gay and lesbian community. Two North Side neighborhoods in particular, Lakeview and the Andersonville area of the Edgewater neighborhood, are home to many LGBT businesses and organizations. The area adjacent to the North Side intersection of Halsted and Belmont is a gay neighborhood known to Chicagoans as "Boystown". The city has many upscale dining establishments as well as many ethnic restaurant districts. These include the Mexican village "La Villita" on 26th street, "Greektown" on South Halsted, "Little Italy" on Taylor Street, just west of Halsted, "Chinatown" on the near South Side, "Little Seoul" on and around Lawrence Avenue, a cluster of Vietnamese restaurants on Argyle Street and South Asian (Indian/Pakistani) on Devon Avenue.
Chicago’s theatre community spawned modern improvisational theatre. Two renowned comedy troupes emerged — The Second City and I.O. (formerly known as ImprovOlympic). Renowned Chicago theater companies include the Steppenwolf Theatre Company (on the city's north side), the Goodman Theatre, and the Victory Gardens Theater. Chicago offers Broadway-style entertainment at theatres such as Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre, LaSalle Bank Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Auditorium Building of Roosevelt University, and Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place. Polish language productions for Chicago's large Polish speaking population can be seen at the historic Gateway Theatre in Jefferson Park. Since 1968, the Joseph Jefferson Awards are given annually to acknowledge excellence in theatre in the Chicago area.
Classical music offerings include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, recognized as one of the finest orchestras in the world, which performs at Symphony Center. Also performing regularly at Symphony Center is the Chicago Sinfonietta, a more diverse and multicultural counterpart to the CSO. In the summer, many outdoor concerts are given in Grant Park and Millennium Park. Ravinia Park, located north of Chicago, is also a favorite destination for many Chicagoans, with performances occasionally given in Chicago locations such as the Harris Theater. The Civic Opera House is home to the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
The Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Festival Ballet perform in various venues, including the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. Chicago is home to several other modern and jazz dance troupes, such as the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
Other live music genre which are part of the city's cultural heritage include Chicago blues, Chicago soul, jazz, and gospel. The city is the birthplace of house music and is the site of an influential hip-hop scene. In the 1980s, the city was a center for industrial, punk and new wave. This influence continued into the alternative rock of the 1990s. The city has been an epicenter for rave culture since the 1980s. A flourishing independent rock music culture brought forth Chicago indie. Annual festivals feature various acts such as Lollapalooza, the Intonation Music Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival.
Chicago lays claim to a number of regional specialties, all of which reflect the city's ethnic and working class roots. Included among these are its nationally renowned deep-dish pizza, although locally the Chicago-style thin crust is also popular; featuring a thinner than normal crust. There are very few pizzerias that specialize in true Chicago-style deep dish, the most prominent being Lou Malnati's, Gino's East and Giordano's. The number of "authentic" Chicago pizzeria's specializing in the thin crust version is much higher, with many being "Mom and Pop" style shops. Among the largest chains in Chicagoland with this area of specialty are Home Run Inn, Rosati's and Aurelio's. The Chicago-style hot dog, typically a Vienna Beef dog loaded with an array of fixings that often includes Chicago's own neon green pickle relish, yellow mustard, pickled sport peppers, tomato wedges, dill pickle spear and topped off with celery salt. Ketchup on a Chicago hot dog is frowned upon. There are two other distinctly Chicago sandwiches, the Italian beef sandwich, which is thinly sliced beef slowly simmered in an au jus served on an Italian roll with sweet peppers or spicy giardiniera, and the Maxwell Street Polish, which is a kielbasa — typically from either the Vienna Beef Company or the Bobak Sausage Company — on a hot dog roll, topped with grilled onions, yellow mustard and the optional sport peppers. Portillo's is one of the most dominant chains among local restaurants specializing in Chicago-style cuisine. McDonald's even adds its own downtown flavor, with the state's only Rock-n-Roll McDonald's.
The grand tour of Chicago cuisine culminates annually in Grant Park at the Taste of Chicago, a festival that runs from the final week of June through Fourth of July weekend. Chicago features a number of celebrity chefs, a list which includes Charlie Trotter, Rick Tramonto, Jean Joho, Grant Achatz, and Rick Bayless, Chicago has in recent decades developed into one of the world's premiere restaurant cities. Some of the most notable restaurants in Chicago are Basta-Pasta Italian Restaurant, Gibson's Steakhouse, The Berghoff, Harry Caray's Steakhouse, Ditka's Steakhouse, Hard Rock Chicago, and Goose Island Brewery. Goose Island's popular 312 brew is sold only in Chicagoland.
Chicago was named the Best Sports City in the United States by The Sporting News in 2006. The city is home to two Major League Baseball teams: the Chicago Cubs of the National League play on the city's North Side, in Wrigley Field, while the Chicago White Sox of the American League play in U.S. Cellular Field on the city's South Side. The White Sox recently won the Major League Baseball World Series in 2005. Chicago is the only city in North America that has had more than one Major League Baseball franchise every year since the American League began in 1900. The Chicago Bears, one of the two remaining charter members of the NFL, have won nine NFL Championships. The Bears play their home games at Soldier Field on Chicago's lakefront.
Due in large part to Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls of the NBA are one of the most recognized basketball teams in the world. With Jordan leading them, the Bulls took six NBA championships in eight seasons during the 1990s (only failing to do so in the two years of Jordan's absence). The Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL, who began play in 1926 have won three Stanley Cups. Both the Bulls and Blackhawks play at the United Center on the Near West Side.
The Chicago Fire soccer club are members of the MLS. The Fire have won one league and four US Open Cups since their inaugural season in 1998. In 2006, the club moved to its current home, Toyota Park, in suburban Bridgeview after playing its first eight seasons downtown at Soldier Field and at Cardinal Stadium in Naperville. The club is now the third professional soccer team to call Chicago home, the first two being the Chicago Sting of the NASL (and later the indoor team of the MISL); and the Chicago Power of the NPSL-AISA. The Chicago Rush, of the Arena Football League, The Chicago Bandits of the NPF and the Chicago Wolves, of the AHL, also play in Chicago; they both play at the Allstate Arena. The Chicago Sky of the WNBA, began play in 2006. The Sky's home arena is the UIC Pavilion.
Chicago was selected on April 14, 2007 to represent the United States internationally in the bidding for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Chicago also hosted the 1959 Pan American Games, and Gay Games VII in 2006. Chicago was selected to host the 1904 Olympics, but they were transferred to St. Louis to coincide with the World's Fair. On June 4, 2008 The International Olympic Committee selected Chicago as one of four candidate cities for the 2016 games.
Chicago is also the starting point for the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, a offshore sailboat race held each July that is the longest annual freshwater sailboat race in the world. 2008 marks the 100th running of the "Mac."
At the collegiate level, Chicago and its suburb, Evanston, have two national athletic conferences, the Big East Conference with DePaul University, and the Big Ten Conference with Northwestern University in Evanston.
When Chicago incorporated in 1837 it chose the motto "Urbs in Horto" a Latin phrase which translates into English as "City in a Garden", and today the Chicago Park District consists of 552 parks with over 7,300 acres (30 km²) of municipal parkland as well as 33 beaches, nine museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons and 10 bird and wildlife gardens. Lincoln Park, the largest of these parks has over 20 million visitors each year, making it second only to Central Park in New York City. Nine lakefront harbors located within a number of parks along the lakefront render the Chicago Park District the nation's largest municipal harbor system. In addition to ongoing beautification and renewal projects for existing parks, a number of new parks have been added in recent years such as Ping Tom Memorial Park, DuSable Park and most notably Millennium Park. The wealth of greenspace afforded by Chicago's parks is further augmented by the Cook County Forest Preserves, a network of open spaces containing forest, prairie, wetland, streams, and lakes, that are set aside as natural areas which lie along the city's periphery which are also home to both the Chicago Botanic Garden and Brookfield Zoo.
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, with no term limits. 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 aldermen, 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-heelers. 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 the state of Illinois tends 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. Although Chicago includes less than 25% of the state's population, eight of Illinois' nineteen U.S. Representatives have part of the city in their districts.
Former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley's mastery of machine politics preserved the Cook County Democratic Organization long after the demise of similar machines in other large U.S. cities. During much of that time, the city administration found opposition mainly from a liberal "independent" faction of the Democratic Party. The independents finally gained 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 general elections in November.
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 people (resulting in a murder rate of around 29 per 100,000), and again in 1992 with 943 murders, resulting in a murder rate of 34 per 100,000. 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 (15.65 per 100,000.) Chicago's homicide tally remained steady throughout 2005, 2006, and 2007 with 449, 452, and 435 respectively, and the overall crime rate in 2006 continued the downward trend that has taken place since the early 1990s.
There are 680 public schools, 394 private schools, 83 colleges, and 88 libraries in Chicago proper. Chicago Public Schools (CPS), is the governing body of a district that contains over 600 public elementary and high schools citywide, including several selective-admission magnet schools. The school district, with an enrollment exceeding 400,000 students (2005 stat.), ranks as third largest in the U.S. CPS is currently overseen by CEO Arne Duncan. Private schools in Chicago are largely run by private religious groups. The two largest systems are run by Christian religious denominations, Roman Catholic and Lutheran, respectively. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago operates the city's Roman Catholic schools, including Jesuit preparatory schools. Some of the more prominent examples of schools run by the Archdiocese are: St. Ignatius College Prep,Loyola Academy, St. Scholastica Academy, Mount Carmel High School (Chicago), Marist High School (Illinois), and St. Patrick High School (Chicago). In addition to Chicago's network of 32 Lutheran Schools, Chicago also has private schools run by other denominations and faiths such as Ida Crown Jewish Academy in West Rogers Park. There are also a number of private schools run in a completely secular educational environment such as: Latin School, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Hyde Park, Francis W. Parker School, Chicago City Day School in Lake View, and Morgan Park Academy.
Since the 1890s, Chicago has been a world center in higher education and research. Four universities in or immediately adjoining the city, Northwestern University, University of Illinois Chicago, DePaul University, and the University of Chicago, are among the top echelon of doctorate-granting research universities.
The University of Chicago, one of the world's most distinguished universities, is located in Hyde Park on the city's South Side. The university is associated with 81 Nobel Prize laureates, one of the highest of any university in the world. Academic programs at the University of Chicago have initiated entire schools of thought named after Chicago, most notably the Chicago School of Economics. The University of Illinois at Chicago, a nationally ranked public research institution, is the city's largest university. UIC boasts the nation's largest medical school. State funded universities in Chicago (besides UIC) include Chicago State University and Northeastern Illinois University. The city also has a large community college system known as the City Colleges of Chicago.
Northwestern University, an elite private, Big Ten Conference university of national prominence, is located in the adjacent northern suburb of Evanston. Northwestern also maintains a downtown campus, with the Feinberg School of Medicine and School of Law, both being located in the city's Streeterville neighborhood. Prominent Catholic universities in Chicago include Loyola University and DePaul University. Loyola, which has campuses both on the North Side as well as downtown, and a Medical Center in the west suburban Maywood, is the largest Jesuit university in the country while DePaul, a Big East Conference university is the largest Catholic university in the U.S.
Lake Forest College is Chicago's national liberal arts college. North Park University is located in Chicago's Albany park neighborhood, it enrolls a little over 3,000 students and has been listed on US News' college review as one of the best university's in the midwest. The Illinois Institute of Technology main campus in Bronzeville has renowned engineering and architecture programs and was host to world-famous modern architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for many years, and the IIT Stuart School of Business and Chicago-Kent College of Law are located downtown in the financial district.
The Chicago area has the largest concentration of seminaries and theological schools outside the Vatican. The city is home to the Catholic Theological Union, Chicago Theological Seminary, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, McCormick Theological Seminary, Meadville Lombard Theological School, North Park Theological Seminary, the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, the Moody Bible Institute, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
Founded on the principles of social justice, Roosevelt University was named in honor of president Franklin D. Roosevelt, two weeks after his death. It houses the Theatre and Music Conservatories under the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Rush Medical College, now part of Rush University, was the first institution of higher learning chartered in Illinois and one of the first medical schools to open west of the Alleghenies. Fine and performing arts programs in Chicago may be pursued at the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The American Academy of Art and Columbia College Chicago. The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, became affiliated with Le Cordon Bleu of Paris in June 2000.
Chicago is a major transportation hub in the United States. 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 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 Union Station. Such services provide connections to New York, Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Amtrak also provides a number of short-haul services throughout Illinois and toward nearby Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Detroit.
Nine interstate highways run through Chicago and its suburbs. Segments that link to the city center are named after influential politicians, with four of them named after former U.S. Presidents. Traffic reports tend to use the names rather than interstate numbers.
The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) coordinates the operation of the three service boards: CTA, Metra, and Pace. 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"), with several lines designated by colors, and that also includes service to both Midway Airport and O'Hare Airport. The CTA's rail lines consist of the Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Brown, Purple, Pink, and Yellow lines. Both the Red and Blue lines offer 24 hour service which makes Chicago one of the few cities in the world to offer 24 hour rail service. A new Circle Line is also in the planning stages by the CTA. Pace provides bus and paratransit service in over 200 surrounding suburbs with some extensions into the city as well. Bicycles are permitted on all CTA and Metra trains during non-rush hours and on all buses 24 hours. Metra operates commuter rail service in Chicago and its suburbs. The Metra Electric Line shares the railway with the South Shore Line's NICTD Northern Indiana Commuter Rail Service, providing commuter service between South Bend and Chicago.
Chicago offers a wide array of bicycle transportation facilities, such as miles of on-street bike lanes, 10,000 bike racks, and a state-of-the-art central bicycle commuter station in Millennium Park. The city has a on-street bicycle lane network that is maintained by the Chicago Department of Transportation Bike Program and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. In addition, trails dedicated to bikes only are built throughout the city.
Chicago is served by Midway International Airport on the south side and O'Hare International Airport, one of the world's busiest airports, on the far northwest side. 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 Chicago area airport. Chicago Rockford International Airport, formerly Greater Rockford Airport, serves as a regional base for United Parcel Service cargo flights, some passenger flights, and occasionally as a reliever to O'Hare, usually in times of bad weather. Chicago is the world headquarters for United Airlines, the world's second-largest airline by revenue-passenger-kilometers while it's the second largest hub for American Airlines. Midway airport serves as a 'focus city' for Southwest Airlines, the world's largest low-cost airline.
A small airport, Meigs Field, was located on the Lake Michigan waterfront adjacent to Grant Park and downtown. There were long-term scheduled flights to Springfield as well as some service to other cities. At 1:30 a.m. on March 31, 2003, the airport runways were unexpectedly destroyed by order of the Mayor, who had sought closure of the airport and development of a nature preserve and bandshell. This resulted in a fine to the city by the Federal Aviation Administration for closure of the airport without sufficient notice, but the airport was eventually demolished.
The Chicago metropolitan area is the third-largest media market in North America (after New York City and Los Angeles). Each of the big four (CBS, ABC, NBC, and FOX) United States television networks directly owns and operates a station in Chicago (WBBM, WLS, WMAQ, and WFLD, respectively). WGN-TV, which is owned by the Tribune Company, is carried (with some programming differences) as "WGN America" on cable nationwide. The city is also the home of The Oprah Winfrey Show (on WLS) and Jerry Springer (on WMAQ), while Chicago Public Radio produces programs such as PRI's This American Life and NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. PBS on TV in Chicago can be seen on WTTW (producer of shows such as Sneak Previews, The Frugal Gourmet, Lamb Chop's Play-Along, and The McLaughlin Group, just to name a few) and WYCC.
There are two major daily newspapers published in Chicago: the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, with the former having the larger circulation. There are also several regional and special-interest newspapers such as the Chicago Reader, the Daily Southtown, the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Sports Weekly, the Daily Herald, StreetWise, The Chicago Free Press and the Windy City Times.
After a long drought of interest from Hollywood movies, Spider-Man 2 filmed a scene in Chicago, although the movie made it seem like New York City and the actors were not flown out. In 2005, Batman Begins set out to make Chicago Gotham City in their film. The success of the movie prompted other films to shoot there including 2008's Wanted and 2008's follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight.
The outcome of the Great Chicago Fire led to the largest building boom in the history of the nation. Perhaps the most outstanding of these events was the relocation of many of the nation's most prominent architects to the city from New England for construction of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.
In 1885, the first steel-framed high-rise building rose in Chicago ushering in the skyscraper era. Today, Chicago's skyline is among the world's tallest. Downtown's historic buildings include the Chicago Board of Trade Building in the Loop, with others along the lakefront and the Chicago River. Once first on the list of largest buildings in the world and still listed twentieth, the Merchandise Mart stands near the junction of the north and south river branches. Presently the three tallest in the city are the Sears Tower, the Aon Center (previously the Standard Oil Building), and the John Hancock Center. The city's architecture includes lakefront high-rise residential towers, low-rise structures, and single-family homes. Industrialized areas such as the Indiana border, south of Midway Airport, and the banks of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal are clustered.
Future skyline plans entail the supertall Waterview Tower, Chicago Spire, and Trump International Hotel and Tower. The 60602 zip code was named by Forbes as the hottest zip code 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. Other new skyscraper construction may be found directly south (South Loop) and north (River North) of the Loop.
Multiple kinds and scales of houses, townhouses, condominiums and apartment buildings can be found in Chicago. Large swaths of Chicago's residential areas away from the lake are characterized by bungalows built either during the early 20th century or after World War II. Chicago is a center of the Polish Cathedral style of church architecture.
Chicago is home to the Illinois Medical District, on the Near West Side. It includes Rush University Medical Center, the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago, and John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, the largest trauma-center in the city.
Children's Memorial Hospital is recognized as one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country. In 2008 it was named one of the top 30 best children’s hospitals in all seven specialty areas ranked in. The hospital has nearly 1,100 pediatric specialists in more than 70 specialties, and we routinely provide more care to more young people than any other Chicago-area hospital. The in-house attending physicians are faculty members at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The University of Chicago operates the University of Chicago Medical Center, which was ranked the fourteenth best hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report. It is the only hospital in Illinois ever to be included in the magazine's "Honor 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, the Rehabilitation Institute 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 American Medical Association, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, American Osteopathic Association, American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, American Dietetic Association, American College of Surgeons, American Society for Clinical Pathology, American College of Healthcare Executives and the American Hospital Association are all based in Chicago.
Electricity for most 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. Recently, the city started the installation of wind turbines on government buildings with the aim to promote the use of renewable energy.
Domestic and industrial waste was once incinerated but it is now landfilled, mainly in the Calumet area. From 1995 to 2008, the city had a blue bag program to divert certain refuse from landfills. In the fall of 2007 the city began a pilot program for blue bin recycling similar to that of other cities due to low participation rates in the blue bag program. After completion of the pilot the city will determine whether to roll it out to all wards. Currently, much of Chicago is without any curbside recycling program, despite the current mayor's frequent claims of Chicago being a "green" city.