Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
(Michigan Ave. is home to 600 stores!). In
addition to department stores and vertical
malls, this stretch of property north of the
river houses many of the city 's most ele-
gant hotels. N orth and south of this
people no w liv e within a day 's driv e of
Chicago. The r eal signatur e of Chicago,
however, is found betw een the suburbs
and the Loop, where a colorful patchwork
quilt of r esidential neighborhoods giv es
the city a character all its o wn.
a part of the Northwest Territory, Chicago
is laid out in a grid system, with the
streets neatly lined up as if on a giant piece
of graph paper. Because the city itself isn't
rectangular (it 's rather elongated), the
downtown z one, Chicago str etches along
29 miles of Lake M ichigan shoreline that
is, by and large, fr ee of commercial devel-
opment, r eserved for public use as gr een
space and parkland from one end of to wn
to the other.
Chicago pr oper today has 3 million
inhabitants living in an ar ea about two-
thirds the siz e of N ew York City; another
5 million make the suburbs their home.
The villages north of Chicago now stretch
in an unbr oken mass nearly to the Wis-
consin bor der; the city 's w estern suburbs
extend 30 miles to N aperville, one of the
fastest-growing to wns in the nation o ver
the past 2 decades. A total of 59 million
shape is a bit irr egular, but the perpendic-
ular pattern r emains. Easing mo vement
through the city ar e a half-doz en or so
major diagonal thoroughfares.
Point zero is at the downtown intersec-
tion of S tate and M adison str eets. State
Street divides east and west addresses, and
Madison S treet divides nor th and south
addresses. F rom her e, Chicago 's highly
Fun Facts A River Runs Through It
The Chicago River remains one of the most visible of the cit y's major physical
features. It's spanned by more movable bridges (52 at last count) than any city
in the w orld. An almost-m ystical moment oc curs do wntown when all the
bridges spanning the main and south branches—connecting the Loop to both
the near West Side and the near Nor th Side—are raised, allowing for the pas-
sage of some ship or bar ge or c ontingent of high-mast ed sailboats. The Chi-
cago R iver has long outliv ed the critical c ommercial func tion that it onc e
performed. Most of the remaining millworks that still occupy its banks no lon-
ger depend on the river alone for the transport of their materials, raw and fin-
ished. The river's main function today is to serve as a fluvial conduit for sewage,
which, owing to an eng ineering feat that r eversed its flo w inland in 1900, no
longer pollutes the waters of Lake Michigan. Recently, Chicagoans have begun
to disc over another r ole f or the riv er—a leisur e r esource, pr oviding shor t
cruises on its wat er, park areas, cafes, and public ar t installations on its banks ,
and the beginnings of a riverside bike path that connects to the lakefront route
near Wacker Drive. Actually, today's developers aren't the first t o wonder why
the river couldn't be Chicago 's Seine. A look at the early-20th- century Beaux
Arts balustrades lining the riv er along Wacker Drive, complete with c omfort-
ably spac ed benches—as w ell as P arisian-style bridge houses—sho ws that
Chicago-based architect Daniel Burnham k new full w ell what a tr easure the
city had.
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