In 1837, taking advantage of a portage between the Mississippi River watershed and the Great Lakes, the city we all know as Chicago was incorporated. Soon after, the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened up, coinciding with Chicago’s first Railway, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad that began operations. Now with sailing ships and steamboats gaining precious access from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi, combined with railroad service to the west, an important transportation hub was created in the City of Chicago that started a great economic engine that continues to this day. The name Chicago comes from a French interpretation of the Native American word ‘shikaakwa’ that means ’wild leek’ or ‘wild onion’ or ‘wild garlic’ depending on the translation from the Miami– Illinois dialect, referring to the wild garlic abundant to the area at the time. But many preferred to call Chicago the ‘Windy City’ or ‘Second City’.
Chicago has grown to be the third most populous city in United States with over 2.7 million residents, And the Chicago metropolitan area containing nearly 10,000,000. Now an international center for transportation, industry, telecommunications, commerce, technology and finance, Chicago has the nation’s largest number of railroad freight shipments and highways, plus the busiest airport in the world measured by airport traffic, O’Hare International. Listed as an ‘Alpha Global City’, by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, Chicago has the third-largest gross metropolitan product in the United States, at $610 billion dollars and ranks seventh in the world in the 2014 Global Cities Index. In addition, in the MasterCard Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index, Chicago was named the fourth most important business center in the world.
Chicago’s famed skyline is visual testament to this dynamic place of commerce as evidenced in some notable skyscrapers such as the John Hancock Center, the neo gothic Tribune Tower, the Trump International Hotel and Tower, the Aon Center, and the 1,451 foot Willis Tower. These and other striking buildings rise beside freshwater Lake Michigan and the two rivers that flow through the city, the Calumet River and the Chicago River. The central business district is referred to as the ‘Chicago Loop’, and the famed Lakeshore Drive winds along much of Chicago’s Lakefront that contains waterfront parks such as Jackson Park, Lincoln Park, Burnham Park, and Grant Park, with 24 public beaches along 26 miles of shoreline. Popular spots and attractions along the waterfront are the Museum Campus, the Navy Pier, Northerly Island and the McCormick Place Convention Center.
Being a World Financial Center, Chicago, placing the 9th on the UBS List of the world’s richest cities, is home to some major financial futures exchanges, including the Chicago Mercantile Exchange(the “Merc”) , the Chicago Stock Exchange, and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The Windy City has 17 Financial Times 500 companies and 12 Fortune Global 500 companies, in addition there is one Dow 30 company, aerospace giant Boeing which now has it’s headquarters in Chicago. In surrounding Chicago suburbs are two other Dow 30 companies, McDonald’s and Kraft Foods. The largest employers in the city of Chicago are the US Government, Chicago Public Schools, the City of Chicago, Cook County Illinois, Advocate Health System, J.P. Morgan Chase, the University of Chicago, the State of Illinois, United Continental holdings, AT&T Illinois, Walgreens, Abbott Laboratories, Presence Health, Chicago Transit Authority, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Several web start up companies had their beginnings in Chicago, such as Groupon, NowServe, CareerBuilder, 37 signals, Feedburner, and Orbitz. Established retailers that also call Chicago home are Crate & Barrel, Walgreens, Ace Hardware, ULTA Beauty, Sears and Claire’s, which are all logical outgrowths from this city that is been a center of retail from the early days of Montgomery Ward, Marshall Fields, Sears and the Schwinn Bicycle Company. Chicago is home to the largest convention center in the nation, McCormick Place, Which is also the third largest of its kind in the world. Chicago ranks just behind Las Vegas and Orlando in largest number of conventions held annually.
Chicago is no less impressive in the museum and public art installation arenas, with the completion in 1998 of the Museum Campus, a 10 acre lake front park that was created adjoining three of the city’s most prominent and nationally important museums-the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, and the Field Museum of Natural History. Grant Park is nearby which includes the world renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Other museums of note include the Pritzker Military Library, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Driehaus Museum, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Chicago History Museum, the DuSable Museum of African American history, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Polish Museum of America, University of Chicago Oriental Institute, and soon the Barack Obama Presidential Center to be housed at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park.
In addition to an impressive and diversified cultural arts scene, Chicago enjoys a robust lineup of professional sports teams, all supported by an equally robust fanbase. NFL’s Chicago Bears Play football to packed stands in Soldier Field, and in the Major League Baseball lineup, Chicago has two teams, the Chicago Cubs who pack legendary Wrigley Field, and the Chicago White Sox, who regularly fill the U.S. Cellular Field. In NHL ice hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks hit the ice at the United Center, when NBA’s famous Chicago Bulls aren’t also playing at the United Center. In MLS Soccer, The Chicago Fire Play for fans in Toyota Park.
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