I can’t remember the last time I visited Chicago. I think it was back in 2016, when I rode Amtrak from Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Why? To complete my tour of all fifty states, an accomplishment that I call the “Nifty Fifty” Club.
My parents lived in Chicago for a brief period during WW2, having left Relocation camp in the Gila (AZ) Desert to work in factories supporting the war effort. In fact, they lived on Addison Street, also home to Wrigley Field. Over the years, mostly on business, I have become familiar with this great city. In fact, I prefer it over New York City, since it is both manageable and ever changing.
Many of you do not realize our country’s first open heart surgery took place here. Dr. Daniel H. Williams, one of the first African American physicians in the city, performed the surgery in 1893. Chicago is home to the International Museum of Surgical Science, with over 10,000 square feet of space dedicated to the history of surgery.
The Kennedy Nixon debate took place here on September 26, 1960 at the CBS Studios in Chicago. Many credit Illinois for JFK’s margin of victory in the Presidential election. The Moderator was newsman Howard K. Smith.
Chicago’s first permanent settler in 1779 was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a trapper and merchant credited with building the trading post that evolved into Chicago. With French and African parentage, du Sable hailed from Haiti and settled in what was to become Chicago with his Potawatomi wife, Kittihawa (Catherine).
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed one-third of the city and left more than 100,000 homeless. Its initial spark remains unknown (although it is commonly believed that a cow belonging to Catherine O’ Leary kicked over a lantern starting the fire, but this story is thought to be unlikely) FYI: The Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station on Michigan Avenue, now home to City Gallery and Lookingglass Theatre, are among Chicago’s few remaining pre-fire buildings.
In 1900, Chicago successfully completed a massive and highly innovative engineering project, reversing the flow of the Chicago River so that it would empty into the Mississippi River rather than Lake Michigan. FYI: Each year, the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It is the only river in the world that permanently flows backwards. The reversal caused the city’s typhoid death rate to drop by 80%, but also resulted in lawsuits from surrounding states and Canada, as it was feared the reversal would cause a drop in the water levels of the Great Lakes. The project took a total of 5 years and cost over $3 million.
I may rent a bicycle while here: Over 200 miles of bike lanes, 19 miles of lakefront bicycle paths, and more than 13,000 bike racks and parking areas. Chicago has the second highest percentage of commuters who ride their bikes to work.
I love the museums here in Chicago. One of the largest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings outside of Paris, is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. FYI: The museum is housed in the only remaining building constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition’s “White City.” It was originally built as the exposition’s Palace of Fine Arts.
Of course, our 44th President, Barack Obama is Chicago’s most famous resident. I will look forward to visiting his library someday.
Many acclaimed actors were born, lived, and/or worked in Chicago, including Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, John and Joan Cusack, Vince Vaughn, Jeremy Piven, Kim Novak, Gillian Anderson, David Schwimmer, Melissa McCarthy, Bernie Mac, John C. Reilly, Jack Benny, Raquel Welch, Quincy Jones, John Mahoney, Gary Sinise, Jennifer Hudson, Mandy Patinkin — and the list goes on. Famous musicians from Chicago include: Benny Goodman, Ramsey Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, and Bob Fosse. Comedians include: Bill Murray, Robin Williams, Tina Fey, John Belushi, Amy Pohler, Chris Farley, and Seth Meyers. Walt Disney was born here.
Chicago is the birthplace of gospel, electric blues, house, juke, footwork, and drill. The unique sounds born in Chicago continue to resonate around the world. We’re also the home of renowned artists including Louis Armstrong, Jennifer Hudson, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chance the Rapper, Common Smashing Pumpkins, Rise Against, Muddy Waters, and Kanye West. Chicago is a city music of festivals, celebrating every music genre. Experience Chicago’s most notable music festivals including the Chicago Blues Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork Music Festival, Ravinia Festival, and Riot Fest.
Why is Chicago called the Windy City? The nickname “The Windy City” does not come from the cool gusts of air blowing off Lake Michigan. The name actually originates from the 1870’s article referring to the city’s politicians being “full of hot air” due to their boastful manners. I guess Washington, DC could be Windy City #2?
As for something to eat: Chicago has 26 Michelin-starred restaurants, 40 James Beard Award winning restaurants, and 54 Bib Gourmand winners. But there are more than 2000 hot dogs stands in the city! Chicago style pizza did not make an appearance until 1943 at Pizzeria Uno. The Nabisco Cookie factory is the largest cookie and cracker factory in the world. The first McDonalds was opened in Chicago in 1955.
I plan to do a few new activities, as well as few old ones. The new: I am going to see the Frida Kahlo and van Gogh immersive exhibits. The old: Wrigley Field for a ball game, Portillo’s for a Chicago beef, Garrett’s Popcorn, a Charcuterie at Eataly, and who knows? I always feed a few homeless here as well.