The Essential Guide to: Chicago, Illinois

Chicago may well be the quintessential American city. With a location that makes it a natural transportation hub, the city has thrived on commerce from the beginning. From American Indians, to French traders, through English settlers and later immigrant groups; Chicago has served as meeting place, exchange, shipping, and railroad hub connecting east and west. In the process, Chicago grew from almost nothing to one of the continent's most important cities in just a few decades.

Along the way, Chicago layered successive waves of immigrants to form a varied ethnic makeup. Chicago also tempered itself with The Great Fire of 1871, which destroyed 18,000 buildings, killed 300 people, and left 90,000 homeless. The resulting boom of reconstruction created for the city a showcase, which still survives, of late nineteenth century architecture.

For its size, Chicago is a remarkably friendly city. Visitors will likely encounter residents eager to help with directions or advice. There is plenty to see and do, and Chicago is well laid out with an excellent transportation system.

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