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CHICAGO FUN FACTS

The city with a rich history and fascinating stories.

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CHICAGO IS HOME TO...

  • 237 square miles of land
  • An estimated 2.7M residents
  • More than 200 theaters
  • Nearly 200 art galleries
  • More than 5,500 restaurants
  • 77 community areas containing more than 100 neighborhoods
  • 26 miles of lakefront
  • 36 annual parades
  • 19 miles of lakefront bicycle paths
  • 552 parks
  • United States President Barack Obama

HISTORY

  • Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837.
  • Chicago's nicknames include: The Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, the Second City, and The City That Works.
  • In 1900, Chicago successfully completed a massive and highly innovative engineering project - reversing the flow of the Chicago River so that it emptied into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan. Each year, the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
  • The world's first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Company, was built in 1885.
  • Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1949.
  • The first televised U.S. presidential candidates' debate was broadcast from Chicago's CBS Studios on September 26, 1960, between John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Richard Milhous Nixon.
  • Sen. Carol Moseley Braun became the country's first female African-American U.S. senator in 1992.
  • The atom was first split (leading to the A bomb and nuclear power) under the football stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago.
  • Chicago's own Jane Addams, founder of the Hull House, was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. The Hull House opened in 1889 to aid Chicago immigrants.
  • The term "Jazz" was coined in Chicago in 1914. The city's native musicians included band leader Benny Goodman and drummer Gene Krupa.
  • The 1893 Columbian Exposition grounds were so strikingly attractive and popular that they launched the so-called ‘City Beautiful' movement, an emphasis on parks, boulevards and other green space, in American city planning.
  • Chicago's first permanent settler - and businessman - was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an African-American from what is now Haiti, in 1779. In Du Sable's home, which he shared with his Indian wife, the first marriage in Chicago was performed, the first election was held, and the first court handed down justice.

ATTRACTIONS

  • Over 48 million people visit Chicago annually.
  • The "Historic Route 66" begins in Chicago at Grant Park on Adams Street in front of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • McCormick Place, Chicago's premier convention center, offers the largest amount of exhibition space in North America (2.6 million square feet).
  • The first Ferris wheel made its debut in Chicago at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Today, Navy Pier is home to a 15-story Ferris wheel, modeled after the original one.
  • The Chicago Cultural Center is the first free municipal cultural center in the U.S. and home to the world's largest stained glass Tiffany dome.
  • When it opened in 1991, the Harold Washington Library Center, with approximately 6.5 million books, was the world's largest municipal library.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo, one of only three major free zoos in the country, is one of the country's oldest zoos with an estimated annual attendance of 3.5 million.
  • The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 110 stories high.
  • The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) elevators are among the fastest in the world operating as fast as 1,600 feet per minute.
  • Maria Callas made her U.S. debut at the Lyric Opera in 1954.
  • Wrigley Field is the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

FUN FACTS

  • Chicago's downtown area is known as "The Loop." The nickname refers to the area encircled by the elevated (‘L') train tracks.
  • The game of 16-inch softball, which is played without gloves, was invented in Chicago.
  • Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901. He studied drawing at Chicago's McKinley High School and the Institute of Fine Arts.
  • The Twinkie was invented during the Depression by Chicagoan Jimmy Dewar, at the time, manager of Chicago's Continental Baking Company. The dessert was dubbed "Twinkie" after Dewar spotted an ad for Twinkle Toe Shoes. Originally filled with banana cream, but as they became scarce during WWII, vanilla cream was substituted.
  • Frank Sinatra introduced the song, "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)" in the 1964 Warner Brothers musical "Robin and the Seven Hoods." The song was voted best motion picture song of 1964 by the All American Press Association.
  • The first all-color TV station debuted in Chicago (Channel 5).
  • On the night of September 7, 1860, the steamer Lady Elgin collided with the schooner Augusta off the shores of Wilmette. At dawn the following day, Northwestern University student, Edward Spencer, swam through floating wreckage and a turbulent Lake Michigan to rescue 18 people. Because of injuries suffered during his heroic effort, Edward Spencer spent the rest of his life confined to a wheel chair. A plaque in his honor was placed in the gymnasium at Northwestern University.
  • Chicago has the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of Paris.

CHICAGO FIRSTS

  • Mail Order Business, 1872
  • Roller Skates, 1884
  • Steel-framed Skyscraper, 1885
  • Elevated Railway, 1892
  • Cracker Jacks, 1893
  • Cafeteria, 1895
  • Car Race, 1895
  • Zipper, 1896
  • Municipal Cultural Center, 1897
  • Window Envelope, 1902
  • Rotary Club, 1905
  • American Nobel Prize-winner, 1907
  • Comprehensive Municipal Plan, 1909
  • U.S. Meat Slicer, 1909
  • Automated Bread Factory, 1910
  • Zoot Suit, 1920s
  • Malted Milkshake, 1922
  • Pinball Game, 1930
  • Planetarium in W. Hemisphere, 1930
  • Hostess Twinkie, 1930
  • All-Star Baseball Game, 1933
  • Blood Bank, 1937
  • Spray Paint, Late 1940s
  • Controlled Atomic Reaction, 1942
  • Daytime TV Soap Opera, 1949

Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-5300
Skydeck Chicago
233 S. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 875-9696
Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N. Wacker Dr., Ste. 860
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 827-5600
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 744-3316
Chicago Cubs
1060 W. Addison St.
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 404-4200
Lincoln Park Zoo
Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2000
McCormick Place Complex
2301 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 791-7000
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