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Old 12-14-2009, 06:24 PM
 
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After a bit of research and analysis, (This is relevant to what I do for work since I teach geography) I've come with a list of reasons as to why Chicago developed in a way that allowed it to become the primate city of the midwest. (Although I am certainly not taking credit for any of this; just read Nature's Metropolis by William Cronon).

So here it is, tell me what you think. Now I don't want this to become another city versus city thread. So, if you don't have something constructive to add then don't post. So here it is:


1. First and foremost geographic location. Many on this forum know this already, but Chicagos location made it inevitable to grow as it did. Being on the western edge of the Great Lakes facing into the wide open agricultural Great Plains (I use Great Plains loosely here) and being in a spot where a canal had to be dug to connect the lower Des Plaines River to Lake Michigan meant that a city would inevitably develop there. St. Louis and Cincinatti were the bigger cities throughout most of the 1800s, but they were to far south (and west in case of STL) they were not located in the best locations obviously to take advantage of Great Lakes transport and the railroads when they came. Cincy and STL were river cities, that weren't in a position to compete well once the Erie and Welland canals were built.

Given Chicagos position as being well positioned between the agricultural heartland and water and rail transport to the east coast made it inevitable that Chicago was going to develop a diversified manufacturing economy rather than a dominance on one thing, for the simple fact that all the food coming out of the heartland needed to be processed for the east coast, the Great Plains needed manufactured goods from the east as well as wood that came from forests coming down from the northwoods. Later being halfway between the iron ore of the north and coal to the south, the south end of the L. Michigan inevitably became a center for steel and all the steel machinery needed by farmers.

2. The public tranportation that Chicago is known for is a direct result of it being a railroad hub. STL and Cincy experiencing their greatest growth spurt before railroads criss-crossed means they didn't have quite the infrastructure in place. Meanwhile Detroit went through its growth spurt later developed in a fundamentally spread out way from 1910-1930 as a direct result of the motor city. Chicago developed the EL as a result of the simple fact that there were no cars yet. If it was going to host the Columbian exposition in 1893, it had to have a good train network. Its no wonder that most of the El lines date back to around then. If it hosted a major fair later, who knows, it may have been an afterthought, after cars were already around.

3. Chicago grew with one of the countries largest Irish population in the mid-1800s. The fact that the Canal had to be dug, also happened to be the same time as the Irish potato famine. Now the Irish were in a unique positition to become involved in politics like no other ethnic group. They were discriminated against, so opportunities were closed to them in many cases, yet the already spoke english (unlike other other ethnics) and they already understood an Anglo-based system of government which allowed a political machine to develop. A political machine that everyone loves to hate, but yet know the political stability has allowed for major projects to get underway. Hence the Daley Sr. regime from 1956-1976. These were the crucial years that tested American (and specifically midwestern) cities racial tensions and economic transition from a manufacturing based economy to a a more diversified one. Daley senior prevented any more serious race riots, therefore lessened the impact of white flight, and by investing in the major building projects: McCormick, O'Hare, Sears tower, Hancock, etc. gave Chicago a foundation to keep the rustbelt forces devestating the city. In a way, as horrible as they were, even the 1968 democratic convention, as much as a blow as they were to Daley Sr., allowed Daley Jr. maybe to seriously learn from his fathers mistakes by combining the "get things done" way of doing things of the machine with making the city more appealing to the new generation of progressives who wanted to return to city living later.

4. Brings us to #4. Universities. The areas that are the core of Chicagos gentrification started from are where the major universities are: DePaul (Lincoln Park), Loyola (Edgewater), U of C (Hyde Park) and Northwestern (Evanston). Unlike most other midwestern states. The great universities often developed in seperate smaller cities far from the urban core. (Although STL is an exception). Thus if Colombus evolved with and inside Cleveland, if Madison evolved with Milwaukee, and Ann Arbor evolved with Detroit, those cities and therefore those states, would be in a better advantage. Having the states great universities inside the city, (I know NU is outside but its JUST outside) gave Chicago brain an intellectual side to balance the industrial side. Having this "lakefront liberal" core, and seeing how they were going to be the future of American cities, Daley Jr. learned from his fathers mistakes and worked to make Chicago more appealing to even more potential transplants that would revitalize the city.

Here are some things that are often cited as having to do with Chicagos dominance, that I think are not really as having much to do with why it is the way it is today.

1. The 1871 fire. Other cities burn down and were rebuilt with new plans. Chicagos fire was simply big enough to make history, yet enough of the city actually did survive that it had the infrastructure to rebuild.

2. Reversal of the river. The canal was already dug basically through a very swampy slow flowing river. Geography a barely existing sandy drainage divide was nothing to stand in the way of any collection of engineers. Anywhere else reversal was either impossible or not necessary.

3. Immigration. For most of the 20th century, other Great Lakes cities were experiencing similar immigration. Both from Europe, the south, and elsewhere.

Tell me what you think!

Last edited by Tex?Il?; 12-14-2009 at 06:54 PM.. Reason: not finished
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Old 12-14-2009, 07:03 PM
 
Location: Schaumburg, please don't hate me for it.
955 posts, read 1,831,897 times
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Most teachers and Chicago historians would emphasize that the railroads were the key. By 1900, the city was the center of rail transport in America.
For whatever reason, the rail magnates of the 1800's decided to make sure that all roads led to Chicago.

Even today Chicago is still a maze of tracks, spurs and railyards.
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Old 12-14-2009, 07:19 PM
 
Location: Chicago
15,586 posts, read 27,609,770 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tex?Il? View Post
4. Brings us to #4. Universities. The areas that are the core of Chicagos gentrification started from are where the major universities are: DePaul (Lincoln Park), Loyola (Edgewater), U of C (Hyde Park) and Northwestern (Evanston). Unlike most other midwestern states. The great universities often developed in seperate smaller cities far from the urban core. (Although STL is an exception)...
Not entirely accurate. For example, Northwestern's law school and medical school in Chicago in Streeterville date back to 1859.(Although both of these started as separate colleges not part of Northwestern, both were taken over by Northwestern long before 1900.) Northwestern developed in both Evanston and Chicago concurrently.

The School of Management in Chicago (as well as in Evanston) dates back to 1908.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwestern_University

================================================== =======

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...pages/910.html

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Also, DePaul (1898) and University of Chicago (1890) are well within the city limits and arguably can be considered to be in Chicago's core. In fact, they are located in the neighborhoods of Hyde Park and Lincoln Park, which are two of the oldest "urbanized" parts of Chicago.

Of course, at one point Hyde Park and Lake View (where part of DePaul's main campus is located in the neighborhood now known as Lincoln Park) were their own towns. But both towns were annexed (Hyde Park township and Lake View township both were annexed in 1889) before both Universities were established. Both universities developed as part of Chicago (and arguably as a result of being in the city itself), not in the former towns of Lake View and Hyde Park.

However, many of DePaul's buildings in Lincoln Park are south of Fullerton Ave (the border between Chicago and the former town of Lake View) in an area which was part of Chicago long before Lake View was annexed to begin with. "In 1875 its founding Vincentian fathers traveled to Chicago from LaSalle, Illinois, and established a church at 1010 West Webster Avenue on the city's North Side. There, in a building shared with a Catholic high school, they opened St. Vincent's College in 1898."

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...ages/1572.html

================================================== ========
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depaul_university

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_chicago

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...pages/714.html

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...pages/715.html

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...pages/621.html

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...pages/622.html

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...ages/1289.html

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loyola was founded in 1870 as St. Ignatius College (the Lake Shore campus) and changed its name to Loyola in 1909. This was located in the town of Rogers Park predating its annex into Chicago by about two decades (1893.) However, the university did not become what it is today until decades after it was part of Chicago.

"The university began instruction at 1076 W. Roosevelt Road and in 1912 began a 10-year process of relocation to its Lake Shore Campus in Rogers Park. A downtown campus was established in the Loop in 1914 and, after a move within that neighborhood in 1927, eventually relocated to the Near North Side in 1946. "

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...pages/766.html
================================================== ==========

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohisto...ages/1086.html

Last edited by Avengerfire; 12-14-2009 at 08:25 PM..
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Old 12-14-2009, 07:26 PM
 
Location: Oak Park, IL
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The Erie canal allowed both Chicago and NYC to become the pre-eminent cities of their regions. The Illinois & Michigan canal completed the link allowing boat traffic from the Mississippi to the Great Lakes to NYC. Everything else follows from these two canals.
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Old 12-14-2009, 07:35 PM
 
Location: Wheaton, Illinois
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In the 1600s Joilet recognized that the building of a canal through the divide would make a city that would dominate the center of the continent. Chicago's location made it's development inevitable.

One comfort we can take is that after this rickety structure of a society of ours falls apart Chicago will still be well positioned and a good place for commerce and trade long after Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Charlotte will have reverted back to wilderness or at best tank-town status.
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Old 12-15-2009, 08:01 AM
 
5,981 posts, read 13,121,497 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avengerfire View Post
Not entirely accurate. For example, Northwestern's law school and medical school in Chicago in Streeterville date back to 1859.(Although both of these started as separate colleges not part of Northwestern, both were taken over by Northwestern long before 1900.) Northwestern developed in both Evanston and Chicago concurrently.

The School of Management in Chicago (as well as in Evanston) dates back to 1908.

Northwestern University - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

================================================== =======

Northwestern University

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Also, DePaul (1898) and University of Chicago (1890) are well within the city limits and arguably can be considered to be in Chicago's core. In fact, they are located in the neighborhoods of Hyde Park and Lincoln Park, which are two of the oldest "urbanized" parts of Chicago.

Of course, at one point Hyde Park and Lake View (where part of DePaul's main campus is located in the neighborhood now known as Lincoln Park) were their own towns. But both towns were annexed (Hyde Park township and Lake View township both were annexed in 1889) before both Universities were established. Both universities developed as part of Chicago (and arguably as a result of being in the city itself), not in the former towns of Lake View and Hyde Park.

However, many of DePaul's buildings in Lincoln Park are south of Fullerton Ave (the border between Chicago and the former town of Lake View) in an area which was part of Chicago long before Lake View was annexed to begin with. "In 1875 its founding Vincentian fathers traveled to Chicago from LaSalle, Illinois, and established a church at 1010 West Webster Avenue on the city's North Side. There, in a building shared with a Catholic high school, they opened St. Vincent's College in 1898."

DePaul University

================================================== ========
DePaul University - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

University of Chicago - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lake View Township

Lake View

Hyde Park Township

Hyde Park

University of Chicago

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loyola was founded in 1870 as St. Ignatius College (the Lake Shore campus) and changed its name to Loyola in 1909. This was located in the town of Rogers Park predating its annex into Chicago by about two decades (1893.) However, the university did not become what it is today until decades after it was part of Chicago.

"The university began instruction at 1076 W. Roosevelt Road and in 1912 began a 10-year process of relocation to its Lake Shore Campus in Rogers Park. A downtown campus was established in the Loop in 1914 and, after a move within that neighborhood in 1927, eventually relocated to the Near North Side in 1946. "

Loyola University
================================================== ==========

Rogers Park
OK, I guess all I was trying to say is that having four great uiniversities within 10 miles or so, has perhaps helped Chicago remain a world class city more than anything in terms of a creative class.
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Old 12-15-2009, 09:42 AM
 
Location: Denver, CO
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Interesting topic. I completely agree that Chicago's location was crucial to it's development as a large city. I think it was key that all the railroads from the Upper Midwest/ Upper plains had go through Chicago as they passed around Lake Michigan on their way east. It also seems crucial that the land in Central Illinois, etc. was so fertile, as it still is today, a great place for agriculture. Chicago became a natural location for all supplies from the west to be brought both by railway and by waterway; and for manufacturing to be done with these supplies to create consumer products to be sold in the established cities further east. In a way, it became a natural regional economic hub.

Where I disagree with you is on your two later points:
I will never share your love for Chicago's political machine! I don't believe it to have enhanced Chicago's development, or prevented Chicago from becoming another Toledo, Detroit, South Bend, as many of you machine enthusiasts always assert. Points 1 and 2 clarify that Chicago had advantages those cities didn't have- and the economy diversified because of them, not some political machine that now taxes us all sorts of stupid *(%^ like soda and bottled water.

I kind of think that the development of great Universities in Chicago was somewhat of a secondary effect of it becoming a top-5 city in the US. Other big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Houston have a lot of universities simply because they are large economic centers. None of those cities are known primarily for their Universities. The only [major] city that I really believe has primarily developed because of their Universities is Boston. I agree that the Universities in Chicago have created neighborhood stability as you asserted (Lincoln Park, Hyde Park etc.). However, I don't necessarily believe that it is necessarily an advantage to have all the top Universities in the biggest city. We still have U of I, Weslyan, and other good schools in other parts of the state. Milwaukee does have good Universities too (UW-M, Marquette). To move Wisconsin's main school to Milwaukee would essentially, over time, make Wisconsin a state dominated by one city. The same would be true of the other states you mentioned. I don't see any evidence that sates are better off having one dominant city as opposed to several, like Ohio does with Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinatti.
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:20 AM
 
Location: River North, Chicago, Illinois
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tex?Il? View Post
...why Chicago developed in a way that allowed it to become the primate city of the midwest....
(emphasis added)

That'd be pretty cool - would it be like those towns in Thailand that are overrun by monkeys?
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Old 12-15-2009, 12:38 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJaye View Post

Where I disagree with you is on your two later points:
I will never share your love for Chicago's political machine! I don't believe it to have enhanced Chicago's development, or prevented Chicago from becoming another Toledo, Detroit, South Bend, as many of you machine enthusiasts always assert. Points 1 and 2 clarify that Chicago had advantages those cities didn't have- and the economy diversified because of them, not some political machine that now taxes us all sorts of stupid *(%^ like soda and bottled water.

I kind of think that the development of great Universities in Chicago was somewhat of a secondary effect of it becoming a top-5 city in the US. Other big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Houston have a lot of universities simply because they are large economic centers. None of those cities are known primarily for their Universities. The only [major] city that I really believe has primarily developed because of their Universities is Boston. I agree that the Universities in Chicago have created neighborhood stability as you asserted (Lincoln Park, Hyde Park etc.). However, I don't necessarily believe that it is necessarily an advantage to have all the top Universities in the biggest city. We still have U of I, Weslyan, and other good schools in other parts of the state. Milwaukee does have good Universities too (UW-M, Marquette). To move Wisconsin's main school to Milwaukee would essentially, over time, make Wisconsin a state dominated by one city. The same would be true of the other states you mentioned. I don't see any evidence that sates are better off having one dominant city as opposed to several, like Ohio does with Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinatti.
Well, Chicago certainly would never be like Toledo or South Bend, and it was too diversified economically (although still based on manufacturing largely) to ever end up like Detroit, but here is the wikipedia link.

Cook County Democratic Organization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I think it does explain it. Chicago was simply way too diverse (and I'm not talking just racially although it includes that), to not undergo some sort of "balkanization", competing interest groups that couldn't decide on things and therefore Millenium Park, and dozens of other things would not have got done. Chicago took more hits from deindustrialization than Americas other top 5 cities. (Just not as much as the other midwest cities).

As far as the universities . . . well they certainly did bring help to attract a fair amount of the best and the brightest to Chicago from around the world and around the coutnry over the decades. Lets face it, most immigrants that came to Chicago then and now, are largely ones with little education, that were to busy working (either manufacturing or service) and doing family stuff to really contribute to anything such as a creative class, then and now. So I think the unversities role in Chicago is a lot more like Boston, than one might think.
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Old 12-15-2009, 08:09 PM
 
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I think you're placing too much emphasis on the (rather small) universities.

A much bigger factor, I think, is that manufacturers' headquarters didn't leave town nearly as quickly as the actual manufacturing plants did. They supported ancillary services such as advertising, accounting, law firms, consulting, etc. That bridged the gap, during the 1970s and 80s, between an industrial economy and a post-industrial information economy.
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