Chicago, like any other place, has kept no secrets of what it has given to the world. Many inventions, discoveries and historical tales have ignited from here. The Windy City has come into the limelight for the Chicago Fire, the world’s largest public library with over 2 million books – Harold Washington Library Center and the birthplace of the founder of Mickey Mouse, Mr. Walt Disney. Here are certain other lesser well-known tales about Chicago:
THE STORY OF HOW CHICAGO WAS RAISED
No…this is not how Chicago ‘developed’ as a city or how the kids were raised there. This is literally how it ROSE! Chicago was founded in 1833 on the coast of Lake Michigan and within the Mississippi river’s watershed. By 1850, Chicago was a booming city but faced a major problem: floods. When it rained, everything got flooded. There was no working municipal sewage system and as the water collected, the water-borne diseases grew and people began dying. Chicago was merely 182 m above sea level and the lakeshore marsh that it was built on seemed bottomless; so there was no chance of having an underground sewage system. The only solution there was was to raise the entire city. The metamorphosis took 2 decades and was carried out with surprising ease.
So, how was it done? Easy-peasy. Buildings were jacked up 4-14 feet, more foundation was built underneath them, sewers were placed and finally, with dirt, they filled the streets up to the front doors of the raised buildings. Smaller buildings were dug up entirely, placed on logs and moved onto a new area! The government also began raising roads and sidewalks to facilitate the building of underground sewers. Chicago took this entire project to its advantage and rolled the old wooden-framed buildings away to its suburbs.
The most impressive tale of this project was that life in Chicago carried on as usual – like any other fast growing metropolis. Buildings were raised as people worked within them and the movement of houses just came to be seen as routine traffic.
This is the only river in the world that flows backwards and there is a reason why. In 1900, as Chicago grew, the Chicago River became polluted with human activities. During rainstorms, the polluted water began pouring into Lake Michigan – the only source of drinking water for the Chicagoans – and so the idea of reversing the flow of the river culminated. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was built to fill the river with the waters of Lake Michigan and flush out the dirty polluted waters. The North Shore Channel built at North Branch of Chicago did the same thing and eventually with the Cal-Sag Channel, the Chicago River was absolutely clean by the waters of Lake Michigan. They had to reduce the amount of water flow in 1930 though, as the neighbouring states began blaming Chicago for the record low lake levels.
Another trivia about Chicago is that every St. Patrick’s Day, the Plumbers Union dye the Chicago River a bright shade of Irish green and every summer the Special Olympics holds a fundraiser where tens of thousands of rubber ducks race down the waterway.
If you’re going to ride the Chicago trains…you might as well know this piece of information. The city’s rail system is referred to by the locals as ‘L’ or ‘EL’ short for ‘ELevated’. This was because most of the tracks were built above the ground and were elevated. The name has stuck and whether the lines are going overhead, surface or underground, it is referred to as the ‘el’. Chicago’s downtown area is called ‘The Loop’ where many elevated tracks join together and make a rectangular loop around the Finance and Theatre Districts.
The infamous route 66, also called The Mother Road, The Main Street of America, Will Rogers Highway and so many, many more names, actually begins from Chicago and travels westward till Santa Monica passing Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Unfortunately, it is no longer used and parts of it have been destroyed, making the livelihood of the people of the villages along route 66 difficult. However, the numerous songs, books and movies based on, or referred to, this route has helped make this road so famous for the younger generation. It is believed that this road is the only one that has truly captured the spirit of America. Stories of hope, heartbreak, love, hate, starting over and the realization of dreams have taken place here. Artists, singers, writers, hobos, travelers, soldiers, commuters, immigrants every kind of person had treaded here, going on their way to fulfilling the American Dream. Their tales are still told by the locals. What made this route so renowned was that it did not travel around the states – like the current interstate roads – but through it. You lived and experienced the way people lived and became a part of their lives. Route 66 made diners, road food and tourist traps famous – the visual of the 30’s America that we have today, can all be attributed to this road and a lot of it can still be re-lived today! Ergo, a large part of route 66 can still be driven upon – with some help. If witnessing the raw America has not convinced you, perhaps the multitude tourist attractions popping up on the road would!
Would you like to see Chicago? Let us know in the comments below!
“I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag