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Table of Contents > Chicago: City of Neighborhoods

Foreword (continued)

Getting such a place together in one big civic formula is a job for a sociologist or maybe a contortionist. You begin with the ingredients, and they're mixed. No city is all one thing, anyway, and this one is part yesterday, part tomorrow, part problem, part solution: an iron city going somewhere but not quite sure where as it puts aside a century of assembly lines and heads for a century of light lines to the moon.

You won't see it that way, though, if you stay on the expressways that split the town's crust. Oh, you'll see looming shapes of church spires and they make you wonder how they happened to get here in such breathtaking numbers. You'll see the business towers that grab lakeside sky and excite the air.

And there are hints of neighborhoods that hold the town in place: working-class wooden houses from another time, with working folk still working in them, sometimes six to a room in old Pilsen; surprisingly delicate graystones housing third-generation families in Wrigleyville, say; bungalows and two-flats and apartments on street after street; stylish high-rises with lake views in a city with an architectural lineage tracing to Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rhoe.

To see it all clearly, you get off the expressway and wheel onto the streets. They're packed, they're swollen, and the shopping strips are cluttered with storefront sign glare and the dust of the generations piled at the curbs. And along with all this, thousands of taverns, hog-wild gas stations, shaggy parking lots, and tons of housing projects. And for that matter, whatever became of Hyde Park's 55th Street?

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