Chicago has had a rich and flamboyant history. From Rogers Park
to Austin to the steel mill neighborhoods tucked away near the
Indiana border, generations of Chicagoans have created a vital
city with a long and colorful tradition. Chicago has been called
the Garden city, the Windy City, Hog Butcher to the World, and
the City That Works. But its most enduring title is the City of
Everyone seems to know what a neighborhood is, but few can define
it. "My neighborhood" may define a street corner, a
block or two, or a large geographical area like Lincoln Park.
Early social scientist claimed that neighborhoods belonged to
the world of small towns and rural areas. Urban dwellers knew
differently. From the mid-nineteenth century on, Chicagoans have
created a wide variety of neighborhoods, from the Gold Coast to
Chicago neighborhoods usually developed around some economic
base. This might have been a stock yard, a steel mill, a university,
park, or real estate subdivision. The economic base often became
a symbol of the area, such as Back of the Yards or Wicker park.
Whatever the economic or symbolic base may have been, it determined
much of the character and future of the neighborhood which grew
up around it.
Neighborhoods were created to protect and nurture families and
families in turn gave stability to urban areas. Many of Chicago's
original settlers were single men, immigrant laborers who sought
their fortunes in the steel mills and packinghouses. Industrial
sections of the city did not become neighborhoods until families
predominated. Likewise, early real estate developers sought to
attract families to the new homes that dotted the prairies of
Lake View, South Lawndale, and Morgan park.