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Table of Contents > Chicago: City of Neighborhoods

Introduction (continued)

For generations of urban dwellers, the most familiar place in the neighborhood has been the block. Chicago's grid system of streets divides the city into thousands of these small units. It is on the block that the term neighbor is meaningful. Sidewalks, backyards, gangways, and alleys still provide the first playgrounds for most Chicago children. Front porches, fences, and corners are the meeting places of adults, and these form the gossip network for both men and women. The corner tavern as well as the now almost extinct "Ma and Pa" grocery store were important local institutions which served the block as well as the larger neighborhood.

This book about Chicago neighborhoods continues a long tradition. As early as the 1860s, guidebooks have documented the city's rapid rise from a frontier town to an urban metropolis. Because of their tremendous role in creating and sustaining the city, we believe Chicago neighborhoods deserve special attention. Our focus in this book is historical. In addition to describing the origins and development of the neighborhoods, we have selected historic and contemporary photographs to illustrate the changes which have taken place in the neighborhoods over the years.

The fifteen suggested tours are based on the neighborhood histories. Be sure to read the histories first, then set out on the tours. The tours point out institutions and buildings which have played an important role in neighborhood growth. Many of the tours trace the historic development of individual neighborhoods, from the oldest settlements to the newest sections. The tours are designed to provide a specific route through each neighborhood, but as Chicagoans well know, many a two-way street has been changed to one-way, apparently overnight. We must leave adjustments to your own ingenuity.

We hope this book will promote a greater interest in and appreciation for Chicago's neighborhoods. Far from being relics of the past, the neighborhoods are alive and dynamic, and the city very much needs them if it is to survive.

Dominic A. Pacyga
Ellen Skerrett

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