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Table of Contents > Chapter 1

The Loop (continued)

The new fort created certain geographical and economic patterns that would eventually influence Chicago's "Loop." Traders again flocked to Chicago because of the protection afforded by the military, and a marketplace developed along the south bank of the river west of the fort. As the population grew over the next twenty years, this area became the commercial center of the town. The South Water Street market and Lake Street were the first economic centers of the settlement. Wolf Point to the west, where the river splits, was also a site of development. Here, by 1831 stood the legendary Wolf Tavern and Sam Miller's Public House. The Sauganash Hotel, owned by Mark Beaubien, stood on the south bank of the river, closer to he fort. Today the Apparel Mart across the Wolf Point, and Wacker Drive marks the site of the old south bank trading center.

In 1833 Chicago was incorporated as a town, and in 1837 it became a city with 4,170 inhabitants. The small settlement of log cabins had swiftly become a major Western town, and it would soon be a city of national and even world importance. Already in the summer of 1837 seventeen lawyers were making a living in Chicago. Lawyers and litigation were another sign of developing urbanization. Land speculation was a major business in the city then, just as it is now. The two lots which Mark Beaubien purchased for his Sauganash Hotel for $120 in 1830 rose in value to $108,000 by 1853. The population continued to grow from year to year, decade to decade. And so did the land values.

Since the economic life of the early city centered around the river, it is not surprising that Lake Street became Chicago's first principal thoroughfare. The city's most important businesses were located on both sides of Lake Street from Wabash to Wells. By the late 1850s many brightly-colored three- to five-story Italianate style buildings lined the street. John Mills Van Osdel, Chicago's first architect, designed the first cast-iron building in the city in 1856. His designs set the style for the buildings on Lake Street before the fire.

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