Go to the Digital Library top page!

Social Studies

Click here to go to introduction.

Table of Contents > Chapter 1

The Loop (continued)

Chicago continued to grow at a phenomenal rate. The city's population grew from just under 30,000 in 1840 to 109,260 ten years later. By the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, over 300,000 people lived in Chicago. The area that would later become the Loop reached residential and economic maturity by this time. It was a very different central city than the one we know today. The area was not yet segregated by function. It was both residential and commercial. Wealthy people lived in the central business district, especially south of Van Buren Street (See Fig. 1). Wabash Avenue was known as the street of churches because prominent Protestant congregations built large houses of worship in what is today the South Loop. Wealthy people lived close to the center of the expanding city in order to be close to where they worked. Limited transportation facilities made it desirable to live close in.

Working-class people also lived in the central area. Immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia lived on the outskirts of today's business district. Old St. Mary's Church, St. Peter's, and St. Patrick's remain in the Loop today, or just outside it, as reminders of this period of development. The poor lived close to the rich before the Chicago Fire, once again because of limited transportation.

Workers walked to work. Immigrant shanty towns and densely packed tenements stood near the river. Some immigrant workers also lived in alley slum dwellings behind the impressive looking business blocks. Residential integration and social segregation remained the order of the day until new means of transportation and the Chicago Fire drastically changed the city after the Civil War.

« previous 4 of 11 next »

Figure 1: Lake Street, between Clark and LaSalle,1860. »

Need help searching?
Search help

Search eCUIP:

Examples: or
Contact eCUIP!

Need help?

Return to the eCUIP top page!