Go to the Digital Library top page!

Social Studies

Click here to go to introduction.

Table of Contents > Chapter 1

The Loop (continued)

Indeed, the fire hastened a process that had been going on for some time; that is, the sorting out by function of the various parts of the central business district. Different sections would play different roles in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the city. While the retail district prospered along State Street, government was centered at City Hall on Clark Street. Entertainment could be found along Randolph west of State Street. And cultural life flourished along Michigan Avenue from the Chicago Public Library to the Auditorium Building. This cultural center was not allowed to expand into Grant Park, but it overflowed onto the lakefront sough of Roosevelt Road. After 1911 the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field were located there (See Figs. 1 and 2). LaSalle Street became the center of Chicago's financial district. The area south of Van Buren Street on State and Plymouth Court was the vice district.

One example of this sorting-out trend can be seen in what happened along South Wabash Avenue after the fire. Before the Chicago Fire, Wabash Avenue was a quiet street of fine homes and churches. The beautiful First Presbyterian Church and St. Paul's Universalist Church stood below Adams on Wabash. A popular skating rink occupied the northeast corner of Wabash and Jackson. This was a well-to-do area which, even before the fire, had begun to change. In the 1860s Chicago's music businesses were located on Clark Street near the entertainment district on Randolph. The Crosby Opera House opened in 1865 on Washington Boulevard between State and Dearborn. The downtown area had begun to differentiate by function.

The fire accelerated this trend. The wealthy moved their homes away from the center of the city to Prairie Avenue and even to the distant suburbs of Hyde Park and Washington Park. The economic success of State Street transformed the southern part of the central business district. The fire actually moved many of the retail businesses temporarily into the former homes of the wealthy on South Wabash and Michigan Avenues. Once the business community returned to the heart of the city, these older homes were given over to other enterprises or turned into cheap housing. The wealthy had moved on.

« previous 7 of 11 next »

Figure 1: Caryatid near the south entrance of the Field Museum, 1985.  »

Figure 2: Field Museum of Natural History. Twelfth Street at Lake Shore Drive, 1937.  »

Need help searching?
Search help

Search eCUIP:

Examples: or
Contact eCUIP!

Need help?

Return to the eCUIP top page!