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Ring up brazen and brilliant from the plains of America's heartland, Chicagoastonishes. The nation's third-largest city covers 229 square miles and stretches 29 miles along the shores of Lake Michigan, a Great Lake that looks more like an infinite sea. Suburbs in six counties expand the metropolitan area to 3,721 square miles, collectively known as "Chicagoland." European explorers first came upon this part of the world in 1680 and were followed a century later by fur trappers and soldiers. The settlement of 340 people was incorporated as a town in 1833, and its name was derived from the Illini word che-cau-gou, meaning either "wild onion" or "strong and great." Today more than three million people reside here in a colorful mosaic, from the old guard to recent �migr�s from Korea, Poland, India, and Iran.
The city's complex character and raucous history are legendary. Chicago is the city that rebuilt itself from the ground up in no time flat after the devastating Great Fire of 1871. And this is the city where Al Capone celebrated St. Valentine's Day in 1929 with a machine-gun massacre of rival gangsters. From the formation of labor unions to antiwar marches during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, great social events have unfolded here too.
Chicago is a virtual textbook of architectural styles. The spectacular skyline stretches from the Gothic Tribune Tower to the Art Deco 333 North Michigan Avenue to the sleek Modernism of Mies van der Rohe's steel-and-glass skyscrapers, then reaches up to America's tallest building -- the Sears Tower.Closer to ground level, the city boasts elegant turn-of-the century mansions in the Gold Coast, which is studded with literally hundreds of historic buildings, and Frank Lloyd Wright's groundbreaking Prairie School designs, which live on throughout Oak Park and at his masterful Robie House on the University of Chicago campus.
Visitors are dazzled by the array of stores and glitzy shopping malls preening along Magnificent Mile, fascinating Shedd Aquarium, and the treasures of the Art Institute of Chicago, including one of the country's most extensive collections of Impressionist paintings. Baseball fans won't want to miss a pilgrimage to historic Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs. Lake Shore Drive is another must-see, a stunningly scenic route skirting the city and lake.
In 1893, during the World's Columbian Exposition, a visiting reporter dubbed Chicago the "Windy City" because of all the bragging residents did about the place. Boastfulness is can still be discerned here. Even an insult -- as when New York essayist A.J. Liebling called Chicago the "Second City" -- is proudly flaunted like a scar from a hard-won battle. Chicago is, after all, birthplace of the Chicago blues as well as home to an internationally acclaimed symphony orchestra, a renowned theater scene, a bustling financial district, miles of public beaches, acres of parks, world-class cuisine, and the ever-popular deep-dish pizza -- a diversity of riches that begs exploration and enjoyment.Access Chicago. Copyright � by Richard Saul Wurman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.