public buildings are crowded within an area of about 1.5 sq. m. The congestion of the streets—considerably lessened since the freight-subways have reduced the amount of heavy trucking—is proportionately great, and their din and crush is characteristic of the city. The residential districts, on the other hand, are unevenly and loosely spread; many areas well within the city are only sparsely settled. A belt of “bad lands”—occupied by factories, shanties, &c.—partially surrounds the best business district. The smoke resulting from the use of soft coal has given a drab and dingy colour- tone to the buildings. The low and even relief of the site and the long vistas of the streets do not lend themselves to the picturesque; yet this quality may be claimed for the high and broken skyline, varied colour, massiveness, bustle and impressive commercialism of the business district. Chicago is generally credited with being the original home of the steel-frame “sky-scraper,” though there are now higher buildings elsewhere in America. The unstable soil of sand, clay and boulders that underlies the city is unfavourable to tall constructions, and necessitates extraordinary attention to foundations. The bed-rock lies, on an average, 50 ft. below the level of the lake (in places more than a hundred). To the rock the foundations are often sunk in caissons, the buildings resting on monster columns of concrete and steel. In other cases great “pads” of the same materials, resting or “floating” upon the clay, sustain and distribute the weight of the building. The small extent of the business quarter adds to the effect of its tall structures. The Auditorium (1889; cost, $3,500,000), a huge building containing a hotel and a theatre (5000 seats), is one of the most massive commercial structures of the country. The Masonic Temple (cost, $3,000,000) is the tallest in the city (302 ft.). In 1909 there were some 475 structures ten or more storeys high. Not a few are noteworthy, whether for size—as the Monadnock office building of 16 storeys, with some 6000 occupants, and the new Northwestern Railway station; or for the luxury of their interior fittings—as the La Salle, Blackstone and Sherman hotels; or for boldness and originality in the treatment of the steel-frame type; or for association with the city’s life—as the Fine Arts building, given over to varied purposes of public amusement and artistic or intellectual improvement, or the Railway Exchange (cased in tiles), the University Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade; and many others are handsome and dignified examples of architecture. The Marquette building, consistently and handsomely decorated with works of art, is one of the finest office-buildings in the country. There are a number of enormous retail stores. The largest, and one of the finest in the world, is that of Marshall Field. The wholesale establishment of the same firm is the work of H. H. Richardson, considered one of his best, and one of the most admirable examples among American commercial buildings. The city hall and county court house (cost, $4,500,000) is an enormous double building in a free French Renaissance style, with columned façades. The new Federal building (finished in 1905; cost, $4,750,000) is a massive edifice (a low rectangle surmounted by a higher inner cross and crowned with a dome). The public library (1893–1897, $2,125,000), constructed of dark granite and limestone, with rich interior decorations of varied frescoes, mosaics, ornamental bronze and iron-work, and mottoes, is one of the handsomest libraries of the country. The Chicago Art Institute (1892–1893; Italian Renaissance), the Chicago Orchestra building (1904), and the Commercial National Bank, are also noteworthy. The finest residence streets are the Lake Shore Drive of the North Side and the “boulevards”—broad parkways that connect the parks of the city—of which Michigan Avenue, Drexel and Grand are the finest. The city’s environs are not of particular beauty, but there are bluffs on the lake to the north, and woods to the south-west, and a fair variety of pretty hill and plain; and though the Calumet and Chicago rivers have been given over to commerce, the valley of the Desplaines will be preserved in the park system. On the South Side are the Union Stockyards, established in 1865, by far the largest in the world. They cover about 500 acres, have about 45 m. of feeding and watering troughs, and can accommodate at one time more than 400,000 hogs, cattle, sheep and horses.
Public Works and Communications.—Local transit is provided for by the suburban service of the steam railways, elevated electric roads, and a system of electric surface cars. Two great public works demand notice: the water system and the drainage canal. Water is pumped from Lake Michigan through several tunnels connecting with “cribs” located from 2 to 5 m. from shore. The “cribs” are heavy structures of timber and iron loaded with stone and enclosing the in-take cylinders, which join with the tunnels well below the bottom of the lake. The first tunnel was completed in 1867. The capacity of the tunnels was estimated in 1900 by two very competent authorities at 528 and 615 million gallons daily, respectively. The average daily supply in 1909 was 475,000,000 gallons; there were then 16.6 m. of tunnels below the lake. The wastes of the city—street washings, building sewage, the offal of slaughter-houses, and wastes of distilleries and rendering houses—were originally turned into the lake, but before 1870 it was discovered that the range of impurity extended already a mile into the lake, half-way to the water “crib,” and it became evident that the lake could not be indefinitely contaminated. The Illinois and Michigan Canal, for which the right of way was granted in 1821 and which was built in 1836–1841 and 1845–1848, and opened in 1848 (cost, $6,557,681), was once thought to have solved the difficulty; it is connected with the main (southern) branch of the Chicago river, 5 m. from its mouth, with the Illinois river at La Salle, the head of steamer navigation on the Illinois river, and is the natural successor in the evolution of transportation of the old Chicago portage, ½ m. in length, between the Chicago river and the headwaters of the Kankakee; it was so deepened as to draw water out from the lake, whose waters thus flowed toward the Gulf of Mexico. It is about 96 m. long, 40-42 ft. wide, and 4-7 ft. deep, but proved inadequate for the disposal of sewage. A solution of the problem was imperative by 1876, but almost all the wastes of the city continued nevertheless to be poured into the lake. In 1890 a sanitary district, including part of the city and certain suburban areas to be affected, was organized, and preparations made for building a greater canal that should do effectively the work it was once thought the old canal could do. The new drainage canal, one of the greatest sanitary works of the world, constructed between 1892 and 1900 under the control of the trustees of the Sanitary District of Chicago (cost up to 1901, $35,448,291), joins the south branch of the Chicago with the Desplaines river, and so with the Illinois and Mississippi, and is 28.5 m. long, of which 15 m. were cut through rock; it is 22 ft. deep and has a minimum width of 164 ft. The canal, or sewer, is flushed with water from Lake Michigan, and its waters are pure within a flow of 150 m. Its capacity, which was not at first fully utilized, is 600,000 cub. ft. per minute, sufficient entirely to renew the water of the Chicago river daily. A system of intercepting sewers to withdraw drainage into the lake was begun in 1898; and the construction of a canal to drain the Calumet region was begun in 1910. The Illinois and Michigan canal is used by small craft, and the new drainage canal also may be used for shipping in view of the Federal government’s improvements of the rivers connecting it with the Mississippi for the construction of a ship-canal for large vessels. The canal also made possible the development (begun in 1903) of enormous
- The highest value ever paid in Chicago for land actually sold, up to 1901, was $250 per sq. ft. (1892); a few rental contracts have been based upon an assumed higher value. A municipal ordinance placing the extreme construction at 150 ft. was repealed in 1902.
- This is true of all the new large buildings. The “old” post office, completed in 1880 at a cost of $5,375,000, was practically a crumbling ruin within fifteen years; its foundations were inadequate. Years were spent in sinking the foundation of the new Federal building that replaced the old.
- Total excavation, 42,397,904 cub. yds.; of solid rock, 12,265,000.
- It has been conclusively proved that the Illinois is purer than the Mississippi at their junction. The undiluted sewage of the old canal drove the fish from the river, but they have come back since the opening of the new canal.