An Interactive Map of Chicago… in 1868

Chicago is now America’s third largest city and is by far the biggest metropolis in the middle of America. They’re well known for once having the world’s tallest building, deep dish pizza, a baseball team that hasn’t won the World Series in over a century, and changing their mayor about as often as the Pittsburgh Steelers change their head coach. It is also a very new city. 200 years ago it didn’t even exist and now it is home to 2.7 million people. Unlike places like New York or Boston you won’t find very many traces of Chicago’s early history from before the Civil War though. This is because just about the entire city burned to the ground in 1871 and the new buildings that were rebuilt bore little resemblance to the old ones. This is in part why Chicago was able to build the world’s first skyscraper in 1885. We do have a way of seeing what Chicago looked like before the fire though. Here is an interactive map of Chicago with a recent satellite image superimposed over an 1868 map of the city. As you can see the streets themselves were relatively unaffected by the fire and the grid pattern has largely stayed the same. The biggest difference that I can see is that the city has pushed out the shores of Lake Michigan. Most of the now famous Lakeshore Drive was underwater prior to the fire. I love maps like these because it is a great reminder of how far we’ve come over the years.


Chicago before the Cubs could disappoint them.

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