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Originally part of a vast Midwestern prairie, the Potowatami Indians named this area Chicago after their word for the smelly wild onions that grew along the river and wet prairie.
But by the 19th century, this "smelly" prairie had become a sprawling, filthy, crime-ridden place, filled with steel mills, slaughterhouses and train yards.
Greed, rather than good sense, fueled a rapid expansion that included poor sanitation and a lack of building standards. These environmental sins stoked the devastating fire of 1871 that consumed most of the city.
Out of the devastation came the need for city planning and the first step towards a sustainable city. The renowned Landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, insisted that parks and open spaces be key elements in the rebuilding of Chicago.
Architect Daniel H. Burnham designed Chicago to be a nurturing place, insisting the city's seven miles of lakeshore be public space, free of commercial development. Today Chicago owes its beautiful lakeshore to Burnham's insight and the spunk and determination of another controversial Chicago Leader, Mayor Richard Daley.[an error occurred while processing this directive]