The first resident of Chicago was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a fur trader of French-African descent from Santo Domingo. Du Sable built the first settlement in 1779 at the mouth of the Chicago River. In 1830, lots were sold to finance construction of what would become the Illinois and Michigan Canal, connecting Chicago with the Mississippi River. In 1837, the town was incorporated as a city with a population of 4,170, drawing its name from an Indian word meaning "strong" or "great".

On Oct. 8, 1871, a fire began on the West Side. Two days later, the Great Chicago Fire had claimed 300 lives, left 90,000 Chicagoans without homes and destroyed $200 million worth of property. The disaster was turned into an opportunity to plan and rebuild the entire city.

The Lakefront now provides the setting for an endless array of activities, from swimming and boating to bike trails and jogging paths. Entertainment is just minutes away. The Lincoln Park Zoo, the Art Institute, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium all are facilities that promote fun and learning for all ages.

Michigan Avenue's 'Magnificent Mile' is among the most elite retail districts in the nation. The 'Mag Mile' features such exclusive shops as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus, Macy's and Bloomingdale's. Water Tower Place is an elaborate eight-floor indoor mall featuring more than 120 specialty shops and several restaurants.

The Gold Coast is Chicago's wealthiest neighborhood. Unlike most affluent suburbs, the Gold Coast is diverse and exciting as well as exclusive, with several historic landmark mansions on Lake Shore Drive. The area is rich in vintage walkups, which afford a diversity of architecture. Neighborhood assets include the lakefront, restaurants and an elegant shopping district. Gold Coast residents can walk to designer stores, such as Barney's New York, Prada and Hermes, as well as dozens of charming boutiques.

Streeterville has come a long way from its beginning as a muddy patch of Lake Michigan sediment where Captain George Wellington Streeter and his boat ran aground on July 10, 1886. The area between the Chicago River, Oak Street, the east side of Michigan Avenue and the lake was recently described as the "most dynamic neighborhood in the nation." The 723-bed Northwestern Memorial Hospital, located in Streeterville, is a designated trauma center for emergency care.

River North is the fastest growing urban community in the country. Boasting the largest concentration of art galleries outside of Manhattan, unique shops, world-famous restaurants and thriving entertainment, River North is home to more than 5,000 people. River North is just a short walk from Navy Pier, Michigan Avenue and the Loop. Once an old manufacturing and warehouse district, today the area booms with large employers such as Quaker Oats and various businesses including upscale clothing and furniture stores in the recently converted Merchandise Mart. The neighborhood has 40 quality restaurants including famous names such as Planet Hollywood, Michael Jordan's, the Hard Rock Cafe, and Spago, as well as 20 popular fast-food establishments.

Old Town is home to a unique and exciting mix of retail establishments, entertainment venues and residential areas. Shops in Old Town are diverse and approximately 75% are locally owned, resisting the citywide influx of major retail chains. From bookstores and galleries to bars and tobacconists, Old Town offers something to suit every taste. Musical venues and clubs are numerous and the famous Zanie's and Second City comedy clubs are located in this district.

In addition to the Chicago public schools, renowned private and parochial schools in the area offer an alternative to area residents. Private elementary schools include Montessori School Near-North. Exclusive private high schools include the Latin School of Chicago, Francis Parker School, and St. Ignatius College Prep. Institutions of higher learning in the Near North Side include Loyola University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and DePaul University.

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