Today's North Michigan Avenue, also known throughout
the world as "The Magnificent Mile," traces its early history to
1837 when the City of Chicago was first incorporated.
It is difficult to imagine that today's famous avenue with
shopping malls, skyscrapers, entertainment venues, and world
class hotels was once a dirt road with a few wooden houses
as part of the Fort Dearborn Addition. As the city expanded,
there was the growing need to have bridges built across
the Chicago River to move people and produce into the city.
The first iron bridge was constructed at Rush Street and the
river, but that was destroyed by a cattle stampede.The
wooden replacement perished in the Great Fire of 1871, with
a final bridge going up in 1884. The famous Water Tower and
Pumping Station went up in the late 1860s and survived the
fire, while many of the new homes and mansions, as well as
the Fourth Presbyterian Church were destroyed in that
conflagration. The street which would become North Michigan
Avenue was first named Pine Street/Lincoln Parkway and
didn't assume its famous name until May, 1920 when the new
Michigan Avenue Bridge officially opened.
The Fourth Presbyterian Church was built in 1914, and
beginning in the 1920s, the majestic boulevard witnessed the
construction of such Chicago icons as Tribune Tower, the
Wrigley Building, the Allerton Hotel, the Palmolive Building
with the Lindbergh Beacon, and the Drake Hotel mixed in
with numerous low rise and mid rise buildings. The building
boom continued until the Great Depression and World War II
when construction came to a halt. But, starting again in the
1950s with the construction of the Prudential Building
further south at Randolph, everything along the Avenue began
to change. By the '60s and '70s, undeveloped lots were
being quickly filled in with such majestic structures as the
John Hancock Building and Water Tower Place, followed by
the 900 N. and 600 N. Michigan Avenue vertical malls as well
as the introduction of premier hotels and restaurants.
To the east, in the neighborhood known as Streeterville,
Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University
expanded greatly as the area took on its own unique identity.
Rush Street, to the west, and Oak Street, which abutted the
lake, experienced significant changes with the addition of movie
theaters, entertainment venues, restaurants and condominiums.
Today, the area that has become known as the Greater North
Michigan Avenue District is a major attraction in a world
class city where visitors increasingly come to discover why
Chicago is such a special place. The authors of this book,
The Rise of the Magnificent Mile, provide the reader with a
collection of vibrant, personal stories behind the development
of the area. Those remembrances are skillfully blended
with a wide range of black and white and color photographs to
fill in historic details by using a "then and now" format that
serve to describe a forever changing North Michigan Avenue.