Book Review: Chicago

Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis by Harold M. Mayer and Richard C. Wade, published by University of Chicago Press, 1969. Hardcover, 522 pages. (Amazon)

Covering the prairie city's growth from 1830 until the book's initial publication in 1969, the authors tell the story of Chicago in illustrations, maps and photographs. Through the first we see the small seaport's early growth and through the last we see the seaport boom into the most important city in the Midwestern United States. Each chapter cover roughly twenty years, the first two leading up to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, where photos can most dramatically show both the prosperity of the city and its subsequent destruction. The rebuilding of the city follows, through to the significant events of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the building boom of the 1920's, the rise of the suburbs and public housing around World War II, ending at the high-rise building boom taking place as the authors penned the book. Thankfully, Mayer and Wade fill in the gaps between these events with the wide exposure that's required to document the city's growth. In addition to the significant buildings featured in architecture guides and architectural history books, the duo spends equal time showing us lower-income areas, outlying areas, industrial areas and the like. Although much has changed since the book's publication (and second edition in 1973), Chicago stands as a fitting testement to the strength and drive of the Midwestern metropolis.