Since the greater Chicago area is home to over 100 houses and other buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright’s own design, this comment could be viewed as more than a little self-serving. On the other hand, when it comes to city-scape, who would know better than America’s most storied master architect. More than a collection of impressive structures, America’s Second City has carved out a niche as one of the most iconic locations in the heartland. From music and cuisine to architecture and art, today’s Chicago is a midwest Mecca of culture, inexplicably perched on the soggy shores of Lake Michigan.
However, that isn’t all that comes to mind when someone mentions the Windy City. Also known colloquially as ‘The Dark City’, Chicago has historically been associated with grittier aspects such as pollution-causing industry, animal processing plants and poverty.
Inseparably linked to villainous icons like Al Copone and John Dillinger, Chicago has also developed a reputation as a dangerous hub of crime, both organized and sporadic. In lieu of trying to bury or ignore these sinister facets, proud natives seem gratified to have forged a great metropolis out of some murky material.
Rather than try and tease out the truth between these two contradictory Chicago narratives, I want to focus on a few points of light in this town that still holds onto its own darkness. In this cultural guide to Chicago, let’s bring the dark city to light by exploring the architecture, cuisine, music and fine arts.