Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : The Plan of Chicago
The Plan of Chicago
Chicago in 1909
Planning Before the Plan
Antecedents and Inspirations
The City the Planners Saw
The Plan of Chicago
The Plan Comes Together
Creating the Plan
Reading the Plan
A Living Document
Constructing an Infrastructure
Return to "Planning Before the Plan"

Decades before the Plan of Chicago , the city was already engaged in remaking its natural setting to accommodate its ambitions.

Raising the Grade


Chicago's swampy setting led to its literally raising itself out of the mud. Several buildings were not only lifted but also moved to different locations. In this view of Lake Street in 1857, the work goes on in the background, while the cosmopolitan Chicagoans on horseback, in carriages, or on foot seem to pay little mind.

See also: Street Life; Built Environment of the Chicago Region

Dedication of Water Tower and Laying of Cornerstone, March 25, 1867


The water and sewer systems were built in stages beginning in the 1850s. Here citizens gather to celebrate the erection of the Water Tower, which survived the Great Fire of 1871 and is still one of the city's most famous landmarks.

See also: Historic Preservation; Infrastructure

Sanitary and Ship Canal construction cranes, 1895


The building of the Sanitary and Ship Canal fulfilled the longstanding goal of protecting the city's drinking supply by directing the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan.

See also: Sanitary and Ship Canal