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City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age

Formed by images of crowded city streets and towering skyscrapers, our understanding of nineteenth-century Chicago completely neglects the fact that the city itself was only the center of a web of neighborhoods, farm communities, and industrial towns—many connected to the city by the railroad. Farmers used trains to transport produce into the city daily; businessmen rode the rails home to their commuter suburbs; and families took vacations mere miles outside the Loop.

Historian and coeditor of the acclaimed Encyclopedia of Chicago, Ann Durkin Keating resurrects for us here the bustling network that defined greater Chicagoland. Taking a new approach to the history of the city, Keating shifts the focus to the landscapes and built environments of the metropolitan region. Organized by four categories of settlements-farm centers, industrial towns, commuter suburbs, and recreational and institutional centers-that framed the city, Chicagoland offers the collective history of 230 neighborhoods and communities, the people who built them, and the structures they left behind that still stand today.

Keating reanimates nineteenth-century Chicagoland with more than a hundred photographs and maps; we find here the taverns, depots, and way stations that were the hubs of the region’s vibrant, mobile life. Keating also includes an appendix of driving tours so readers can see this history for themselves. Chicagoland takes us into the buildings and sites that are still part of our landscape and repopulates them with the stories and characters behind their creation. The result is a wide-angle historical view of Chicago, an entirely new way to understand the region.

See tours of Chicagoland.

296 pages | 132 halftones, 23 maps | 8 1/2 x 9 1/4 | © 2005

Historical Studies of Urban America

Chicago and Illinois

Geography: Urban Geography

History: American History, Urban History


"The exciting freshness of her ideas helps carry the reader along, and so does one of Keating’s side enthusiasms: She is a lover of preserved historic buildings. There are lots of photos of old structures that help make her points, such as restored farmhouses, abandoned (or converted) factories, and even the remnants of summer camp buildings put up by churches when the suburbs were still isolated amid the woods. Keating even provides several detailed driving tours readers can take around the Chicago area to view this old architecture."

Henry Kisor | Chicago Sun-Times

Table of Contents

1. Regionalism in the Railroad Era
2. Chicagoland before the Railroad
3. Farm Centers of the Railroad Age
4. Industrial Towns of the Railroad Age
5. Commuter Suburbs of the Railroad Age
6. Recreational and Institutional Centers of the Railroad Age
7. Regionalism through Neighbors and over Time
8. The Legacy of the Railroad Era in Chicagoland
Appendix: Regional Tours and Selected Sites
Figure Credits

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