Chicago. City, lake port, and shire town of Cook co., Is. Population in 1850, 30,000. This place is situated on the W. shore, and towards the S. end of Lake Michigan, at the point where the river of the same name enters the lake. The northern and southern branches of this river unite about three quarters of a mile back from the lake, forming a harbor from 50 to 75 yards wide, and from 15 to 25 feet deep. At its mouth it spreads out into a bay, with about 9 feet depth of water. The city is built on both sides of this bay and harbor, on a site which is almost as level as a floor, but sufficiently elevated to be secure from the highest floods. Piers have been constructed, extending into the lake from both sides of the mouth of the river, to prevent the formation of a bar from the accumulation of sand. These works were built by the United States and also the light-house, and the fortification named Fort Dearborn, which are upon a strip of land between the city and the lake shore, belong to the government.
This place has had a rapid growth, and from its position in the great line of communication between the E. and W., is destined to become a large city. In 1832 it contained only 5 small stores, and 250 inhabitants. Only 4 vessels had arrived during the year before. In 1836, 4 years later, the arrivals of brigs, ships, and schooners amounted to 407, besides 49 steamboats.
The Illinois and Michigan Canal unites the head of navigable waters in the Illinois River with Lake Michigan at Chicago. This great internal improvement was projected, and in part constructed, to be a ship canal for the largest class of vessels which navigate the lakes. For a distance of 30 miles from a point in the Chicago River, 5 ½ miles W. of the city, it was excavated, through indurated clay and compact limestone, to the depth of from 18 to 20 feet. Beyond this the canal is only 6 feet deep. Its width at the top is 60 feet, and its entire length 96 ½ miles, besides a navigable feeder of about 4 miles, from Fox River. This is one of the best constructed works of the kind in the country, opening an extensive channel of trade to the W., and establishing an uninterrupted water communication between the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi.
Another improvement, still more important in its results to the prosperity of Chicago, is that of the great Illinois Central Railroad, which is now in process of construction between this place and Cairo, at the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. This railroad will constitute the most direct and expeditious channel of communication between the North-Western and the Southern States, and between the commerce of the great lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. Especially will this be the case when its route shall be extended, as now contemplated, through Mississippi and Alabama to the city of Mobile; for which extension, as well as for the road through Illinois, Congress has voted a munificent appropriation from the public lands. Such an important line of communication, whether by this extension to Mobile, or by the river, as at present, to New Orleans, open throughout at all seasons of the year, must bring an incalculable amount of business into Chicago, while it opens to the Atlantic cities of the N. a new available access to the vast resources of the western trade.
The streets of Chicago are laid out in straight lines, intersecting each other at right angles. They are of good width, and some of them are planked; stone pavements not being used to any great extent. The largest buildings are of brick. The place is well supplied, from the region about Green Bay, with pine timber, another important material for building; and the transportation of this valuable description of lumber through the canal into the northern parts of Illinois and other sections of the west, where it is a desideratum, makes a profitable part of the business of Chicago. The city is supplied with water by an aqueduct from the lake. It has six or seven churches, some of which are fine edifices, situated on a public square. Some of the public houses are extensive establishments, affording accommodations equal to the best hotels in our eastern cities.