Today, Chicago is often called the Windy City, in addition to many other names, but ever wonder where the city’s nickname originated?
According to the data from the U.S. Metrological Department, Chicago’s average annual wind speeds rank thirteenth in the country. However, when it comes to the actual data, Dodge City in Kansas is the windiest city in the country.
A new study reveals that while Chicago may be windy, it isn’t necessarily more than other cities in the U.S. with comparable climates and geography.
When you factor in population density and average wind speed per square mile of land area — two factors likely to affect how often people feel the breeze on their faces — Chicago ranks below many other major US cities regarding gustiness.
So why do we still call great Chicago “Windy City?” Perhaps because there are few things more fun than complaining about our weather.
The Story Behind the Windy City Title
There are various stories associated with the Windy City title. One common rumor was Cincinnati writers’ first-ever mention when Chicago was nominated to host the World’s Fair.
The second notable mention dates to 1880. The ‘last Chicago tornado’ hit the city and caused no harm to the tall glass buildings.
Cincinnati Enquirers implied the mortgages weigh down the tall buildings, and nothing can shake them down. Of course, Cincinnati was a rival city and always enjoyed an occasional snide.
A New York newspaper created the Windy City moniker in 1876 to describe Chicago’s political climate. It has been used ever since, but it is not without critics saying the city doesn’t live up to its name.
However, various other nicknames that make sense are also associated with Chicago. For instance, Chi-town and City of Big Shoulders.
Charles Dana, New York Sun Newspaper
It is believed that Dana wrote an editorial piece, which referred to Chicago as Windy City. However, one of the enthusiasts and researchers of Windy City question, and an etymologist Barry Popik, ruled out this rumor.
Popik said there was no such piece published in the New York Sun Newspaper. The name was already in print around 1870.
He elaborated that it all started when the World’s Columbian Exposition was due in 1893. It was the first-ever World’s Fair, and there was a tussle between the Big Apple and Chicago.
The World’s Fair was celebrating Christopher Columbus’s 400th anniversary of his arrival in America. The committee was looking into some largest cities in the country as contenders to host the World’s fair.
Charles Dana’s editorial piece:
On July 24, 1893, at a meeting of the Board of World’s Fair Directors, Chicago was selected as the site of the Columbian Exposition over competing bids from New York, Washington, Lisbon, and a Trans-Mississippi Joint Committee.
In New York, The Sun reported that representatives from Cincinnati had been spreading the story there that Chicago’s bid was fraudulent and that the “windy city” might steal the fair away to its rival. In retaliation, reporters started using the epithet as a term of ridicule.
By October, Chicagoans were tired of hearing it. At the “Indignation Meeting,” the name Windy City was resoundingly replaced by Strawtown. The city’s World Fair newspaper complained, “It is altogether too late now to attempt to make the ‘Windy City’ anything else than an appropriate sobriquet for the “Second City.”
The term was popularized by the Chicago Tribune, which made it an official slogan in 1911. It remains well-known today because many cities — especially financial capitals such as New York and London — are commonly referred to as a “city that never sleeps.”
By contrast, due to the rustic nature of its location, Chicago was considered the city needing a long nap during the day.
Although Chicago ranks high among major cities nationwide, most believed San Francisco, mainly New York, deserved it, but the Chicago representative came with a strong start and won over.
Later, David Wilton researched and presented in his recent book, “Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends.” and mentions that Dana was given undue credit until now.
He concludes that it started from the dig from the Cincinnati enquirer. He also credited Chicago’s fast pace towards urbanization that possibly led to the name.
Another aspect that may contribute is the hot air and the contentious nature of Chicago’s politics that may have earned it the title for windiest city.
Other Suitable Alternates for Windy City
Despite the occasional mention of the nickname in the Chicago Tribune, here are some well-deserved city nicknames.
City of Big Shoulders
The city was named the “Best Place to Raise Kids in Illinois” by Forbes Magazine in 2012. This term was coined by New York journalist and poet Carl Sandburg for its high-class universities and diverse economy.
Sandburg was born in Illinois, and he used the term to promote Chicago as a city that works for its people and shoulders their burdens together. As an adopted son, we can say he has donned the city’s identity proudly.
City of Broad Shoulders
The moniker was named in honor of the city’s major contributions in agriculture, industry, commerce, and transportation. It earned its fame for having an even-tempered climate. Chicago is known for its big shoulders and the “tough guy” image it projects. The city’s informal motto: “We’ll show you.”
Chicago is one of the preeminent comedy cities, and the Second City Theater has been a training ground for talented comedians since 1959.
This term was specially coined by Chicago’s own Kanye West in his recent album, “The Life of Pablo.” It is widely used to describe the city’s vibrant culture. Calling Chicago “Chi-Town” will make Illinois’ largest city look more friendly and less windy.
Maybe we should ask Kanye West to endorse the new name for Chicago?
The City That Works
This moniker can be attributed to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who was in office for over 20 years. Daley used the endearing term to promote his city’s hardworking ethos. However, it wasn’t until Rahm Emanuel won after Daley’s two terms that the term caught on.
Chicago: A Garden City
In our opinion, Chicago is well-suited for Garden City. The landscape of the city comprises almost 9% of the green spaces. The beautiful gardens throughout the city have earned it the nickname of “Garden City.” It attracts many tourists and people who love greenery.
And these are not just facts. Chicago has been named twice in a row for the greenest city in the USA. The title doesn’t come from its green pastures but building that are EPA ENERGY STAR label.
Chicago is constantly trying to convert its building and homes to renewable energy resources, reducing emissions. The idea is to exemplify how other major cities can modernize, develop and aim towards green.
People in Chicago are becoming increasingly aware and are more inclined to buy apartments that’s are LEED or ENERGY STAR certified.
The City with a Big Heart
The warm and friendly citizens have earned the city a reputation of having a big heart. Chicago residents still remember their former Mayor Harold Washington as a man who had a big heart that helped his fellow citizens.
Chicago the City of Legends
No state in America has more legends than Chicago alone. Clowns, a green-eyed girl, and haunted houses are some famous legends of the city.
The Hull House, which is now a museum – legend has it that a couple took in a child from adoption. Later, he was discovered as the child of Satan.
Indeed, the place is creepy, or maybe it gets to visitors’ nerves; people often claim to see satanic faces disappearing and appearing in the Hull House.
Another legend is a blue-eyed girl who takes a lift in the middle of the night, asking for a drop off at Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Avenue.
Would you tell her no if you met her?
Then there was a clown who abducted children; the rumors had no validation. But parents still get weary if a child goes missing.
Haunting on the German Church Road Forest and worst of all, Chicago History Museum was built on a graveyard.
All these legends make Chicago a place where you wouldn’t go around Halloween time for sure.
City of Skyscrapers
Chicago is also a home for skyscrapers, the most famous being the Sears Tower. Uniquely the tower was built in 1885, and the structure consists mostly of steel.
With over 1,300 high rises and counting, mentions Chicago Daily Tribune, the city houses various skyscrapers in the Southside and Hyde Park area.
Perhaps the windiest Chicago gets is on the streets that are swarming with skyscrapers. The moment you cross the street, the wind speed goes back to being normal.
It has nothing to do with the legends but the Downdraught effect that creates a large tunnel of winds that comes gushing down on the street. Channeling and funneling are also experienced on some streets.
Despite the noise and wind, Chicago has one the most beautiful and scenic skylines.
We wouldn’t view it from the eyes of Michael Birawer Art. But Franck reporter caught the true essence and beauty of this beautiful and green city.
When you crave the bird’s eye view experience, the John Hancock Tower’s 94th floor gives you the city at its best. With the view of the lake and the skyline, it is the best place to visit around sunset time.
City of Tourism of Lake Michigan
Whether it was a mockery or a dig, the name stayed with the city. Now, it is often called the windy city in the tourism industry and the draw of Lake Michigan.
The area around the Lake becomes windy and pleasant. Often tourism agencies use the term to attract tourists around summer holidays.
And it does work each time like a charm. Easily the largest lake by area any country can have, it is termed the biggest lake after Lake Superior.
The cool breeze by evening is welcoming for sunbathers and swimmers who swarm around summertime. However, most of the year, late evening and night are windy city times with very predictable weather patterns.
The waterfront also happens to have plenty of summer homes that are inhibited during summers and holiday seasons.
Ideally, the Lake area has various beaches and wind forming various dunes. Uniquely these dunes are formed by green beach grass or often sand cherries.
Lake and surrounding areas couldn’t have the World’s biggest freshwater dune formations if it weren’t for the wind. Saugatuck Dunes State Park, Silver Lake State Park, Indiana Dunes National Park are famous tourist spots.
Chicago the City of Art
No doubt the city is heaven for art lovers compared to other cities.
The city is bustling with so many sculptures, monuments, and museums. You will find not only the traditional museums but some very off-beat ones.
The Museum of Surgical Science in the Gold Coast neighborhood exhibits some amazing and ancient surgical tools. Another interesting find is the exhibition of pin-up buttons in Bust Beaver Button Museum.
And if your thirst for the exhibit is not satiated, you can visit the famous American Writers Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Adler Planetarium.
Wrigley Field, the Magnificent Mile, Chicago Riverwalk, Navy Pier, Union Station, Picasso Statue are some of Chicago’s many arts and architectural gems.
Cloud Gate is situated in the central location of Millennium Park. It is slowly becoming the city’s famous hub for concerts and events.
Not to mention, if pizza is associated with Chicago city, so is Jazz. So, the best and authentic experience of Jazz happens in the city.
Chicago, the Food City
Where can we get a deep-dish pizza? Wasn’t Chicago the first name that popped in your head?
Uniquely, these pizzas are baked in high-edged pans, giving the dish more depth for cheese and tomatoes.
As a result, you have a pizza with a depth of a cake. Known for their taste and flavor, these are a must-try and the best in the country.
Another biggest event in the World hosted in The Taste of Chicago is a unique food festival. The event goes on for five days, in Grant Park each year in July.
It is one of the city’s most waited and colorful events anticipated by food vendors joining from adjacent towns. With art performances and live music, the place is the hub for showcasing new talent.
If New York City is Big Apple, Chicago is Windy City
New York was tagged as Big Apple by John J. Fitz Gerald, a sportswriter, for its emerging scene in Racehorses and tracks in 1920. The name did not stay except in the same jazz songs.
Although Kansas City has one of the biggest thoroughbred racecourses and hosts most races, New York City keeps the name and association with racecourses.
Later in 1970, when the city was slumping to swallows for its crime, lazy police force, and defamation, the town needed a campaign.
Along with Charles Gillet and some famous sportsmen, the name again brought the city’s fame and life back. Since then, the city embraced the name beside the Gotham fans who think otherwise.
Does Windy City Stand the Claim?
Chicago is a city of many happenings and opportunities. The lifestyle of the windy city is effortless and crime-free. The Chicago area neighborhoods are rich in culture and perfect to raise a family.
The city has one of the best schools, colleges and is rich in art and culture. Additionally, it hosts thousands of events and exhibits each year.
Lake Michigan is an essential aspect of the city and adds beauty to surrounding areas. The cold breeze blowing in later parts of the day makes this place breezy and pleasant.
With many beaches on the coast, beautiful hostile people, and delicious food, who cares about nonsensical claims of who called Chicago windy city or not.
We sure give this wonderful city the title of the windy city, aka, easy and breezy to live.
- Chicago City History
- Chicago = The Windy City | The History Channel