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A piece of Chicago History
10 years ago
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Carter Harrison (1825-1893)
10 years ago
Carter H. Harrison, seated portrait photograph, cabinet card. 1890-1893.
History of Chicago's City Government
10 years ago

The history of Chicago's city government dates back to March 4, 1837 when the town of Chicago, with a population of approximately 4,006, was granted a city charter by the Illinois state legislature. Seven hundred and nine (709) of Chicago's citizens voted in the first major election on May 2, 1837, selecting a mayor, treasurer, city clerk and common council. A census, taken by the city a few months after the charter was granted, revealed, in part, that there were 398 dwellings, 5 churches, 26 liquor dispensaries, 10 taverns, 19 groceries, 17 law offices and 3 drug stores in the newly chartered city.

The Common Council, the predecessor of the present City Council, was comprised of ten (10) aldermen representing the city's six (6) wards. At that time, each ward had two (2) aldermen, with the exception of the 3rd and 5th wards which had only one each.

The aldermanic term was a (1) year in length and city-wide elections were held on the first Tuesday in March. Eligible voters cast their votes orally until the Common Council changed the practice on February 10, 1840 requiring ballot boxes and election judges.

During the early years, the Common Council was called upon to confront many issues. The complete devastation caused by the great Chicago fire on October 8, 1871 was the most significant crisis the city government ever faced. Overnight, flames swept through the streets causing three (300) hundred deaths and rendering ninety-four (94,000) thousand people homeless. However, the city by the river of the Wild Onion rose from the ashes. Twenty (20) years after the Great Fire, not a scar remained of the calamity. The city approached a million and a quarter (102,50,000) in population and entertained the world at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Indeed, Chicago, growing in population and prosperity, would go on to become one of the world's greatest cities during the twentieth century (20th).


Historically, 44 men and one (1) women collectively served 80 terms of office as mayor, beginning with the city's first mayor, William B. Ogden (1837 - 1838), and ending with the current mayor, Richard M. Daley.

10 years ago

First City Hall

First City Hall (1837-1842): Chicago's first Common Council signed a five year lease for third floor space in the Saloon Building (from the French word "salon", meaning spacious hall) located at the southeast corner of Clark and Lake.

10 years ago

Second City Hall

Second City Hall (1842-1848): Mrs. Nancy Chapman rented space to the Common Council in her two story building on the northeast corner of LaSalle and Randolph, while the first government-owned building was being constructed.

10 years ago

Third City Hall

Third City Hall (1848-1853): Old Market Hall on State Street between Randolph and Lake was built by the City of Chicago for $11,070. As well as serving as a municipal structure, it housed thirty-two (32) stalls for a public market place.

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Fourth City Hall

Fourth City Hall (1854-1871): Chicago and Cook County joined together in constructing a City Hall/County Building located on the site of our present City Hall. After two elaborate expansions, the entire building was destroyed in the great Chicago Fire on October 8, 1871.

10 years ago

Fifth City Hall

Fifth City Hall (1873-1885): After two years without a permanent home, the Common Council met at the Old Rookery, on the southeast corner of LaSalle and Adams, which served as a temporary City Hall while Chicago was rebuilt after the fire.

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Sixth City Hall

Sixth City Hall (1885-1908): Chicago and Cook County once again joined efforts to construct a dual purpose building located at LaSalle, Washington, Clark and Randolph (the present site). A gas explosion on the County side in 1905 led to the demolition of the entire building and paved the way for the construction of the present City Hall.

10 years ago

Seventh City Hall

Seventh City Hall (1911-present): The seventh and present City Hall and County Building, bounded by LaSalle, Randolph, Clark, and Washington, went under construction in 1906. Construction was begun on the County portion (east half facing Clark) in January of 1906. Construction on the City Hall portion (west half facing LaSalle) was begun on April 15, 1909. The entire stucture, built in accordance to the Burnham Architectural Plan, was completed in 1911.

Mayoral Line of Chicago Part 5
10 years ago

Joseph Medill 1871-1873

Harvey Doolittle Colvin 1873-1875

Monroe Heath 1876-1879

Carter Henry Harrison, Sr

1879-1887 1893 (assassinated in office)
Fun Fact
10 years ago

All together Chicago has, had a total of 45 Mayors.

Fourty Four Men and one Woman.

Thirtyone of them before the turn  of the Century of the 1800's to the 1900's, but currently only 1 since the turning of this Century, and is still mayor.

Two were assassinated, 40 years apart. Two died in Office eleven years apart.