15 Things You Probably Don't Know About Chicago

15 Things You Probably Don't Know About Chicago

Last week BuzzFeed published a list of “50 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Chicago.”  Then, not to be outdone, the Chicago Sun Times published their list of “25 Things You Actually, Probably Didn’t Know About Chicago,” with observations from Neil Steinberg and Choose Chicago.

Now it’s Show Me Chicago’s turn. Here is our definitive list of “15 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Chicago,” with questions first and the answers at the bottom of the post.

Everybody knows that Twinkies, the first Skyscraper, the first Ferris Wheel and Deep Dish pizza were created in Chicago…

But did you know that Chicago is home to the nation’s oldest continually operating hotel?

  1. Can you name it?
  2. Do you know how the Rookery building got its name?
  3. What Chicago building’s walls contain pieces from famous places around the world including the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, and the Palace of Westminster?
  4. When were the first Chicago Hot Dogs created and how much did they cost?
  5. What Chicago park was originally landfill made of refuse from the Chicago fire?
  6. What famous Chicago gangster had a torture”dungeon” under his Four Duces Saloon and where was the saloon located?
  7. Twenty-six of the original shops from the World’s Columbian Exposition were around well into the 1960’s. Where were they located and how were they used?
  8. What famous author lived at 1642 East 56th St. with her mother in 1920 and 1921?
  9. How did the Howells and Hood restaurant in Tribune Tower get its name?
  10. What was the original name of the Mag Mile–the part of Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River?
  11. Where and when was the press conference held where John Lennon was asked to apologize for saying the Beatles were bigger than Jesus?
  12. What is the name of the first animated cartoon character created by Chicago cartoonist Wallace Carlson and Winsor McCay?
  13. Where in Chicago can you view $1 million in one-dollar bills?
  14. What Chicago landmark was located at 1340 State Parkway and what was the meaning of the famous transcription, Si Non Oscillas Noli Tintinnare, on its door?
  15. In his poem, “Chicago,” Carl Sandburg called the city “Hog Butcher of the World.” To what was he referring when he said that this separated us from “the little soft cities” of the nation?


  1. The Palmer House Hotel at 17 East Monroe is the nation’s oldest continually operating hotel.   It first opened in 1871 as a gift from Potter Palmer to his new bride, Bertha, two weeks before the Great Chicago Fire. Two years and $1.7 million later, it re-opened. You can learn more about the history of The Palmer House at its “History Is Hott” Tour of their in-house museum followed by lunch at their Lockwood Restaurant.  Call, 312 917 3404, at least 24 hours in advance for reservations.
  2. The Rookery, built between 1885 and 1888, got its name from from the pigeons who roosted there and the politicians of the time who reputedly were “rooking” or swindling (some things never change).  Look closely at the exterior of the building located at 209 South LaSalle and you will see the bird/pigeon motif.
  3. The Tribune Tower at 435 N. Michigan contains pieces in its walls from the Trondheim Cathedral, Taj Mahal, Clementine Hall, the Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, Corregidor Island, Palace of Westminster, petrified wood from the Redwood National and State Parks, the Great Pyramid, The Alamo, Notre Dame de Paris, Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, the Great Wall of China, Independence Hall, Fort Santiago, Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Banteay Srei and others.
  4. The Chicago Hot Dog came on the scene during the Great Depression and sold for a nickle including all of its traditional toppings including: yellow mustard, bright green relish, fresh chopped onions, juicy red tomato wedges, a kosher-style pickle spear, spicy sport peppers and a dash of celery salt.
  5. Grant Park was originally landfill made of refuse from the Chicago fire.
  6. Mobster Al Capone had a torture”dungeon” under his Four Duces Saloon 2222 South Wabash.
  7. The one-room, single story shops were located on both sides of 57th Street between the Illinois Central tracks and Stony Island Avenue.  The shops, taken over by the Hyde Park Art Colony in 1913, housed writers, artists, musicians and booksellers. Some of the more notable occupants were Carl Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, Ben Hecht and Clarence Darrow.
  8. Edna Ferber (reporter and author of Giant, Show Boat and others) lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago between 1920 and 1921. She lived with her mother at 1642 East 56th St.
  9. Howells and Hood, the restaurant in Tribune Tower, is named after the architects who designed the building after winning a 1923 design contest for “the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world.”  The tower pays tribute to the pair with carved images of Robin Hood (Hood) and a howling dog (Howells) near the main entrance.
  10. The original name for the Mag Mile was Pine St.
  11. The Beatles press conference where John Lennon was asked to apologize for saying the Beatles were bigger than Jesus took place August 12, 1966 at the Astor Tower Hotel on the corner of Astor and Goethe.  Since 1971, the Bertrand Goldberg designed building, has been home to residential condos.
  12. The first animated cartoon character was created in Chicago in 1914. Although not as well known or long-lived as other animated characters, including the famous mouse, Mickey, “Gertie the Dinosaur” was the first.
  13. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, one of 12 regional Reserve Banks across the United States, is home to a Money Museum where visitors can see $1 million in one-dollar bills and take home a goodie bag containing $364.00 of shredded money as a souvenir. The bank is located at 230 South LaSalle Street.
  14. That would be the Chicago Playboy Mansion, a 70 room home, bought by Hugh Hefner in the 1950s and renovated into the Mansion for upwards of $3 million.  The famous brass plaque adorning the front door sports the legend, “Si Non Oscillas Noli Tintinnare,” meaning “if you don’t swing, don’t ring.”
  15. Sandburg was referring to the Union Stock Yards which served as the meatpacking district for Chicago from 1865 to 1971 and was the subject of much controversy including Upton Sinclair’s book, “The Jungle.”  The “Yards” were located in an area bounded by Pershing Road, Ashland, Halsted and 47th Street. The area to the west and south is still known as “The Back of the Yards” neighborhood.

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