16. Land Plat for the Town of Chicago (1833)

Background: The acknowledged first permanent, non-native settler in the area that later became Chicago was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who settled on the north side of the Chicago River sometime around 1780. In 1803, the United States government constructed Fort Dearborn on the south side of the river near where it enters Lake Michigan. The fort was destroyed in the War of 1812 but the federal government rebuilt it in 1818 and the military used it until 1837. In 1833, Chicago incorporated as a town with a population of 350. Four years later, in 1837, the Illinois General Assembly voted to incorporate Chicago as a city. In 1840, Chicago had a population of more than 4,000 and by 1850 its population was just under 30,000.

The Document: This document is a land plat for Chicago from the year it was incorporated as a town in 1833. The plat was created by David Carver, a lumber merchant, who used previous maps and surveys as guidance. Note that the area marked as the Public Square is where Chicago's City Hall is still located. Fort Dearborn is located on the river and marked with an American flag. The Chicago River, as it enters the lake, is completely different than today, curving south as it nears the lake due to being blocked by a sandbar. South of the river, Chicago is not developed east of the unmarked State Street. The shoreline of Lake Michigan downtown would be expanded several times over the next century to roughly half a mile farther east. This eventually created several city blocks and lakefront parks. Expansion was done by natural sedimentation and by the use of landfill, including the use of debris from the 1871 Chicago Fire. North of the river, the lakefront would also be filled in and expand east, becoming an area of the city known as Streeterville.

Note: The Illinois State Archives also possesses federal township plats for Chicago from 1832, 1836 and 1837. This 1833 plat is available at the Illinois State Archives as part of Illinois and Michigan Canal Record Series 491.105, "Plats."