Jean Baptiste Point du Sable is the founder of Chicago. Born in Haiti around 1750, Point du Sable traveled to North America in his twenties and settled on the shores of Lake Michigan, an area that would eventually develop into the city of Chicago. How old is Chicago, and when was it founded? Explore these fun facts about the early days of the Windy City. 

Who Discovered Chicago? 

The Chicago area was originally inhabited by several Native American tribes over the centuries, including the Miami, Sauk, Fox, and Potawatomi. Etymologists believe the word “Chicago” is a French take on the Algonquin-language word “shikaakwa,” meaning “striped skunk” or “onion.”

The first recorded non-indigenous settler to the Chicago area was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who arrived in 1780. Born to French and Haitian parents, Point du Sable was a Black pioneer who explored the Great Lakes area before settling down with his Potawatomi wife. Together, they built a farm near the opening of the Chicago River and lived there until around 1800, when they moved to Missouri. 

Point du Sable is known as the “Father of Chicago” and was officially recognized as the founder of Chicago in 1968 with Pioneer Court, a plaza located just off Michigan Avenue by the Chicago River. The location is believed to be the exact area where Point du Sable first settled, and was named a National Historical Landmark in 1976.

How Old is Chicago? 

Although Jean Baptiste Point du Sable may have founded Chicago in 1780, the city itself wasn’t officially incorporated until 1837. At this time, only 4,000 people resided in the area, but the population continued to soar, reaching today’s estimated 2.71 million. 

For nearly 200 years, Chicago has proven to be a city of resilience and prosperity, bouncing back from major disasters such as the Great Chicago Fire to come back even stronger and better than before. In the time since Point de Sable established his farm, the city has grown to be the third largest in the country, with a wealth of culture and activities to explore. 

What is Chicago Known For?

You know it was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable who founded Chicago, Illinois—but Chicago has “founders” in all kinds of places! Here’s a look at who founded Chicago, Illinois’ distinctive architecture, music, sports, and more:

  • Innovative Architecture: Chicago is known as the home of the world’s first skyscraper (the 10-story Home Insurance  Building, built in 1885) and one of the world’s tallest—our very own Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower.
  • Trailblazers in Blues and Jazz: What is Chicago known for in the music world? Quite a bit! Chicago is where the electric guitar was introduced to the blues, and where pioneering artists like Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters popularized electric blues. On the jazz side, Chicago is the birthplace of luminaries like Herbie Hancock and Anthony Braxton. The tradition continues in the present day with thriving free and nu jazz scenes, led by artists like Makaya McCraven, Tomeka Reid, and Jeff Parker.
  • A City for Sports: Only nine other U.S. cities have teams to represent the five major American team sports. Chicago has two baseball teams (the White Sox and the Cubs) a football team (the Bears), a basketball team (the Bulls), a hockey team (the Blackhawks), and a soccer team (the Fire).

A Regional Take On the Classics: Chicago has its own style of pizza, baked in a deep pan for a high crust. There’s also the Chicago Hot Dog, which nixes the ketchup and adds sweet green relish, chopped onions, hot peppers, tomato slices, and dill pickles.

Visit Skydeck for the Most Incredible View of Chicago

Now that you know who founded Chicago, come visit this great city and be sure to make a stop at Skydeck! We’re located in the iconic Willis Tower, and once you step out on the Ledge, you’ll get a breathtaking view you won’t find anywhere else. Save time when you get tickets online!