Who Founded Chicago? 

Downtown Chicago at night

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. 


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!

Important Notice Regarding COVID-19

Willis Tower and Skydeck Chicago have implemented measures consistent with CDC and local and federal guidance to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on the premises, including enhanced cleaning protocols. Even with these procedures in place, PLEASE BE ADVISED that building occupants, building and Skydeck visitors, or others currently or previously present upon this property and/or the Skydeck MAY HAVE CONTRACTED OR BEEN EXPOSED TO COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, and may expose you. By accessing and using building common areas, the Skydeck, and their associated amenities, you and your party voluntarily assume all risks of your use—INCLUDING THE RISK OF EXPOSURE TO INFECTIOUS DISEASE—and you waive all claims, including claims for negligence, against Willis Tower, Skydeck Chicago, and their respective owners, managers, affiliates, agents and representatives, arising out of such use. The above parties hereby disclaim all liability for any injuries arising out of your use of this property and the Skydeck, including exposure to infectious disease.

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