Make No Little Plans.

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.” ~Daniel Burnham, American architect and urban planner, 1846-1912

How much do you know about your hometown? Could you tell somebody about its history? Do you take advantage of what it has to offer in the way of entertainment, architecture, parks, and all of the other good stuff? Do you feel comfortable exploring the entire area, as opposed to staying in the cocoon of your neighborhood? Do you know anything about the men and women for whom your town’s most famous streets are named?

When I was in the process of writing my book (you know, the one that answers the age-old question “What can I do in Chicago with tweens and teens?”), I decided that it would be a really good idea to include a section that detailed “a brief history of Chicago”. That concept in itself still makes me laugh: the history of Chicago is deep, rich, colorful, interesting, exciting, mind-boggling, and so many other things, but it’s certainly not brief. (Sidenote: I think I did a really good job editing it down for the book, FYI!)

I read several books as a part of my research. By far, my favorite and the one I consider to have been the most valuable, not only as it relates to my book but also as it relates to me as a Chicago native, is this one:

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If you are from Chicago or just live here and you have not read this book yet, you must. Trust me.

Learning all about how Chicago was painstakingly rebuilt–literally from the ground up–after the Great Fire of 1871 was fascinating. Reading the stories behind William Butler Ogden, Charles Wacker, George Pullman, Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick, and so many others who played integral parts in the re-creation of the city I adore, but especially Daniel Burnham himself (whose quote at the top, my favorite, could be a fancier way of declaring my own life philosophy, “Go big or go home”, don’t you think?), gave me a whole new appreciation for, well, lots of things. The book was like a puzzle piece I had no idea was missing. Since reading it, I haven’t looked at Chicago the same way, am an even prouder city native because of it, and am even more enthusiastic about sharing the city, my city, with others than I was before.

My friend Margaret called my attention to this beautiful tourism video. It makes my heart swell. Check it out.

Now tell me something fascinating about your hometown!


  • tracey - justanothermommy

    Hmmmm. I liked it, but I kinda wanted to slap them after a while and say “But don’t forget to appreciate the little things! The baby steps! The small moments that make life beautiful are just as important as the grand plans and dreams… if not more meaningful.” That’s just me, though. Plans are just plans. God laughs at them, right?

  • Tara R.

    My town started out as a turpentine forest, and eventually became home to the largest military base in the country. It also used to be a resort for mafia types.

    Chicago has such a great history!

  • Shannon

    I’m originally from Pasadena, California, home of the Rose Bowl, the New Year’s Day Rose Parade, and Caltech. Pasadena was founded by people from the Midwest who were tired of the winters, and who started the Rose Parade to brag to their friends about being able to have fresh flowers in January. I tried out to be the Rose Parade Queen when I was in HS, but I got cut in the first round.

    • Melisa

      Is that really true, the “haha we get flowers in January” story?? Those people were a little jerky. 🙂 *snort*

  • Dwana

    okay, I may be pmsing, but seeing “Da Coach” made me cry! Great, thanks for sharing, we Chi peeps sometimes need a reminder that we live in the greatest city in da world 🙂

  • Flawless Mom

    Well, you have successfully shamed me. I truly know so little about where I’m from… Even the San Fernando Valley of which I am so proud. I guess I figure I live in L.A. and everyone knows everything there is to know. But that must be a lie, because I’m FROM here and I know NOTHING! So, I am going to try to find some stuff out sometime and get back to you. Very compelling question.

    • Melisa

      I meant to INSPIRE rather than shame. Oops!

      Wait, you’re GOING TO try to find out some stuff. I inspired that! Go me! And go you for going to do that!

      Go us!