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The Near North Side is without a doubt the oldest part of Chicago. In the 1780s, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable built the first permanent settlement on the northern banks of the river where the Michigan Avenue Bridge is over the Chicago River. In the 1830s, New Yorker, William Ogden came to Chicago to oversee land that his family had bought along the Chicago River. He was appalled by the swampy conditions, however he recognized the opportunity of real estate values and the possibility of industrial development along the river and was tempted to buy large tracts of land. He became very wealthy and was able to gain a presence in the city and was elected the city’s first mayor in 1837.
The McCormick family built mansions in this same area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This section became known as McCormickville. The Chicago Water Tower is the city’s most familiar and treasured landmark. It was constructed between 1867 and 1869 for Chicago’s municipal water system. It gained special significance as one of the few buildings to survive the destructive path of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Both the Water Tower and Pumping Station to the east were designed by William W. Boyington, one of Chicago’s most prolific architects of the mid-nineteenth century. It still stands today on the corner of Pearson Street and Michigan Avenue. It is the second oldest water tower in the nation. The Near North Side has the second largest total area, after the Near West Side, the highest number of skyscrapers, and the largest population.