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June 1, 2021

40 Photos Show What Chicago Looked Like in the Mid-1990s

In the 1990s, Chicago transformed itself from a would-be Rust Belt casualty to the global metropolis it is today. If you weren’t living in Chicago in the ’90s, you missed out on life.

Chicago in 1996

The decade didn’t start out so promisingly. In 1992, U.S. Steel South Works, which had once employed 20,000 workers in Chicago, produced its last bar of product. But that, as it turned out, was emblematic of Chicago’s economic past giving way to its future.

As Chicago became a destination for those new employees — and a whole lot of Big Ten graduates — it gained population in the 1990s, the only time since the 1950s a Midwestern metropolis has done so.

In the 1990s, Chicago was home to two of the most famous people in the world — Michael Jordan and talk show host Oprah Winfrey — and a person who would become more famous than both of them: Barack Obama, who won his first election, to the Illinois State Senate, in 1996, beginning a career that would help erase the city’s image for provincialism and corruption.

These wonderful photos were taken by Steven Martin that show what Chicago looked like in 1996.

Ontario Street, looking west from in front of the River North McDonald's, Chicago, February 1996

Navy Pier at east end, Chicago, July 1996

Adams Street from Wabash Avenue, Chicago, July 1996

An old apartment building in the River North neighborhood, corner of Dearborn and Erie, Chicago, February 1996

Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, July 1996

Chicago River and Michigan Avenue Bridge, Chicago, February 1996

Chicago skyline along the lakefront as it appeared on a winter day in February 1996

Chicago skyline from Shedd Aquarium, July 1996

Church and houses on Congress Parkway, Chicago, February 1996

Columbus Drive, Grant Park, Chicago, February 1996

Congress Parkway looking west, Chicago, February 1996

Dearborn Street looking south, in front of Federal Plaza, Chicago, July 1996

El train turning on the curve from Wabash Avenue to Lake Street in the Loop, Chicago, February 1996

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, July 1996

Hilton and Blackstone Hotels from Congress Parkway, Grant Park, July 1996

Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, February 1996

Lake Street from Wabash Avenue, Chicago, February 1996

Landmark skyscraper condominiums on the north bank of the Chicago River as seen from Wacker Drive, February 1996

Lighthouse is on Lake Michigan outside the entrance to Chicago Harbor, July 1996

Looking south along Michigan Avenue from Van Buren, Grant Park, Chicago, July 1996

Looking toward the John Hancock Center and Water Tower Place from Sheraton Hotel, Chicago, February 1996

Loop and Lakeshore East skyscrapers viewed from Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, July 1996.

Loop and Lakeshore East skyscrapers viewed from Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, July 1996

Michigan Avenue looking south from Chicago River Bridge. Three landmark skyscrapers, the 333 N. Michigan Avenue, Carbide & Carbon Building, and the London Guarantee Building, are visible from left to right, February 1996

Michigan Avenue looking south of Wacker Drive, Chicago, February 1996

Museum Campus from Navy Pier, Chicago, July 1996

Navy Pier, Chicago, July 1996

North Dearborn Street townhouses, Chicago, February 1996

Row of detached townhouses on Harrison Street, Chicago, February 1996

Sears Tower rising over Hilton and Blackstone Hotels, Chicago, February 1996

Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, July 1996

The Art Institute of Chicago. Bronze lion statues flank the main entrance on Michigan Avenue, July 1996

The Water Tower place is the white skyscraper and the John Hancock Center is the tall dark skyscraper, taken from Navy Pier, Chicago, July 1996

Townhouses facing demolition, River North, Chicago, February 1996

Wabash Avenue looking north from Monroe Street, Chicago Loop, July 1996

Wabash Avenue looking south from Lake Street, Chicago, February 1996

Wabash Avenue looking south from Wacker Drive, Chicago, February 1996

Wacker Drive west of Michigan Ave., Chicago, February 1996

Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, landmark skyscrapers anchoring the north bank of the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue, taken from Wacker Drive, February 1996

Wrigley Building, Chicago, February 1996




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