Sweet Home Chicago – Vampire Style
|Collage by Olga Daniels|
The city of Chicago plays a major role in Wench Favorite, Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series. I am fortunate enough to call Chicago my hometown. I grew up in the city and, aside from four years of college, have lived in the Chicago area my whole life. Much like Merit, I love my city. In my admittedly biased opinion, Chicago is the best city in the world. And I'm here to tell you a little more about it, to give you some visuals and history of some of the places Merit and company visit over the course of the books.
Before we jump into the CLV world, let me tell you a little bit about Chicago in general.
- Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S., with close to three million people within the city limits.
- Contrary to the belief of some, however, Chicago is NOT the capital of Illinois. Though it is, without a doubt, a very influential force on the rest of the state.
- Our mayor is Rahm Emanuel, who, quite honestly, reminds me quite a lot of Seth Tate.
- Chicago has been the host to two World's Fairs, 1893 and 1933.
- Several of the buildings built for the 1893 fair are still in use today. They house the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
- We also had a fire in 1871 that leveled several miles of the city. But some say that it was the best thing to happen to the city, because we basically got to rebuild from scratch.
- In addition to Cadogan, Navarre, and Grey houses, Chicago is home to one of the tallest buildings in the world, the Sears Tower. (Yes, I know it's called the Willis Tower now, but any true Chicagoan will disagree.)
- We also have professional basketball teams, both men's and women's, a football team, a soccer team, two baseball teams, and the current Stanley Cup champions in hockey.
- Our current president, Barack Obama, also calls Chicago home. His home is in Hyde Park, the same neighborhood as Cadogan House.
- We have over 200 active theatre companies. Among the numerous theatres are the world-renowned Second City, Steppenwolf, and the Goodman.
- The Chicago area is the home of McDonald's, Boeing, Chase, Gatorade, Groupon, MillerCoors, Orbitz, and many other familiar names.
- Chicago is also home to the South Side Irish parade. Usually held on the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day, the parade takes place in the neighborhood where I grew up, Beverly Hills. It was once considered one of the largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations outside of Dublin. We even have a song.
- Chicago features some unique works of art.
- For one summer, there were cows. Yes, cows plural. Here are a couple of examples.
And, finally, my personal favorite
opinionfact, Chicago has the most beautiful skyline in the world.
OK, now that you've got some general info about Chicago, let's move on to the fun stuff! Keep reading about the places and things mentioned in Merit's world after the jump!
Here's a little background information on the neighborhoods (and one suburb) of Chicago that Merit calls (or called) home.
The South Side
It's never specifically stated where Chuck Merit's house or (former) office is located. Just that it's on the south side of the city. So being a South-side girl, I drafted my home neighborhood, Beverly Hills, to be Chuck's home as well. I may be a tad biased here, but Merit says that she always felt at home at her grandfather's house. That is the feeling that Beverly gives off, whether you live there or not. It is really a small town within the city. Several generations of families, my own included, have called Beverly home for their entire lives. The house my grandmother grew up in is about a mile from the house where I grew up and the rest of my family still lives. The house my dad grew up in (where my other grandmother still lives) is two blocks over from my parents' house. That's the kind of place Beverly is. When I visit my parents, I still get waves from neighbors and, without fail, if we go out for dinner in the neighborhood, we'll see a friend, classmate, former coach, teacher...someone I know. So besides the love between Merit and Chuck, you can see why Merit would feel at home in Beverly. Beverly is also home to a large number of historic bungalows, one of which Chuck lives in. Personally, I think Chuck's house looks like the one in this photo. Why you ask? Honestly, this is my grandma's house, and it is just how I pictured Chuck's house, since he is Merit's grandfather—no matter how unusual a grandfather he might be.
The other places and sites that Merit visits in her travels.
The University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university with approximately 15,000 students. It has both an undergraduate and graduate program. As well as a medical school, a law school, and a business school, among others. Our beloved Merit would have been enrolled in the Humanities department. And even if her father is a city big shot, being a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago is no small feat. US News & World Report ranked the University of Chicago as the #4 school in the country. The university is affiliated with 87 Nobel Laureates (8 of whom are current faculty members), 49 Rhodes Scholars, and 9 Fields Medalists. Our Merit has a lot to be proud of, even if she didn't get to finish her degree. The U of C also has an absolutely beautiful campus. The architecture is gorgeous and the campus is nicely laid out. It is would be a lovely place to go to school, even if you do get attacked by rogue vampires on the Quad. Of course, every school has a bit of a sordid history. Unfortunately, the U of C's is a little more grim than most. The U of C is where the first man-made, self-sustaining nuclear reaction was achieved. It was also a large contributor to the Manhattan Project, which we all know created the first atom bombs.
|The Main U of C Quad|
|A Campus Building|
|Part of Lincoln Park|
|The View from North Pond|
The Harold Washington Library
Just like Merit, I love libraries. I love the smell of them, the atmosphere, curling up in a corner to peruse a new book, I love it all. So the Harold Washington Library is one of my favorite places in the city. It is a beautiful building inside and out. It even has a sort of solarium, called the Winter Garden, that can be rented out for social functions. The Harold Washington is the main library in the Chicago Public Library system and is also one of the largest public library buildings in the world. It also contains a public art collection that spans nearly every artistic medium and recognizes the major art movements that Chicago has been associated with. It is the city's largest public art collection to date. The roof sports the building's now iconic owls in seven different locations, making the building a standout compared to its neighbors. But being a 10-story building, you can see how Merit would be a little hesitant to jump off the roof, no matter how much she trusts Jonah.
|The Harold Washington Library|
Oh, Navy Pier, the place where Merit and Jonah inspect the turned-black-and- evil water. I love Navy Pier and all of its touristy goodness. It's a haven of shopping, dining, and entertainment. Navy Pier was built as a shipping port and entertainment venue in the earlier part of the 1900s. But before it could be used for anything else, it was used to house Navy Personnel during World War I. That's where the name comes from. It wasn't until my childhood, the 1990s, that it became the venue it is today. There are tons of little touristy shops with Chicago merchandise, amongst other things. Plus some Chicago staple restaurants, including Harry Caray's Tavern and Billy Goat Tavern. There is also Haagen-Dazs ice cream and, of course, Garrett's Popcorn. There is also a Children's Museum, a Ferris Wheel, a movie theatre with an IMAX screen, boat tours of the city, Segway tours, and the Tony award-winning Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. It's a great place for a date or to bring your kids for the day. It's also got some great views.
Finally, we come to the scene of Mallory's spectacular magical breakdown and Ethan's (sort of) triumphant return, the Midway Plaisance. The Midway was originally intended to be a Central Park-like place that connected Washington Park with Jackson Park. But after the Chicago Fire burnt down the building where the plans were housed, the money was allocated to the rebuilding of the city. It wasn't until the World's Fair of 1893 that the area was put to much use. During that time, it was used for all of the amusements, dancers, theatrical performances, the Ferris Wheel, and similar things that the fair had to offer, which is where the term Midway comes from for all other fairs and the like today. After this time, the land was returned to being a park and eventually granted to the University of Chicago, which expanded to border the Midway on both sides. This is also where the Chicago Bears get their nickname, the Monsters of the Midway, a name stolen from the U of C's football team. Today the park offers plenty of green spaces, soccer fields, an ice skating rink, and concerts and other entertainment, whenever Chicago's finicky weather permits. There are also plenty of walking paths, and it does connect Washington and Jackson parks, allowing you access to plenty of other opportunities.
A Brief Word On Food
Because our beloved Merit is a tad bit food obsessed, I couldn't end this piece without mentioning her love of all things Chicago food. And who can blame her? Chicago has great food and tons of it. We've got just as many varieties and options as New York or Los Angeles does. And our pizza is better! As far as I can tell, none of the restaurants mentioned by Ms. Neill exist in Chicago, at least none that I've come across. But the ones in real life are just as spectacular. For pizza, there is Gino's East, Giordano's, Connie's, or Lou Malnati's. For hot dogs, you've got Hot Doug's and Superdawg's Portillo's (also the best place for Italian beef), but the best has got to be Gene & Jude's. We also have our famous Morton's Steakhouse, Gibson's Steakhouse, Shaw's Crab House, and tons of others. In addition to the not-so-famous places that are just as delicious, some of which have been featured on shows such as Man Vs. Food, Unwrapped, and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. We also have our own Little Italy, Chinatown, Greektown, and several other ethnic areas where you can get authentic cuisine. In short, you don't need to go to New York or Paris to get great food. Chicago fits the bill no matter what you are in the mood for.
I hope you've enjoyed this piece about my beloved city. Obviously, I couldn't hit all of the locales Merit and friends visit, but I think I've hit the high points. Ms. Neill does a great job representing my city, especially for someone who doesn't live here. There are, of course, some inconsistencies. But, nothing overly glaring. Just things that folks who live here would sort of tilt their head at and go "Wait a minute..." Hopefully, the next time you do a Chicagoland Vampires reread, you'll have some visuals in your head and a little more insight into the workings of Chicago. It is a fantastic city, one I am very proud to call my home. And if you ever have a chance to visit, feel free to drop me a line! Did I convince you to love my city? I hope so. Let me know below!