The Near North Side, or Community Area 8, is one mile north of The Loop and practically defines what is known today as Chicago, Illinois. It is home to the city’s largest skyscraper, the Willis Tower, (nee the Sears Tower), and the largest population grouping within the city. It is one of the 77 defined communities of the City of Chicago and one of four denoting Downtown. The others being the Near West Side, Near South Side, and the Loop. All are located south of the Near North Side.
Bounded by Water
The community itself is located north and east of the Chicago River. In fact, the three edges of the Near North Side are surrounded by water, with the boundaries being the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. How Chicagoans use these bodies of water divided the Near North into an expensive residential strip in the east, and an industrial, low-income area in the west.
A residential and commercial corridor eventually grew up around Clark Street, serving as a buffer between the two. In comparison to the other downtown community areas, the Near North Side has the second largest total area (after the Near West Side) and a population count with 80,484 people as of the 2010 U.S. Census. With the exception of Goose Island (an actual island on the Chicago River) and Cabrini–Green on the west, the Near North Side is known for its extreme affluence, typified by the Magnificent Mile, the Gold Coast, the Navy Pier and its famous architectural treasures—its skyscrapers.
Chicago’s North Side (an area that extends north of downtown and the Chicago River) is the most densely populated residential section of the city, bar none, with considerable middle and upper-class residents. It also contains public parkland (i.e., Lincoln Park) and beaches stretching for miles along Lake Michigan to the city's northern border. Eastern Europeans and other population groups settled here as numerous residential high-rises sprung up to line the eastern side of the North Side along the waterfront. The North Side is noted as the home of the Chicago Cubs, based at Wrigley Field.
Early History and the Mansions
In the 1780s, in what is now the Near North Side, on the northern banks of the Chicago River near today's Michigan Avenue Bridge, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable built the first known permanent settlement in "Eschecagou." Today, this is marked by Pioneer Court.