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CHICAGO is in many ways the nation's last great city.s Founded in the early 1800s, Chicago grew up with the country, serving as the main connection between the established east coast cities and the wide open Wild West frontier. This position on the sharp edge between civilization and wilderness made the city into a crucible of innovation. Many aspects of modern life, from skyscrapers to suburbia, had their start, and perhaps their finest expression, here on the shores of Lake Michigan. Despite burning to the ground in the legendary fire of 1871, Chicago boomed thereafter, doubling in population every decade and reaching two million around 1900, swollen by Irish and eastern European immigrants (Chicago still has the largest Polish population in the world outside Warsaw). Today, Chicago's towering skyline the city has one of the world's best collections of modern architecture, from Frank Lloyd Wright houses to the 110-story Sears Tower dominates the pancake-flat prairies for hundreds of miles around.