Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
Houses and Water

Nineteenth-century Chicagoans needed water for many things, but most fundamentally for drinking and fire protection. As the city population grew to the point where residents did not have direct access to the lake, river, or well, a public water system was laid out. The immediate needs of urban residents could have been accomplished through communal fountains, but water developed into an amenity as well as a necessity. Chicagoans devised ways to bring water into their houses, transforming their most private lives with indoor toilets, bathing facilities, and kitchens. Indoor plumbing emerged as an amenity which only the wealthiest Chicagoans could readily afford in the mid-nineteenth century. However, mass production of fixtures and other improvements, put indoor plumbing within reach of many more Chicagoans by the 1910s. The bungalow boom of the 1920s signaled the arrival of indoor plumbing as standard in working-class houses.

Photo Essay Sections:

Connecting houses
to water networks
Emergence of plumbers
and specialized fixtures
modern kitchen, bathroom
and laundry room