Repost: Cold enough outside in Chicago to do this one again!
I live in a suburb of Chicago, but anyone born, raised, and educated in the city, proper, is going to tell you that he/she lives in Chicago. A lot of soft people leave Chicago, aka Chi-town, for warmer climates and as I get older, I’ve begun to gaze longingly at Florida, Nevada, and California.

Last night, in particular, I found it hard to remain asleep for more than an hour at a time. The wind howled like something alive, and the doors rattled throughout the house as though someone were trying to get in. Finally, I got up to ask Google and Wikipedia why Chicago is referred to as the “Windy City”.

We Chicagoans have a few fond nicknames for our town. We like to call her Chi-town (that’s an article for another day), the “Windy City”, today’s subject, and her winter winds, we fondly refer to as “The Hawk”.

It’s commonly held that Chicago is the Windy City because of its close proximity to Lake Michigan. Despite Chicago’s location on the shores of Lake Michigan, the city is not significantly windier than any other U.S. city. For example, the average annual wind speed of Chicago is: 10.3 mph (16.6 km/h); Boston: 12.4 mph (20.0 km/h); New York City, Central Park: 9.3 mph (15.0 km/h); and Los Angeles: 7.5 mph (12.1 km/h).

The second reason we’re referred to as the Windy City has to do with Chicago’s competition against New York for the World’s Fair. NY newspaper articles dubbed us the Windy City due to bragging (wind bags – bag of wind). In the articles, they call us a frontier town and ask why we would ever think Chicago could compete with New York for the honor of such a world’s fair. But guess what? We won!

The third reference to us being the Windy City is Chicago’s rivalry with Cincinnati. In fact, the first known repeated effort to label Chicago came from that rivalry as both cities competed for the meat packing capital title and for baseball bragging rights. Cincinnati dubbed us the Windy City because they said Chicagoans liked to boast and brag.

November 20, 1892, the Freeborn County Standard Newspaper of Minnesota wrote:
“But in another sense Chicago is actually earning the title of the “windy” city. It is one of the effects of the tall buildings which engineers and architects apparently did not foresee that the wind is sucked down into the streets. Walk past the Masonic Temple or the Auditorium any day even though it may be perfectly calm elsewhere, and you will meet with a lively breeze at the base of the building that will compel you to put your hand to your hat.”

Finally, Chicago’s winter wind is often called “The Hawk”, a term long popular in the African American community. The first recorded citation of Chicago being dubbed “The Hawk” is from the Chicago Defender, October 20, 1936: “And these cold mornings are on us—in other words ‘Hawkins’ has got us.”
Lou Rawls’ recording of “Dead End Street” explains “The Hawk” pretty well. I love the line when Lou says, “I had to get fully dressed before I could go to bed.” By the way, Lou Rawls is an alum of my alma mater, Dunbar Vocational High School.

As you enjoy Lou Rawls recording of Dead End Street, answer this question. What was your famous Windy City or Hawk experience? I hope you’ll let me know.

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8 Replies to “The Windy City!”

  1. My most remembered experience with Chicago weather was during a blizzard when I was in middle school. School was dismissed early in a failed attempt to get everyone home before the weather got too bad for the buses to drive in. I was one of the last two kids on the bus when the driver came to a stop, and opened the doors. My neighbor and I looked at each other, and then he said, “But our stop is another half mile up the street.” She looked at us like we were nuts, and said “I’m not driving down that street!” That was a very long walk home!

  2. I just experienced the strong winds whipping me around as I walked from the garage to the building. I always refer to the area around our buildings as a “wind tunnel”. Many years ago, someone tried to explain to me how the wind was concentrated between the 2 high-rise buildings, etc. However, the explanation you shared sounds easier to understand – “how the wind is sucked down into the streets”.
    So, one of my most memorable experiences with the “hawk” happened when the wind was being sucked down between the 2 high-rise buildings (aka Harper Square) and I was trying to walk, vs. running or flying, from one building (Day Care Center) to the other with my 3-year old daughter (Marisia) in tow. OMG! It was such a breath-taking experience that it made me grateful to be a BBW. LOL!

  3. I hope “The Hawk” stays put for a few more days. Sometimes, it feels like the wind will slice your skin off. And we talk about it like we haven’t been here for 60+ years! I hate to say it but I LUV global warming! LOL

  4. My experience with the almighty Hawk was one year back in the early seventies.I was working on 91st&South Chicago,it runs on a slant. Me and the 2 other girls I worked with stepped off the bus and turned the corner and the Hawk took my afro wig I was wearing and carried it about 3 or 4 blocks with me in tow behind it. When I got to work Effie and Helen were on the floor still laughing. The Hawk ain’t no joke!!!

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