Presidential connections with Chicago run deep.
Dating back to the mid-1800s, most presidents have traveled to or through Chicago while campaigning for themselves or others. With its central location as a railroad hub, Chicago often saw presidential “whistle-stop” campaign rallies or short visits to speak to conventions, union or trade groups. More recently, Chicago has been a hotspot for political fundraisers.
From the Republican convention in 1860, which nominated Abraham Lincoln, to the 1996 Democratic convention which nominated Bill Clinton, Chicago has played host to more nominating conventions (25) than any other city.
In honor of Presidents Day, here are some of the many Windy City connections with the nation’s 45 chief executives.
1. George Washington
The namesake of Washington Street, Washington Park, George Washington High School (3535 E 114th St). There are statues of him in Washington Park and Heald Square Monument (Wacker and Michigan), which shows him and the two principal financiers of the American Revolution, Robert Morris and Haym Salomon.
2. John Adams
There aren’t many connections beyond Adams Street for this founding father.
3. Thomas Jefferson
The Sage of Monticello is the namesake of Jefferson Street, the Thomas Jefferson pumping station (2230 W. Eastwood St.) and has a statue at the Jefferson Park transit center (4917 N. Milwaukee Ave.) There are two parks — Jefferson Park (1709 S. Des Plaines St.) and Thomas Jefferson Memorial Park (4822 N. Long Ave.) named for him. There was a third park named for him at 1331 W. Adams St. until 1955 when it was renamed Skinner Park in honor of Mark Skinner, one of Chicago’s earliest school inspectors.
4. James Madison
Madison is the namesake James Madison School (7433 S. Dorchester Ave) and Madison Street, which was the first southern boundary of Chicago.
5. James Monroe
On April 18, 1818, Monroe signed a bill creating the State of Illinois. He’s the namesake of Monroe Street and James Monroe Elementary School (3651 W Schubert Ave.).
6. John Quincy Adams
The lack of love to the Adams family continues with the sixth president. He’s the namesake of Quincy Street.
7. Andrew Jackson
He’s the namesake of Jackson Boulevard, Jackson Park and Andrew Jackson Language Academy, 1340 W Harrison St. (which in 2021 was renamed Chicago World Language Academy).
8. Martin Van Buren
Chicago was founded March 4, 1837, the same day when Van Buren was inaugurated. According to the Illinois State Archives, Van Buren was extremely popular with the Irish-dominated Democrats of the city. In the election of 1840, Van Buren received 807 votes in Chicago to William Henry Harrison’s 622. And he’s the namesake of Van Buren Street.
9. William Henry Harrison
He’s the namesake of Harrison Street, but the strongest connection is that his first cousin twice removed was Carter Henry Harrison Sr., who served as Chicago mayor from 1879–1887 and 1893, when he was assassinated.
10. John Tyler
There’s no current street named for him. Previously there was a Tyler Street but it was renamed by the Chicago City Council in 1872 as Congress Blvd. Accounts differ on the reason, but many explanations deal with Tyler’s post-presidential support of the Confederacy or because of his expulsion from the Whig Party.
11. James K. Polk
He’s the namesake of Polk Street. According to the Library of Congress, in the early 1900s, the Chicago Historical Society purchased some of papers of President Polk, including his presidential diary. They eventually were transferred to the Library of Congress.
12. Zachary Taylor
He’s the namesake of Taylor Street. Also, the namesake of Zachary Taylor Davis, the architect of Wrigley Field and old Comiskey Park. Davis was called the “Frank Lloyd Wright of Baseball.”
13. Millard Fillmore
Fillmore is the last consecutive president to have a street named for him — Fillmore Street. In 1850, he signed legislation that provided land grants from the federal government to Illinois, which in turn was to transfer the land to railroad companies. The Illinois Central Railroad stretched from Cairo to Chicago and helped fuel the city’s explosive economic growth in the 19th century.
14. Franklin Pierce
First president not to have a street named for him. There is a Pierce Avenue, but it is named for brothers, Asahel and M.J. Pierce, who were landowners.
15. James Buchanan
Not a clear Chicago connection to the Pennsylvania-born Buchanan. His disastrous presidency led to a split in the Democratic party and led to the election of Abraham Lincoln, who is from Illinois — so that’s as close of a connection as it gets.
16. Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln is everywhere in the city and state. He was moved to Illinois at age 21 in 1930. Nominated at a temporary wooden convention hall called “the Wigwam,” located at Lake Street near the Chicago River. He’s also the namesake of Lincoln Park, Lincoln Avenue and countless businesses and works of public art, including a statue in Grant Park.
17. Andrew Johnson
Johnson was the first sitting president to visit Chicago. He came here in 1866 on a “swing around the circle” tour of the country, trying to sell his vision of welcoming the South back into the Union without any repercussions for the Civil War.
18. Ulysses S. Grant
Lived for about a year in Galena, Illinois before leading the Union Army in the Civil War. He was unanimously nominated for the presidency in 1868 at the Crosby Opera House (now the site of Block 37 at State and Washington). He has a statue in Lincoln Park and is the namesake of Grant Park and Grant Place.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
He visited the city on a Midwest tour in 1879. And after his presidency, he came to town to address the Fifth quadrennial congress of Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States in 1885.
20. James Garfield
Garfield was nominated in 1880 in Chicago at the Interstate Industrial Exposition Building (S. Michigan and E. Adams). Also, he’s the namesake of Garfield Boulevard.
21. Chester Arthur
Arthur was nominated in 1884 at Interstate Industrial Exposition Building.
22. and 24. Grover Cleveland
In 1892, Democrats met in a temporary “Wigwam” in Lake Park to nominate Cleveland for a third time. He attended and opened the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition on May 1, 1893 in Jackson Park. Also the namesake of Cleveland Elementary school (3121 West Byron St.).
23. Benjamin Harrison
Nominated in the partially finished Civic Auditorium — now the Auditorium Theater. On Dec. 9, 1889, President Harrison returned to dedicate the building.
25. William McKinley
He’s the namesake of McKinley Park and has a statue too, located at 2210 W. Pershing Rd.
26. Theodore Roosevelt
Roosevelt was nominated for the presidency twice in Chicago. In 1904, he was nominated by the Republicans in the second Chicago Coliseum (1513 S. Wabash Ave.). And in 1912 was nominated by the Progressive Party at the Chicago Coliseum in a losing third-party campaign. Also he is the namesake of Roosevelt Road, Theodore Roosevelt High School (3436 W. Wilson Ave.), Roosevelt Park (62 W. Roosevelt Road).
27. William Howard Taft
Taft accepted Republican presidential nomination in 1904 at Chicago Coliseum. He attended a Cubs game on Sept. 16, 1909 at the West Side Grounds (912 S. Wood). He also dedicated the Naval Training Station Great Lakes on July 1, 1911. And the namesake of Taft High school (6530 W Bryn Mawr Ave.)
28. Woodrow Wilson
Wilson Avenue already existed — named for lawyer John P. Wilson — before the Wilson presidency, so the city council rename Western Avenue as “Woodrow Wilson Road.” After property owners complained and 10,000 signed a petition, it was changed back within 30 days. In 1935, Woodrow Wilson Junior College was founded in 1935, but was renamed in 1969 to honor the recently assassinated Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
29. Warren G. Harding
In 1920, the Republicans met again at the Coliseum, but was deadlocked on whom to nominate. In rooms 408-10 of the Blackstone Hotel, party bosses selected Sen. Warren G. Harding. An AP reporter called it the “smoke filled room,” this first usage of the phrase which has entered the political lexicon. The delegates finally ratified Harding on the tenth ballot.
30. Calvin Coolidge
Made various speeches and whistle stop campaigns. He spoke before the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in 1925. There’s nothing named for him, but there is for his vice president, Charles Gates Dawes, who has a park named for him at 8052 S. Damen Ave. Dawes, an Evanston resident, was instrumental in Chicago’s successful bid to hold the 1933 World’s Fair.
31. Herbert Hoover
Hoover was nominated in 1932 at the newly built Chicago Stadium. He attended the Cubs-Athletics World Series in 1929 and the 1933 World’s Fair. Also at age 86, spoke at the 1960 GOP convention also at Chicago Stadium.
32. Franklin Roosevelt
Roosevelt was nominated at Chicago Stadium in 1932, 1940 and 1944. He was the first person to ever accept the nomination in person. He’s also the namesake of Roosevelt University, which is named in 1945 for him and wife, Eleanor, and the FDR Memorial bridge — located on Lake Shore Drive when it crosses the Chicago River.
33. Harry Truman
“Dewey Defeats Truman” was the infamous, incorrect headline on the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune on Nov. 3, 1948. It mistakenly gave the result of the razor-tight presidential election. He was the subject of 1975 song “Harry Truman” by band Chicago. Also, he is the namesake of Truman College (1145 W. Wilson Ave.)
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower was nominated at the International Amphitheatre (formerly located at 4220 S. Halsted St.) in 1952, which was the first convention to be televised. Also, he’s the namesake of the Eisenhower Expressway and Eisenhower High School in Blue Island.
35. John Kennedy
Chicago was the site of the first-ever presidential debate, between Kennedy and Richard Nixon at the now demolished WBBM-TV studio (at 630 N. McClurg Ct.). It was the only presidential debate held in Chicago. Also the namesake of the Kennedy Expressway, Kennedy High School (6325 W 56th St.), The Kennedy family owned the Merchandise Mart from 1945 until 1998 and developed Wolf Point.
36. Lyndon Johnson
Johnson unveiled “Great Society” as the name for his domestic works on April 23, 1964, in Chicago, at a fund-raising dinner for his close ally Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.
37. Richard Nixon
Participated in the aforementioned Kennedy-Nixon Debate in 1960. He was nominated at the 1960 Republican National Convention at the International Amphitheatre. It was the last Republican convention to date in Chicago.
38. Gerald Ford
Ford lived in Oak Park for a short time as an infant before growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In August 1935 he played in a college football All-Star game at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears. His wife Betty was born in Chicago.
39. Jimmy Carter
Carter has made multiple visits and delivered many speeches over the years. In 1976, Carter heavily wooed Mayor Richard J. Daley for his endorsement. Daley played coy, and on one trip introduced him as “Jim Carter,” according to the book “American Pharoah” by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor.
40. Ronald Reagan
Born in Tampico, Illinois and moved to 832 East 57th St. when he was four and lived there for about five years. The University of Chicago demolished the building to make a parking lot in 2013. Reagan worked as an announcer for WHO radio in Des Moines where he would call Chicago Cubs games in the 1930s. He visited the Cubs broadcast booth with Harry Caray in 1988.
41. George H. W. Bush
During World War II, Bush trained at the Great Lakes Reserve on Lake Michigan at Navy Pier. He made numerous visits campaigning and while in office.
42. Bill Clinton
Clinton was nominated in 1996 at the United Center. His wife, Hillary, is from suburban Park Ridge. Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel served as his White House political director and senior advisor. Clinton has made numerous visits to Chicago before, during and after his term.
43. George W. Bush
Made various visits during office and campaigning. In 2022, along with former President Clinton, he visited Saints Volodymyr & Olha Catholic Church (739 N. Oakley Blvd) to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people in the war against Russia.
44. Barack Obama
The 44th president spent most of his adult years here working and raising a family and still has a house here (5046 Greenwood Ave.). The Obama Presidential Center is being built here in Jackson Park. It is estimated to open in 2025. His victory rally speech was given before an estimated crowd of 240,000 on Nov. 4, 2008 in Grant Park.
45. Donald Trump
His Trump International Hotel & Tower, located at the site of the former Chicago Sun-Times building at 401 N. Wabash) is a visible sign of his presence. He often had a combative relationship with the city. He made only one major appearance in Oct. 2019 to address a police chief convention and make an appearance at private fundraisers.
46. Joe Biden
The incumbent president has made multiple visits, campaign stops, speeches and attended fundraisers during his term and previously as vice president under President Obama.