As established in social research done by the University of Chicago in the 1920s, the Loop is a defined community area of Chicago. Chicago's central business district community area is bounded on the west and north by the Chicago River, on the east by Lake Michigan, and on the south by Roosevelt Road, although the commercial core has expanded into adjacent community areas.
The community area includes Grant Park and one of the largest art museums in the United States, the Art Institute of Chicago. Other major cultural institutions that call this area home include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Goodman Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, the central public Harold Washington Library, and the Chicago Cultural Center.
In what is now the Loop Community Area, on the southern banks of the Chicago River, near today's Michigan Avenue Bridge, the U.S. Army erected Fort Dearborn in 1803. It was the first settlement in the area sponsored by the United States.
This area abounds in shopping opportunities, including the Loop Retail Historic District, although it competes with the more upscale Magnificent Mile area to the north, and with suburban shopping malls. It includes Chicago's former Marshall Field's department store location in the Marshall Field and Company Building; the original Sullivan Center Carson Pirie Scott store location (closed February 21, 2007); and Sears on State. Chicago's Downtown Theatre District is also found within this area, along with numerous restaurants and hotels.
Chicago has a famous skyline which features many of the tallest buildings in the world as well as theChicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District. Chicago's skyline is spaced out throughout the downtown area, giving it a graceful bridgelike appearance. The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, stands in the western Loop in the heart of the city's financial district, along with other buildings, such as 311 South Wacker Drive and the AT&T Corporate Center.
Chicago's third tallest building, the Aon Center, is located just south of Illinois Center. The complex is at the east end of the Loop, east of Michigan Avenue. Two Prudential Plaza is also located here, just to the west of the Aon Center.
The Loop contains a wealth of outdoor sculpture, including works by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, and Jean Dubuffet. Chicago's cultural heavyweights, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Goodman Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, the Lyric Opera at the Civic Opera House building, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, are also in this area, as is the historic Palmer House Hilton hotel, found on East Monroe Street.
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