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THE WHITE CITY - CHICAGO

Sightsee across time with this historical look at Chicago during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

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The World's Fair dazzled audiences when it welcomed over 27 million visitors to Chicago in 1893. Journey back to that event with this guide to the sightseeing stops on former fair grounds.

 

Jackson Park

Nearly 600 acres of fields, trails and scenic lagoons make up Jackson Park (6401 S. Stony Island Avenue) and sprawl along the eastern edges of the Hyde Park, Woodlawn and South Shore neighborhoods. The green space was originally planned for in 1871 by the renowned design firm Olmsted & Vaux (of New York's Central Park fame). In 1890, when Jackson Park was selected as home for the World's Columbian Exposition, it was redeveloped by celebrated landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted and highly-regarded Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Architecture and sculpture showcased the array of American talents and the "White City", with over 200 buildings set within an idyllic parkland, was a marvel to behold.

The lovely Japanese-styled Osaka Garden (1735 E. Columbia Drive) is located on the Wooded Island in the center of the Jackson Park lagoon. The garden stands on the site of the Ho-o-den, which during the World's Fair was a place of respite that featured Japanese pavilions. The Osaka Garden is located just south of the Museum of Science and Industry and east of the Jackson Park Perennial Garden and the Midway Plaisance. Discover your own peaceful spot and keep your eyes open — the island is a wonderful place for birdwatching.

The original colossal 65 foot-tall version of Daniel Chester French's Statue of the Republic (1900 E. Hayes Drive) was one of the most iconic features of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Composed of gilded plaster, the monumental female figure with outstretched arms stood at the eastern end of the Court of Honor. The Chicago Tribune wrote "It impresses by its grand presence, its serene and noble face, and its perfect harmony with its magnificent surroundings, by its wonderful fitness." You'll find a 24-foot version of the Republic near the park's center. The B. F. Ferguson Fund commissioned French to create the replica at one-third of the scale in 1918, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fair and centennial of statehood for Illinois. It was conserved and re-gilded in 1992, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Exposition.

The Midway Plaisance (1130 E. Midway Plaisance) is a mile long by 220 yard wide stretch of green space that connects Washington Park on the west to Jackson Park on the east. During the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the Midway Plaisance was used as the amusement area during the Fair. The famous and 1st ever Ferris Wheel debuted here, as well as many other amusement rides and cultural villages.

 

Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (5700 S. Lake Shore Drive), the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere, is home to more than 35,000 artifacts and nearly 14 acres of hands-on experiences designed to spark scientific inquiry and creativity. MSI is a replica of the Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Charles Atwood of the firm Burnham & Company after Burnham's first partner John W Root died. The original building stood much longer than the rest of the Fair buildings since it was built with a brick core since lending nations would not lend artwork to a non-fireproof building. The Museum of Science & Industry is not the original building but was built using the same blueprint of the Palace of Fine Arts and is almost an exact replica.

 

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Avenue) is a world-renowned art museum housing the third largest permanent collection in the United States. The Art Institute of Chicago building was used during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and therefore is the only originally building left from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. During the six months of Fair, the World's Congresses were held there and after the Fair was over the building became the property of the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Other Historical Markers & Sightseeing Tours

On the National Register of Historic Places and a Chicago Landmark, the Rookery Building (209 S. LaSalle Street) was designed by famed architectural partners Burnham and Root. Built during a transition period in architectural construction, it uses both load-bearing masonry and a skeletal frame. Many of the planning meetings for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition were held in the offices of Burnham & Root on the top floor of the building. Frank Lloyd Wright redesigned the two-story skylight lobby in 1905 - 1907.

Just west of the Loop in the Little Italy neighborhood, a Christopher Columbus statue (801 S. Loomis Street) is located in the center of a granite fountain in Columbus Plaza of Arrigo Park. This 9-ft bronze statue was completed in Rome, Italy on July 22, 1892 by Moses Ezekiel, a leading American sculptor. It was commissioned by the owners of the Columbus Memorial Building for the opening of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. When completed, it received the blessing of Pope Leo XIII and was shipped to Chicago. It was first displayed at the Italian Pavilion at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Then it was moved to the corner of the newly constructed Columbus Memorial Building, located on State and Washington Streets in downtown Chicago. The Columbus statue lost that perch on the Columbus Memorial Building when the building was torn down in 1959.

You may know about the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and its historical importance in Chicago history, but were you aware of its dark side? During this time when the burgeoning metropolis was shining, a serial murderer masqueraded as a charming doctor and used the fairgrounds to lure his female victims. The Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago History Museum offer tours that examine the best-selling novel by Erik Larson, Devil in the White City. Explore the horrid, yet true, tale on bus and walking tours that bring the era to life and lend insight into the lives of two famous men: Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and serial killer H. H. Holmes.


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