The Century of Progress was meant to celebrate Chicago’s first 100 years. It would highlight business, science and cultures. It would provide jobs and bring people to the city. And it would serve as a beacon of hope to all that engaged. Planning began in the 1920s amidst the turmoil of Prohibition. Oil tycoon Rufus C. Dawes would serve as the board chair and he enlisted the Vice President of the United States, Charles, also his brother, to help. They formed committees and planned and planned and while the 1929 stock market crash was a blow, the resourceful brothers tapped into their wealthy colleagues for assistance. Their money was available and the planning continued.
Meanwhile, lawmakers recognized that Prohibition wasn’t working. Many politicians, including then-New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, believed that repealing Prohibition could boost morale and, more importantly, could be heavily taxed and get our country out of debt. Roosevelt ran his Presidential campaign on a wet ticket - vote for me and I’ll give you booze. He won. And just four months after he we elected, President Roosevelt signed the papers that would make alcohol legal once again.
When the Century of Progress opened its gates on May 27, 1933, beer was handy - and legal. A few food stands and local saloons made sure it was pouring. The Eitel Brothers, who owned the famous Old Heidelberg Inn at State/Randolph, saw a great opportunity and chose to open a satellite location near the 23rd Street entrance. The 4,000 capacity mammoth of a bierstube served the best of German delicacies, including beer. Live orchestras would entertain dancers and party-goers and, soon, the Fair location would serve as the most popular rendezvous point on the grounds.