HistoryCop was founded by Ray Johnson, a life-long Chicago area resident and history buff who is a former criminal investigator.
Welcome, fellow fans of the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition or "World's Fair" This self-guided adventure is based on walking tours that we at "Friends of the White City" and "Jackson Park Advisory Council" have been doing for a number of years now. There is no correct order to take the tour and you don't have to necessarily visit all the sites in one day to have a great time. Keep in mind that each of the locations has videos, texts, and photos to help you understand what you would have been seeing at the time of the fair. Also, keep in mind that the location may be titled with the most prominent feature but we will also talk about many of the sites nearby to those sites and include information on those topics as well.
The best place to start the adventure and to park is the Chicago Park District Parking that is on Columbia Drive directly to the south of the Museum of Science and Industry. The parking is only $2 per hour and you can stay for as long as you want and can pay by cash or credit using the automated pay boxes. Please check online under Chicago Park District Parking to get the most up to date parking information.
The Clarence Darrow Bridge, also a great World's Fair artifact, is currently under a renovation project that won't be completed for possibly several years and was always the most popular way to go from the east side to the west side of the park and vice versa. Until the project is complete, the best way to go between the two sides of the park on the north side of the park is to walk along the south side of the Museum of Science and Industry and re-enter the park once you reach Cornell Drive.
All the eyes of the world were fixed on Chicago from May 1, 1893, through October 30, 1893. It must have been unbelievable for visitors to grasp that literally only 20 years prior to hosting this huge world event, the city of Chicago had almost completely burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871! The reason for the exposition was for the U.S. to honor the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering the "New World" and to show off the advances of the Scientific, Industrial and Artistic communities since that time.
The size and scope of the "White City" as it became known, is hard to comprehend even today. The fair consisted of over 200 buildings and covered over 600 acres of space. One building, The Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building, was so large that you could fit over 23 football fields inside of it. One could also take the Willis Tower, or as most Chicagoans still say, "The Sears Tower", turn it on its side and slide it into the Manufacturers Building. The fair had its own hospital, police force, fire department, water supply, and sewer system and even its own electrical generation equipment which supplied the needs of the fair which were 10 times the daily electrical needs of the entire city of Chicago. Over 51 nations, 39 Colonies, and 47 U.S. States and Territories were represented and all of this had to be completed within two years!
The World's Columbian Exposition became known as the "White City" because of the glistening white color of the buildings situated on its Court of Honor. Francis "Frank" Millet (pronounced like the grain) decided on the white color because it closely resembled the marble or granite look that the designers wanted and luckily it was cheap and available in large quantities. One of the inventions of the Fair was spraypainting and was attributed to Millet in that he needed a way to paint all of the buildings in a quicker fashion than a bunch of painters with brushes on scaffolding so he thought we throw a hose and a pump into a huge container of cheap, white, lead-based paint and presto!