Chicago – History Through Maps and Photographs – Part 1 The World Fairs

As we continue to be restricted to any travel the ‘virtual travel’ series is continuing with some history. This posting will detail the history of Chicago through maps and photographs, and take a look at what it looks like now.

 

In 1840 when New York City already had over 300,000 people, Chicago was just starting as a town with just a few thousand. By 1860 is was in the top 10 with over 100,000, and just 30 years later there was 1.1 million people and Chicago was ‘The Second City’, doubling in population from 1880 to 1890.

 

Celebrating Chicago through World’s Fairs

It was around this time that Chicago decided to make it’s presence known on the world stage by hosting a World’s Fair. Local leaders lobbied hard to land the right to host this fair with the federal government, winning out over New York, Washington and St Louis.

The site chosen, Jackson Park, provided the 600 acres required. The lead architect was the famed Daniel Burnham, who was a proponent of the ‘City Beautiful’ movement.

While most of the buildings were designed and built to be temporary, there are a few that remain to this day.

With all of the buildings built in a neo-classical design and painted the same color, it became known as The White City.

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Getting to the Fair

With the incredible growth of the city from the end of the Civil War to 1890, Chicago’s transit struggled to keep up. Initially private companies had built horse drawn trolleys downtown. In 1892 the first of the famed El’s was completed from 39th Street (Pershing Road) to the Loop. The next year the Chicago and South Side Elevated Railway extended this to the fair site at Jackson Park.

The map below dates from the 1930s but clearly shows the line going south before turning left towards the lake, ending at Jackson Park. (Red Lines denote the El). This company failed not long after the fair ended because there was not enough ridership to maintain financial stability, being sold under foreclosure.

Of note this line was originally not electrified, the coaches were pulled by an engine.

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The Chicago History Center has one of the original cars on display.

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Green Line Train today

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Also note the Midway Plaisance connecting Washington Park and Jackson Park (Green strip on map between the parks). This area was the Entertainment section of the park (more on this below).

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Today the Green Line takes a very similar route, although the spur towards the lake only goes to Cottage Grove Avenue, and the southernmost branch is gone.

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As noted in the photo description this is the entrance at the Midway Plaisance.

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The map detail shows some of the highlights of this area, including the famed Ferris Wheel. While there had been a wooden wheel built in Atlantic City in 1891, but it burned down the next year.

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Ferris’s wheel was to be Chicago’s answer to Paris’s Eiffel Tower. It was massive – 264 feet high, with a capacity of 2,160 passengers. So renown was this feature that for many years Ferris Wheel’s were known as ‘Chicago Wheels’

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Today Chicago’s Navy Pier has one that, while impressive, is shorter than the original.

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The Midway Plaisance today serves as a park area next to the University of Chicago. There are a few reminders of the fair.

 

 

The grounds and buildings were magnificent.

 

 

The Palace of Fine Arts was one of the few buildings built to remain after the fair.

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It serves today as the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

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The Statue of the Republic Was the Centerpiece of the Basin.

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While no longer surrounded by water it is one of the few remaining structures from the fair.

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But Chicago had a second chance at a World’s Fair just 40 years later, when they hosted the Century of Progress, which ran from May 1933 until October 1934, taking the winter off.

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But the city, and world, has had significant change since 1893.

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The Auto Club sponsored ‘Routes’ with fair themed names for automobile travelers to come to the city. In addition they sponsored ‘Motor Villages’, campgrounds and motels on the outskirts of town,.

 

 

Despite the introduction of the automobile, train travel was still the primary way to get to Chicago.

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This Conoco map shows an Illinois Central Railway Station at the entrance to the fair.

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In addition to the station at the fairgrounds entrance, there were another 6 train stations downtown, including the commuter rail stations.

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Today there are 3, two for the commuter rail and Union Station, and even that station is just a portion of what it was.

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Union Station is still very nice, but this grand space above was torn down in 1969.

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Once you were in town the El or streetcar network would take you to where you needed to go.

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Including directly to the Fair.

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Welcome to the Century of Progress World’s Fair entrance.

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The skyride took passengers from the main entrance on Columbus Drive to the lake shore. In this photo the Field Museum and the skyline of downtown is clearly visible.

One of the features of the 1933 fair compared to 1893’s is that it was essentially downtown, whereas the Columbian Exposition was a couple of miles south of downtown.

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The 1930s was the height of the Art Deco movement (a favorite of mine), and the advertising for the fair highlighted this.

 

 

The industrialists of the day had major exhibits. GM even built an assembly line.

 

You could see the homes of tomorrow.

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After the fair an investor purchased the homes and moved them by barge to nearby Indiana, and placed them along the lake shore as an attraction to the community he was building.

Time was tough on the homes, but over the last 20 years or so the state of Indiana has sponsored a program where you can lease them for $1 with the stipulation you fix them up (which costs $1m +). The results are fantastic.

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Many Chicago landmarks were part of the fair including Adler Planetarium

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as well as the Field Museum and Soldier Field.

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Chicago has always used their lake shore for the public’s enjoyment, never more so than during the two World’s Fairs. Part 2 of this series in a few days will focus more on the development of the transportation in the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Columbus – July 2018 – Faces of the Fair

Another trip to the Ohio State Fair – my theme for this year is the Faces of the Fair.

Human – Animal – otherwise.

 

First up – the Bee Growers tent representative.

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A completely sheered sheep (except the nose and ears, not sure why that was left that way)

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Hanging out for a week or two at the fair must be boring for this little guy.

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The sheep show contestants were very dressed up.

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While the queen had seen enough.

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A prize winner.

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I like his horns.

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The white sheep of the family.

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There are a number of stages for performers.

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The butter sculptures are always a big hit. The theme this year is the movie the Christmas Story. While it was set in Indiana, it was partially filmed at a house in Cleveland which to this day maintains a steady tourist trade.

They added to the scene with a calf sticking it’s tongue to the cold pole as well.

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Ralphie and his rabbit outfit, along with the Leg Lamp.

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A newborn calf.

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Another newborn calf with a great drool going.

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The poultry barn offered a number of great faces.

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Love ‘birds’.

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The Marvelous Mutts Dog Show.

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The dogs are aces at Frisbee catching.

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Back in the poultry house.

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A giant animatronics Smokey the Bear.

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The Ohio Nut Growers Association had a collection of nutcrackers.

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The clown band always draws bemused looks.

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A guy did a ‘comedy routing/magic act’ show – this young man thought he was opening a box with a live snake, only to have the old ‘rubber snake coming out of the box’ trick pulled on him.

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The magic act continues.

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In the Arts and Crafts section – an award winning cake.

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More faces in the crowd.

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Finally it was time to head home.

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See you next year.

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Columbus – July 2017 – Ohio State Fair

The Ohio State Fairgrounds has been at the same location since 1886, when the land was north of town. Now it is in the  middle of the city, between Ohio State University and some inner city neighborhoods, along the flight path for the airport.

It is in this setting that each year thousands of Ohio youth (and adults) bring their prized animals for show.  Nothing like a morning in Columbus with about 1000 rooster cackling, airplanes blasting over, and the smell of 1000 fried food stands. Still it seems to have become an annual event for photography.

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In addition to the animals there is the always fascinating ‘butter sculpture’. Imagine the cholesterol.

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Also featured are crafts.

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Prize winning cake.

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Throughout the midway are rides, and other attractions including the ‘Wild Monkeys’ show.

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Columbus – August 2016 – State Fair Revisited

As previously noted we rarely revisit an event, but we did for the Doo Dah Parade, as well as the Ohio State Fair and the Twins Day Parade.  The fair highlights were:

Cloaked Sheep

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Strutting chickens

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People dressed like giant chickens

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Queens and Cows

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Butter sculptures celebrating the Cleveland Cavaliers championship

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Butterflies

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New born chicks

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Flying Cowboys

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Flying Riders

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and spooky dolls

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Columbus – July 2016 – Cars, Jazz, Ribs, Pies and More Cars

A Saturday in late July brought a number of events in the area so we made a full day of it. First up – a Custom Car show down Main Street in Delaware, Ohio. While this car show was nowhere near a nice as the one at Greenfield Village, or even the Good Guys Show at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, they still had a significant number of cars lining both sides of the street for 5 blocks. Nearly all were American, most were customized, but still a nice diversion to start of a long, hot day.

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From there we went downtown to the Jazz & Ribs Festival, along the Scioto Mile. This was one instance that the music was better than the food. We spent a couple of hours listening to a variety of the bands, and enjoying the sights and smells of the rib booths.

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But it was hot – so we moved on to a brief visit to the Audubon Park, just south of downtown Columbus, where I had the opportunity to use my new zoom, taking photos of an Osprey nest, with their wings fully expanded.

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Finally we went to the Franklin County Fairgrounds for two events I had seen advertised earlier, a pie eating contest and a demolition derby. The pie eating contest was a hoot, with the contesting eating cream pies. The contestants ranged from intense, jam their entire face into the pies to ladies who were hesitant to get anything on their faces. The saving grace was our seat was in front of giant fans.

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Last up was the demolition derby, where we went directly after the pie eating, luckily jamming ourselves onto a couple of seat since most of the crowd had sent scouts to camp out and save seats throughout the 2000 seat metal stands. By the time the nect 30 minutes had passed, and the temperature had cooled off to 95 degrees, the place was packed with stereotypical demolition derby fans. After a couple of events (kids big wheel derby, lawn mower demolition derby and a couple with cars) we were done with the heat and headed home. A busy day – but not one of the best.

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Columbus Area – October 2015 – County Fair, Corvettes & Old Firetrucks

A beautiful, warm sunny mid October Thursday brought an eclectic agenda with the primary event a visit to the Fairfield County Fair. But first a visit to the Central Ohio Fire Museum in downtown Columbus.

The Central Ohio Fire Museum is dedicated to current and past firefighters, as well as a focus on fire prevention. They have an excellent collection of hand-drawn, horse-drawn and motorized fire apparatus set in a restored 1908 Columbus Engine House (No.16) on 4th Street about a block from the Convention Center.

Current and retired firefighters volunteer to assist with the restoration of the equipment, as well as act as docents. The day we were there two gentlemen took the time to walk us around much of the exhibit explaining their history and uses. Of particular interest was the hose tower, for hanging and drying the hoses.

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While the collection of old fire trucks, hose heads, old wood water pipe sections and  were very cool without a doubt the steam pumper “The Monarch” was the most impressive, both visually and in it’s use. A visit to the Central Ohio Fire Museum is strongly recommended, the kid in you will love it.

We continued out of town to the Fairfield County Fair. Held in Lancaster since 1851, the Fair is the last of all county fairs in Ohio, and is billed as Ohio’s oldest continually running fair. Usually the cooler October weather adds to the appeal, and this day was no different, a perfect sunny day with temperatures about 70 degrees, in an excellent setting beneath Mount Pleasant, a 250′ high rock outcropping set in the appropriately named Rising Park, all located across the street from the fairgrounds north end.

There are numerous old buildings throughout the fairgrounds, the highlights being the curved grandstands on a back corner (that unfortunately arsonists burned down in 2016), a round barn, and the ‘newer’ brick grandstands that were built in 1927. After spending a couple of hours checking out the harness racing horses, other various animals, a restored village complete with an antique tractor collection and a small collection of booths we made our way to the grandstands for some harness racing. With the anthem being provided by a band of about 10 guys age 70+ we settled in for a few races, complete with betting booths.

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The Fairfield County Fair is better than most of the other county fairs I have been to, mostly because of location and timing, but is far from the State Fair – which is part of it’s appeal.

Last stop of the day was the Bob McDorman Corvette collection in Canal Winchester. Bob was a Chevy dealer for many years, and had collected Corvette’s, and other cars. Eventually he built a nice building in the middle of the small town that now houses the museum.

The cars are presented in  a straightforward manner, lined up on each side of the building interspersed with some of the neon sign collection, and other artifacts. One room set off by itself was distinctive with it’s checkered flag floor and two 1978 Indy 500 Pace Car Corvettes, along with a recreation of Bob’s office.

The museum is not bad, however compared to others the $10 entry fee was a bit high. If you are into cars it is worth the visit, but you won’t likely spend more than an hour there.

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Columbus – August 2015 – Ohio State Fair

One hot Saturday in August we went to the biggest annual event in Columbus, one that I had never been to, the Ohio State Fair. The Ohio State Fair is one of the largest state fairs in the United States. In 2015, attendance was 982,305, the fair’s highest 12-day attendance on record

As usual we arrived early, although at the fair there really is no such thing as early, as people are there all night, and visitors start arriving about 6 AM, so when we got there at 9 it was busy but not insanely crowded, yet.

Shortly after arriving, and taking our queue from our recent visit to the Fairgrounds for the car show, we jumped on the Sky Ride for the scenic route to the south entrance. This, as with the car show, gave us a great overview. Since we went over the midway we had a bird’s eye view of the food vendors getting ready for the day.

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Our first stop was an agricultural building where teens from 4H clubs were showing their prize cows. Next door was the dairy showcase, where they have an ice cream stand and a Midwest state fair specialty, butter sculptures. This year’s theme was the National Champion Ohio State Football team and their coach, Urban Meyer.

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Motivated I had a milk shake from the stand, which was quite good. Out back the kids were getting their cows ready for their moment in the spotlight by washing them off, which was an amusing view with the skyline of Columbus, aka Cowtown, in the background. Next door were the swine, including 3 newborn piglets, and one named Marvelous, who weighed 1100 pounds.

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The great thing that I never knew about the fair was the diversity of attractions. After seeing cows and pigs we went to the Janis Center where they had crafts, and a large model train display in the basement. Next door to the Janis Center was the Cox Fine Arts Center. This center featured a gallery quality collection of paintings, sculptures and photography for both amateurs and professionals.

Also on the south end of the fairgrounds is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources area, which includes gardens, shady areas and various outdoor shows. We watched the lumberjack show, followed by a walk through the natural gardens.

Much like the Columbus Arts Festival there was an area raising money for a food bank with art made out of canned food. For the fair that meant a combine and a tractor, impressive indeed.

After wandering the midway checking out all of the unhealthy food options such as Fried Oreo Cookies, Deep Fried Buckeyes, and a stand that would put bacon on anything you could think of, we decided to forego the heart attack for the day and went with a buffet ran by one of the clubs.

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Our first event of the afternoon was one of the highlights, pig races. This carny apparently travels the country with his collection of pigs, where they set up a small track, given the cute names and stage races. While hooky it was fun to watch them.

After watching a few rounds of jousting, with actual horses and riders, in the Taft Coliseum and checking out our second dog skills competition, it was time to go as we were worn out from the walking and hot sun.

While I was expecting the ultimate Walmart crowd, in reality the Ohio State Fair had an interesting collection of activities that filled our day.