Looking for The White City

Those of us who live near the great city of Chicago are bombarded daily with the reports of violent crime. With the hot summer we’ve been experiencing, it seems that the crime numbers are rising as surely as the temperature records. It’s surely a sad time for the city.

The Chicago summer of 1893 was also hot and violent. Temperatures and passions were blistering and blazing out of control. But still miracles were happening in the city — planners and builders, geniuses and scammers were all working together to create something so GREAT, so AWESOME that the world would stop and pay attention to this blustering city with big shoulders.

The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a spectacular display of architecture and grandiosity in a city known for meat packing, great fires and stinking waters. Built in the middle of a swampy area just south of the city in what is now Jackson Park, it was a full-scale city built within a year of its original conception.

It was known as The White City. Built of gleaming white plaster over wooden frames, the contrast with the black, smoky buildings of Chicago was breathtaking. Millions of visitors came from around the globe to view the amazing exhibits — the busiest day of the fair was Chicago Day on October 9th when 716,881 men, women and children came through the gates. It was a record-breaking outdoor attendance day!

Of course, books have been written and websites have been built extolling the virtues and the problems of the great world fair. Mother Goose has barely poked her beak into the mountains of information and research to be consumed. But one thing is for sure — Mother Goose just had to go and see for herself this place of wonder and magic, even though (with the exception of the Palace of Fine Arts which is now the Museum of Science and Industry) it was all burned to the ground shortly after the fair closed.

The Palace of Fine Arts as it looked in The White City 1893.

The Palace of Fine Arts at the north end of the Great Lagoon which is now the Museum of Science and Industry. With a high rise behind it which was surely not there in 1893…

Mother Goose and Husband Goose pulled into the parking lot in Jackson Park just south of the lagoon. Many people were enjoying picnics, soccer games and some relaxed fishing. Of course, Mother Goose immediately ran flapping across the bridge to stand upon the “wooded island”. This place was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to be a place of green and peaceful meditation in the midst of the craziness and “whiteness” of the surrounding buildings. His intent was for people to look across the lagoons and find soothing comfort in the shades of green and the colors of the mostly natural flowers.

The Wooded Island as it looked in 1893. By the way, Mother Goose was NOT there…

If a visitor today sees a large tree on the “wooded island”, it was presumably planted there for the eyes of the fair goers. Mother Goose found plenty of these majestic beauties. Please pretend that you are on the island with Mother Goose!

Everybody knows how tall my Husband Goose stands. Strangely enough, he is dwarfed by this giant Oak Tree on the “Wooded Island”.

Looking up and wondering about the life of this same Oak Tree.

An ancient Grandmother Willow Tree on the “Wooded Island”.

Another gnarled old Oak Tree.

There was so much to see, and the eyes of Mother Goose were indeed soothed by the sights of these trees. Please come back tomorrow when our exploration of the “Wooded Island” continues. There are some amazing surprises coming…


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bunn
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 12:07:02

    This is soooo interesting!! I’m loving it!!
    Why is your history so interesting but I found school history absolutely boring??
    It’s obviously the fine writing of a goose!!


    • Natalie
      Jul 31, 2012 @ 10:17:07

      I think that history needs to taught as it impacts today. I love to do little compare and contrast studies — it just makes it more real and relevant…


  2. Eric Winger
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 12:09:29

    Thanks for the info, Natalie. I hadn’t heard of the White City before. … Your picture of the Palace of Fine Arts juxtaposed with the high rise gives a good sense of how things change.

    Keep flappin’!



  3. Deb
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 22:18:21

    Love this!!


  4. Trackback: Backyard Time Travel | Give Our Time
  5. yearstricken
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 18:56:52

    I love that picture of the Palace of Fine Arts with the gondolas in front. Thanks for sharing the story and pictures.


    • Natalie
      Jul 31, 2012 @ 10:20:40

      Dear Year, you’re welcome! Of course, the spot where the gondolas floated in front of the palace is now a parking lot, but I didn’t want to show that… I long for the days of gondolas in the lagoons and canals and rivers of Chicago. What a dream!


  6. Three Well Beings
    Aug 01, 2012 @ 01:31:55

    What a wonderful story! I love to experience history with connections linking past to present. And such gorgeous trees! Beautiful photos, Natalie! Debra


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