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Copyright: Unsere Weltausstellung 1893

Not until 1890 did the city of Chicago decide on Jackson Park as the site for the Fair an area of 2.9 square kilometres shores of Lake Michigan following a recommendation by the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstedt who had been working since 1871 on developing this swampy, sandy area between the city and Lake Michigan and had been commissioned to landscape the Fair. Unlike World's Fairs that had been held in Europe in the 19th century, which had always been integrated in city centers, Chicago sited the Fair 11 kilometres southeast of the city center in an area which had not been built on before and in which it was possible to spread out without hindrance. In keeping with the natural surroundings, water became the key design element for the park. Canals and lagoons, which were linked to the lake, spread through the grounds like veins and ensured an effective arrangement of buildings.

In conjunction with the Chicago-based architectural firm Burnham & Root Olmstedt developed the plan of splitting up the Fair into four zones. In view of the anticipated number of exhibits it was decided not to build a single giant palace. In keeping with a classification system designed by a commission, every product category had its own building. The center of the grounds was formed by a huge water basin between the railroad terminal that had been built specifically for the Fair, the Court of Honor and the colonnades with two side buildings which separated the basin from the lake. Another broad canal extended in front of the Court of Honor to the north and south. The main exposition palaces were grouped symmetrically around the basin and these could be reached by water using gondolas that had been imported from Venice and small launches. In order to make the main water basin the symbolic center of the Fair, the organizers decided to set up a spectacular 22-metre, gilded plaster statue of the Republic by the sculptor Daniel Chester French and the electrically driven fountains by Frederick William MacMonnies which represented the Barge of State with Columbia accompanied by rowers and allegories.

To the north of the Court of Honor Olmstedt placed a large lagoon with a woody island in the middle presenting horticultural products in an almost natural environment. Smaller exhibition halls were grouped around the lagoon. The pavilions of foreign countries and the American government were placed further north of this. At the next water basin there was the Palace of Fine Arts, and this was surrounded by buildings representing the American states. In the top third of Jackson Park the grounds had an elongated narrow branch heading west the Midway Plaisance amusement park.

The clear layout of the grounds received universal praise. In particular the design of the park with long view axes that ended with a domed structure, a colonnade or an obelisk made it easier for visitors to find their way around. An electric elevated railroad extending all around the grounds and several moving sidewalks were available to get around the spacious grounds.

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The Chicago World Exposition 1893
From a swamp to a landscaped garden
Year: 1893City: ChicagoCountry: USA
Duration: 1st May - 30th October 1893



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