The White City fairgrounds of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893) opened to the public on May 1, 1893. Over 27,000,000 people visited the White City in Jackson Park to see scientific, industrial, and artistic marvels. The Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.), which is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, the only major pavilion from the White City to remain standing in Jackson Park, is marking the occasion with “Celebrating 125 Years of the White City” the weekend of May 19-20, 2018.
Dr. Lisa Snyder will bring back her popular simulation of the White City from the U.C.L.A.’s Institute for Digital Research and Education. Viewers will be able to virtually fly over her reconstruction of the White City and Midway. Tim Samuelson, Cultural Historian for the City of Chicago, will give commentary about the World’s Columbian Exposition, which the City of Chicago commemorates with one of the four stars on the municipal flag. I am fond of both of them and respect both of them. You may recognize him from his appearance in a recent special episode of Chicago’s Best about which Chicago pizzeria invented the deep-dish pizza and other documentaries about local history.
They will give this presentation at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018 and, again, at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, 2018. Tickets are $25 per person, in addition to Museum Entry (general admission) or $20 per person for Museum Members.
Figure 1 Credit: Dr. Lisa Snyder, U.C.L.A.’s Institute for Digital Research and Education Caption: This is a view of the Palace of Fine Arts and state pavilions from the World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park from a point beyond the elevated railroad tracks.
Figure 2 Credit: Dr. Lisa Snyder, U.C.L.A.’s Institute for Digital Research and Education Caption: This is the Horticulture Building from the White City.
Figure 3 Credit: Dr. Lisa Snyder, U.C.L.A.’s Institute for Digital Research and Education Caption: This is a view of the Palace of Fine Arts (in the distance), the North Pond (now the Columbia Basin), and the Illinois Building (on the left) from a point over the water of the East Lagoon.
Figure 4 Credit: Dr. Lisa Snyder, U.C.L.A.’s Institute for Digital Research and Education Caption: This is a view of the Palace of Fine Arts, the Columbia Basin to the south, and state pavilions to the north.
Figure 5 Credit: Dr. Lisa Snyder, U.C.L.A.’s Institute for Digital Research and Education Caption: This is the south portico of the Palace of Fine Arts. During the World’s Columbian Exposition, this was the main entrance.
The Palace of Fine Arts, also known as the Fine Arts Building, is the last palace from the White City fairgrounds of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), still standing in Jackson Park. The façade is modeled on temples standing on the Acropolis of Athens. Upon the exposition board naming him Director of Public Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, on October 30, 1890, Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912) named his partner John Wellborn Root, Sr. (1850-1891) the supervising architect and the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903) the supervising landscape architect. Some 19th Century sources state the Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Root and Atwood, but Root’s Second Empire-style design work was not incorporated by Atwood. Root died after visiting Jackson Park on a stormy night. Burnham replaced him with Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895) was Chief Architect of the World’s Columbian Exposition and personally designed the Illinois Central Railroad Station, the Peristyle of the Court of Honor, and the Palace of Fine Arts. The neoclassical design Atwood developed for the Palace of Fine Arts combined Roman domes with Ionic Greek columns, statues, and frieze panels.
He borrowed the Central Pavilion’s north portico from a painting of a fanciful art museum by Paul-Albert Besnard (1849-1934) that had won the Prix de Rome. Atwood had two assistants. Alexandre Sandier had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Besnard. Ernest R. Graham (1868-1936), who coordinated much of Atwood’s work on-site, including aspects of the Palace of Fine Arts. Philip Martiny (1858-1927) carved the caryatids, the entablature figures, and the figure of Victory (the goddess Nike) that had initially crowned the Central Pavilion’s dome. He was paid $18,920.00 for his work. Martiny’s contract didn’t cover installing his statues. Nike weighed too much, and had to be removed, but her finial remained. The Palace of Fine Arts originally had eight pairs of plaster guardian lions. Pairs of lions flanked Athena at the South Portico and Augustus at the North Portico of the Central Pavilion and there were two each at the north & south porticos of the East & West Pavilions. Alexander Phimister Proctor (1860-1950), sculpted the lions flanking the Central Pavilion’s south stairs. Edward Kemeys sculpted the lions flanking the Central Pavilion’s north stairs. Augustus Baur sculpted the lions flanking both the north and south stairs of the annexes (East & West Pavilions). The Palace of Fine Arts held art treasures from around the world. To protect the world’s art treasures, unlike the other palaces of the White City, the Palace of Fine Arts had a brick substructure under its staff superstructure.
The other palaces were made of wood or steel framing clad in a kind of plaster known as “staff.” [Staff is a combination of plaster of paris, hemp fibers, and Portland cement.] Some were disassembled in Chicago and reassembled in state capitals. The Peristyle and some other structures burnt down on January 8, 1894. Seven more palaces burnt down on July 5, 1894. The German building was turned into a bathhouse, was renamed the Liberty Building during the First Great World War, and burned down. The Japanese Tea House burned down during the Second Great World War. The Iowa Building became an eyesore and was demolished at the Museum of Science and Industry’s expense.
Initially, the South Park Commission wanted to tear down the Palace of Fine Arts after the Field Museum of Natural History vacated it in 1920, but sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936) rallied groups in support of restoring the building. [The South Park District was one of twenty-two park districts in Chicago that merged in 1934 to form the Chicago Park District.] Mrs. Albion Headburg organized 6,000 women to donate $1 each to restore a small part of the Palace of Fine Arts to show what it could look like. They changed the mind of South Park Commission. The South Park Commission asked voters to approve the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds to finance restoration of the building to serve as a science museum, trade school, sculptural art museum, and convention center.
Dr. Charles R. Richards, author of The Industrial Museum and Director of the American Association of Museums, attested to the suitability of the Palace of Fine Arts as the future home of a science museum in 1925. On March 17, 1925, William E. Furlong filed his first lawsuit to enjoin the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds by the South Park Commission to finance the restoration of the Palace of Fine Arts. On April 23, 1926, the Supreme Court of Illinois ruled against Furlong in Furlong vs. South Park Commissioners, declaring that the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds by the South Park Commission to finance the restoration of the Palace of Fine Arts was legal. On April 16, 1929, Furlong filed a second lawsuit to enjoin the sale of bonds by the South Park Commission.
On April 17, 1929, Judge Oscar Hebel of the Superior Court of Cook County denied Furlong’s temporary injunction. On June 28, 1929, Furlong filed an amended lawsuit to place an injunction on the South Park Commission’s executing the ordinance passed and agreements made on March 20, 1929. On June 29, 1929, Judge Hebel denied an injunction by Furlong against awarding the contract to restore the Palace of Fine Arts, and the sale of $1,500,000 in bonds by the South Park Commission.
Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, who was already a famous philanthropist, told The Commercial Club of Chicago he would back an interactive science museum like Oskar von Miller’s Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology) in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. The Commercial Club had earlier sponsored Burnham’s Plan of Chicago (1909). In 1906-09, Burnham and assistant Edward H. Bennet drafted The Plan of Chicago with the financial support of Chicago’s Merchants Club, which merged with The Commercial Club of Chicago in 1907. The report, published in 1909, circulated amongst Commercial Club members and public institutions, and was adopted by the Chicago Common Council at the urging of Mayor Busse. The Commercial Club of Chicago also sponsored the Chicago Zoological Society.
In 1926, the Museum Association incorporated as the Rosenwald Industrial Museum, but Julius Rosenwald persuaded his fellow trustees to drop his name. He was a modest man, and was afraid if his surname were attached to the institution, his family would be obliged to bankroll it in perpetuity. Other rich people might also be disinclined to donate funds. In 1929, the Museum Corporation officially changed its name to the Museum of Science and Industry.
Designing the restoration and reconstruction of Atwood’s staff superstructure and brick substructure fell to the architectural firm employed by the South Park Commission: Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White – principally to Alfred Shaw (1895-1970). He also designed the Art Moderne interior. Upon the death of Messrs. Probst and White, another firm, Shaw, Naess, and Murphy, undertook completion of the new interior’s design, beginning in January of 1937.
The façade and substructure underwent restoration and reconstruction between 1929 and 1931. When it became apparent $5,000,000 would be insufficient to restore the building, Julius Rosenwald pledged to pay for completion of the project, in addition to his endowment pledge of $3,000,000.
Sculptors Fred Bruner and Harry Donato setup shop in the Shawnee Stone Co. facility in Bloomington, Indiana where the rest of the limestone for the new façade of the Palace of Fine Arts was prepared. For the Museum of Science and Industry, Bruner & Donato copied Hering rather than Martiny. Bruner & Donato sculpted statues that copied Martiny’s staff angels from the entablature. They also copied Hering’s Field Museum caryatids and executed in limestone Hering’s entablature figures. This is why the four central figures carved by Bruner & Donato in the 1920s are not replicas of the Martiny’s Muses of Art, Painting, Music, and Sculpture. They are, instead, Hering’s stylized representations of four races and geo-political centers of civilization: Europe, Far East Asia, Egypt, and the Americas. One difference between Hering’s clay maquette and the statues Bruner & Donato made is they gave East more Asiatic features. They also gave West different features, and a different stance. Hering borrowed the imperial orb from Daniel Chester French’s Republic, which had an eagle in place of a cross. A small-scale replica of Republic, funded by the Benjamin Ferguson Fund, stands south of the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park. The replica is twenty-four feet tall, while the original was sixty-five-feet-tall.
The Museum of Science and Industry opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940, with the first opening ceremony on July 1, 1933. These events coincided with Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34), which opened on June 1, 1933.
Located in the northeast corner of Jackson Park, the Museum of Science and Industry stands on 57th Street at the intersection with Lake Shore Drive in the Hyde Park Community Area. During peak periods, it is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but normally the M.S.I. is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637. The Website is https://wwwmsichicago.org/. The phone number is (773) 684-1414.