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Then and Now: the first Ferris Wheel

The World’s Columbian Exposition was truly a prototype of what Daniel Burnham and his colleagues thought a city should be. It was designed to follow French neoclassical architecture principles based on symmetry, balance, and splendor. And what a splendor it was. More than 27 million people attended the exposition during its six-month run. Its scale, attractions and grandeur far exceeded the other World's Fairs, and it became a symbol of the emerging American Exceptionalism. Among the attractions was one that stood apart from them all—the Ferris Wheel.

Then, 1893

The first Ferris Wheel was designed by George W. Ferris, a bridge-builder from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ferris began his career in the railroad industry and then pursued an interest in bridge building. As he understood the growing need for structural steel, Ferris founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders. When he attended an engineer’s banquet and heard Daniel Burnham speak of not finding an attraction that “met the expectations of the people” for the World’s Columbian Exposition, George Ferris’s wheels start turning: he sketched up the idea that night on a napkin in a Chicago steakhouse and presented it to Daniel Burnham. The Ferris Wheel debuted at the World’s Columbian Exposition on June 21, 1893. Spectators marveled at the enormous structure that was then the largest single piece of steel ever made. Rotating on a 71-ton, 45.5 foot axle, the ride featured its 16 foot diameter cast-iron spiders weighing 89,320 pounds together. There were 36 passenger cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and accommodated 60 people, a total capacity of 2,160 passengers. For 50 cents, each passenger would enjoy 20 minutes of incredible views peaking at 264 feet. The wheel itself closed in April 1894 and was then dismantled and stored until the following year when it was rebuilt in Lincoln Park. It operated there until 1903 and was eventually bought by Chicago House Wrecking Company for $8,150.

  • The Ferris Wheel did not open to the public until June because of arguments from the board of directors deciding whether or not to build it.
  • Two 110 ton, 2,000 horsepower reversible engines powered the ride.
  • In 1893, The Ferris Wheel cost $380,000 but 1.5 million people rode it over the course of the exposition bringing in a total profit of $750,000—saving the exposition from bankruptcy.
  • The Ferris Wheel was lit by 2,500 Edison incandescent lamps.
  • One attendee, George C. Tilyou, later credited the sights he saw in Chicago for inspiring him to create America's first major amusement park, Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, NY.

Now, 2013

Today, Chicago’s famous Ferris Wheel lives at Navy Pier. The 3,300 foot long pier was built in 1916 at a cost of $4.5 million. As part of the Plan of Chicago developed by Daniel Burnham, Navy Pier was planned and built to serve as a mixed-purpose piece of public infrastructure. With the many attractions, museums, and restaurants that thrive on the Pier today, it has upheld Burnham’s vision for almost 100 years. In 1995, the newly renovated Pier reopened with the Ferris Wheel as its focal point. The Ferris Wheel officially opened on July 1, 1995 and continues to be the Pier’s number one attraction. Modeled after the first Ferris Wheel, it stands at a staggering height of 150 feet with 40 spokes spanning a diameter of 140 feet, all illuminated by 16,000 light bulbs. With 40 gondolas each seating 6 passengers, the Wheel can comfortably seat a total of 300 people at a time for a ride taking about 7 minutes—compared to the 20 minute ride at the World’s Fair.

  • Navy Pier is the Midwest's #1 tourist and leisure destination, attracting more than 8 million visitors per year.
  • The Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier is a specifically designed, $3.2 million historic replica of the Ferris Wheel from the World’s Columbian Exposition.
  • Over 63,000 visitors take the 7 minute ride on the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier each month.
  • In September, 2007, Navy Pier's wheel celebrated its 10 millionth rider as Ronald McDonald and the Pier’s mascot, Patch the Pirate Dog, presented the rider with various prizes.
  • This past May, the world record for the longest Ferris Wheel ride was set by Clinton Shepherd, park operations manager, who spent 48 hours, 8 minutes and 25 seconds riding the Pier's Ferris Wheel over the weekend of May 18 - 19, 2013.

June 2013 Loop List: Summer Festivals

With Memorial Day weekend behind us, summer is officially in full swing in Chicago. As such, each weekend will be packed with street festivals, art shows, food gatherings, music series and more. Here are our picks for what’s happening in the Loop.

1. Farmers Markets
Now - October 31, 7 am - 3 pm | Thursdays, Daily Plaza; Tuesdays, Federal Plaza

Enjoy local fruit, vegetables, plants, flowers and baked goods on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Loop. With more than 70 vendors contributing, Chicago Farmers Markets continue to be a favorite staple in the summer months.

2. Millennium Park Film Series
Tuesdays, June 4 - August 20 at 6:30 pm | Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park

A new film series featuring free offerings this summer at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, officially kicks off on Tuesday, June 4 highlighting favorites like, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Amadeus, Moulin Rouge, Chicago and The Jungle Book.

3. 30th Annual Chicago Blues Festival
June 6 - 9 | Grant Park

The Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world and remains the largest of Chicago Music Festivals. During three days on five stages, more than 500,000 blues fans prove that Chicago is the "Blues Capital of the World."

4. Just for Laughs
June 11 - 16 | The Chicago Theatre

The nation's biggest comedy festival will hit Chicago June 11 - 16 with an astonishing array of comedians, sketch shows, specialty acts and films performing in the stunning Chicago Theatre. The line-up includes performances by Seth Meyers, Bill Maher, comedy legend Bob Newhart and more!

5. Grant Park Music Festival
Opening Night, June 12 at 6:30 pm | Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park

The 2013 Season opens with Carlos Kalmar conducting Tchaikovsky's passionate Fourth Symphony. Captivating young violinist Stefan Jackiw makes his Festival debut with Mozart's Turkish Concerto.

6. Chicago Gospel Music Festival Preview
Monday, June 17 at 12 pm | Daley Plaza

The Chicago Gospel Music Festival showcases the best in local, national and international Gospel Music performers. Now held over four days in Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center and Ellis Park, get a sneak peak at their upcoming festival on Monday, June 17 in Daley Plaza.

7. Thai Festival
June 19 - 21 at 11 am | Federal Plaza

Indulge in traditional Thai food, watch Thai dance performances, listen to live Thai music and enjoy a featured fashion show at the annual celebration of Thai culture in Federal Plaza.

8. Make Music Chicago, Kick-Off Concerts
Friday, June 21 | Daley Plaza

Make Music Chicago is a live, free musical celebration across the city that takes place each June 21. Throughout the day, people of all ages and from all backgrounds – beginners, amateurs, professionals, and marquee artists – gather in Chicago’s public spaces to make music of all genres.

9. 10th Annual International Screenings Program
Wednesday, June 26 at 6:30 pm | Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater

The International Screenings Program is a free weekly series showcases 20 feature films and 7 short films from around the world. Embodying a range of genres and styles from laugh-out-loud comedies and quirky coming-of-age dramas to politically-tinged love stories and inspiring documentaries, these films celebrate the richness of the human experience.

10. Chicago Summer Dance
June 27 - September 15 | Grant Park, Sprit of Music Garden

For eleven weeks each summer, the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park blossoms into an urban dance space. The series offers an introductory one-hour dance lesson by professional instructors followed by two hours of live music and dancing.


Then and Now: A Century of Progress

Conceived in an atmosphere of economic, political, and social crisis, the Century of Progress was shaped by the economic recession that followed America's victory in World War I, the ensuing Red Scare, Chicago's 1919 Race Riots, and Chicago's notorious gangster violence. With local and international support, the fair became a reality in the midst of the Great Depression and offered employment, entertainment, and education—a vision into “the world of tomorrow”.

Then, 1933

The Century of Progress Exposition was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Chicago. Taking place in the south end of the Loop on Northerly Island, the fair officially opened May 27, 1933. It demonstrated to local and international audiences the nature and significance of scientific discoveries, the methods of achieving them, and the changes they would bring to enhance industry and urban living. This was done through varied and sensational exhibits, international cuisines, demonstration shows, rides and attractions that were scattered throughout the entire fairgrounds. These demonstrations of forward thinking shed light on the future and not only contributed to the revival from the Great Depression, but also sparked motivation and creativity in those who would help make the Loop what it is today.

  • The fair was held on the 427 acres of Northerly Island—the only manmade island stemming from Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago.
  • The motto of the fair was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms".
  • The nickname for the fair was “Rainbow City”. In contrast to "The White City"—the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893—Century of Progress was vibrant with color. Buildings were painted with color schemes in four hues from a total palette of 23 colors.
  • The Sky Ride, the architectural symbol of the fair, transported visitors in enclosed cars 218 feet above the North Lagoon between two 628-foot steel towers.
  • Another large attraction was the to-scale replica of Fort Dearborn, Chicago’s first public building.

Now, 2013

Today, Northerly Island, the former grounds of Meigs Field aviation airport, is a 91- acre peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan at the heart of the Museum Campus. With a dedicated park area, mostly preserved for nature observance and recreational activities, it is also home to Charter One Pavilion, Solider Field, McCormick Place and Burnham Harbor. While the Century of Progress Exposition included current structures like the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium, it left no permanent buildings. However, its profits enriched several of Chicago’s current cultural institutions in the Loop, some of which still have exhibition materials as part of their permanent collections. In December 2010, the Chicago Parks District unveiled its framework plan for Northerly Island to be completed over the next 20 - 30 years. The park will provide a variety of year-round uses with ecology and education central themes. A reef will be built and the park will include active zones and relaxation zones for leisure activities.

  • Today, Balbo's Column is the only structure remaining from the original site. This column, a gift of the Italian government, was removed from the ruins of a Roman temple in Ostia. It commemorates General Balbo's trans-Atlantic flight to Chicago in 1933, and still stands opposite Soldier Field.
  • Northerly Island connects to the mainland through a narrow isthmus along Solidarity Drive dominated by Neoclassical sculptures of Kościuszko, Havliček and Copernicus.
  • Burnham Harbor and the water surrounding Northerly Island continues to be a favorite fishing spot amongst Chicagoans. Various forms of salmon, trout and even bass are the popular catches.
  • Last month, Northerly Island celebrated its 10th anniversary as an independent public space for urban dwellers.

Then and Now: Randolph Tower

With its visually dramatic tower, the Steuben Club Building is one of Chicago’s finest 1920s-era skyscrapers, built during the decade when the city’s distinctive skyline took much of its present-day profile. Now known as Randolph Tower City Apartments, the historic Gothic Revival building shows off its newly restored terra-cotta clad exterior and trendy interior catching the eyes of many Chicagoans looking for a comfortable and affordable city living space.

Then, 1929

The Steuben Club Building is a stunning historic skyscraper constructed in 1929. Built to promote German-American heritage after the First World War, American citizens of German descent sought to clubs to serve as a testimonial of their loyalty to the ideals of American citizenship. The first 25 floors were built for retail and offices and the club was located at the top floors. Designed by the noteworthy Chicago firm of Karl M. Vitzthum & Co., The Steuben Club Building is a dramatic interpretation of the Gothic Revival as seen in the photo, with buttresses, setbacks and tracery making this massive steel, concrete and terra cotta structure look as light and airy as the stone cathedrals of sixteenth-century Europe. The terra cotta exterior of the building emphasizes the popular image of the modern skyscraper through simplification and abstraction. The Steuben Club Building was also built to reflect the importance and pioneering of the city’s 1923 zoning ordinance, vision to create national club institutions with reciprocal privileges, and continuation of downtown Chicago’s long-time practiced multiple-use building layout.

  • The Steuben Club Building is the former Briggs House site (ca. 1851)
  • Karl M. Vitzthum, is also known for designing another important historical structure, the One North LaSalle Building.
  • The tower of the Steuben Club Building, which begins at the 28th floor, has a series of setbacks that give it its prominent “telescopic” set-back appearance.
  • The Gothic-revival style of the Steuben Club Building reflects another major design influence on the City of Chicago: The Chicago Tribune Competition of 1922. In this competition, architects from all over the world were invited to compete for a $100,000 prize to design the new headquarters for the newspaper on the newly created Michigan Avenue.

Now, 2013

Today, the Steuben Club Building’s legacy lives on as Randolph Tower City Apartments. In 2011, the building began receiving a detailed exterior renovation and remolding of the interior that house 312 apartments made up of studio, convertible, one and two-bedroom, and penthouse units. In addition, it features professional conference, business and fitness centers, an indoor swimming pool nearly 300 feet above street level with an adjacent outdoor terrace, and a Sky Club with movie lounge, gourmet kitchen and bar area, gaming space, and sitting areas at fireplaces. The recently completed renovation and remodeling has made Randolph Tower one of the newest and trendiest places to rent downtown while visibility still holding true to its historic 1920’s Gothic Revival flair.

  • Randolph Tower City Apartments was depicted in the 2009 film Public Enemies as a hangout for the main character, John Dillinger.
  • The city of Chicago designated the structure a landmark on July 26, 2006.
  • On May 22, 2007, the building was officially listed on the state of National Register of Historic Places listings in Chicago.
  • The sky lit swimming pool on the building's top floor is completely original from when it was first built.
  • Randolph Tower City Apartments is an environmentally friendly building as it follows the National Green Building Standard created by the National Association of Home Builders.

April 2013 Loop List

1. The Painted Garden

Spring is in bloom at the annual Macy’s Flower Show -- now through April 7! Drenched in a spectacular palette of colors, this year's show evokes the inspiring architecture and vibrant spirit of South Asia. Learn flower arrangement techniques and take part in a cooking tutorial from Girl and the Goat’s Stephanie Izard.

2. A Stroke of Genius

Get your paint on with Bottle & Bottega’s hands-on art sessions that allow anyone to uncork their inner artist and create something of their own. Get inspired by original works of art, an on-site artist’s guidance and of course, a glass of wine.

3. Sidewalk Sunshine

Come find your bargain at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership’s first-ever indoor sidewalk sale at the Spertus Shop! Enjoy steep markdowns on Judaica, home decor, children's gifts, books and more. All sale items 50-80% off!

4. Ready, Set, Roll!

Spring ushers in perfect weather for bike riding! Bike and Roll Chicago has the largest selection of bikes to rent for hours or the whole day.

5. Fill Up

Looking for a great lunch spot? Try Falafill in the Loop! Each falafel is crafted to perfection and there are a range of fresh toppings at the Mezza Bar. From hummus, baba ghanouge and couscous -- you can’t go wrong!

6. Blossoming Talent

Don’t miss the world premiere of Big Fish playing at the Oriental Theatre! Broadway In Chicago is offering all CLA members $20 off each ticket by using code “CLA” when ordering.

7. Springtime, Sing-time

Experience the sensational culmination of music and theatre as Chicago Opera Theater’s spring season begins. With a performance line-up as strong as theirs, you can’t afford to miss a performance!

8. Sights to See

The Loop is the home to some of Chicago’s most historic buildings and modern skyscrapers. Take in the fresh air and learn more about these sights by going on a walking tour with Chicago Architecture Foundation.

9. Coming Up Roses

Enjoy dinner and drinks before or after a show at Rosebud Prime or Rosebud Theater District. Each is known for mouthwatering steaks and cozy atmosphere. Want to stay in instead? Rosebud Theater District now delivers!

10. Sweet Treat

Craving something sweet? Whimisical Candy creates fun, original artisan candy right here in their Chicago kitchen. Made with fresh, natural ingredients, the small batch sweets blend a grown-up’s taste for quality with the classic flavors of childhood candy. Try their famous La-Dee-Dahs for an extra pick-me-up.


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