The Impact of the World's Columbian Exposition on Chicago

TechNews Writer
Mon Mar 29, 2021

World's Columbian Exposition, also known as "World's Fair: Columbian Exposition" or "Chicago World's Fair" had a profound impact on Chicago's architecture, sanitation, and view of the arts, leading to its evolution into the cultural hub in the ensuing years. The domino effect of this great event started in 1882 with Chicago bidding for its position to be the hosting city, competing among cities such as New York, Washington DC, and St. Louis. Chicago beat New York in the bid and was awarded the project with the help of funders as well as well-known Chicagoans Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick, and Philip Armour, the funder of Armour Institute of Technology which is now our very own Illinois Institute of Technology. Chicago proved to be the winning location for the fair as it had ample space, resources, transportation routes, and labor for making the celebration a success. 

The fair was held in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival to the new world in 1492 and was held in Jackson Park. The project was led by great architects like John Wellborn Root and Daniel Burnham, based on what Burnham's idea of a modern city should be. The design followed the principles of neoclassical architecture, based on symmetry and balance with the use of white staff on the facades of buildings to invoke splendor and brilliance at perception, leading to the fairground being called the White City, featuring nearly 200 new but temporary buildings surrounded by canals and lagoons and the cultural display from 46 countries. Earning itself a star on the flag of Chicago, the World's Fair, a symbol of American Expressionism, is the larger-than-life aspect of the American dream. The grand scale and beauty of the celebration also signified Chicago's rise from the ashes of the Great Chicago fire of 1871. 

The affair inspired artists and musicians, making Chicago a hub for current and future creatives, opening up the city's gates for a cultural upturn. The fair acted as a bridge between fragments of the class lines and had a profound effect on Chicago's self-image, and made it optimal for industrialization, pulling in hoards of people, progressing towards development and urbanization, hence becoming an architectural wonder that now hosts a beautiful skyline of teetering skyscrapers and glass castles that glisten giving us the hope of a future that rivals the marvels of the past. 



Appears in
2021-Spring- Issue 8