Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicago’s Navy Pier

Use of the Navy Pier in Chicago have changed over the years and it’s a wonder that it was never demolished. The pier evolved from a cargo facility, to University of Illinois classrooms to educate returning soldiers, to now a thriving tourist destination. A few souvenir buildings of the pier exist. A vintage Chicago Municipal Pier metal replica measures 7 ¼ X 1 ¾ X 1 5/8 inches. Raised lettering around the base reads: “SOUVENIR OF CHICAGO “EXTENDS 3000 FEET INTO THE LAKE” and “GIANT PENINSULA OF STEEL AND GLASS.” Also in raised lettering between the Shed buildings is: “LARGEST EXPOSITION BUILDING IN THE WORLD” and “EXACT REPLICA OF 5,000,000 MUNICIPAL PIER.” An antique replica sold recently on eBay for $515. A much more modern pewter version of the Navy Pier sold for $115 and it’s marked, NAVY PIER CHICAGO. It only depicts the main auditorium building on the enormous pier. This replica stands 1.75" tall and the base is 2.25 x 1.75 inches. The real Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. Built in 1916, It was a part of the Plan of Chicago developed by architect and city planner Daniel Burnham. As Municipal Pier #2 (Municipal Pier #1 was never built), Navy Pier was built to serve as a mixed-purpose piece of public infrastructure. Its primary purpose was as a cargo facility for lake freighters, and warehouses were built up and down the pier. However, the pier was also designed to provide docking space for passenger excursion steamers, and in the pre-air conditioning era parts of the pier, especially its outermost tip, were designed to serve as cool places for public gathering and entertainment. The pier even had its own streetcar.Even as Chicago Municipal Pier was being built, the invention of mass-produced cars was beginning to wreak havoc on the package freight and passenger steamboat industries of Lake Michigan. The pier proved to be much more successful as a public gathering place. By the late 1930s, the pier was described as a summer playground with recreational facilities that included picnicking areas, dining pavilions, a dance hall, auditorium, and children's playground. During the 1950s, it is estimated that an average of 3.2 million visitors frequented the pier annually, with peak attendance for the "Pageant of Progress". This decade is sometimes called the pier's "Golden Age".The use of the pier for serious marine purposes reached a temporary peak during World War II, when the city leased the pier to the U.S. Navy. At this time, Chicago Municipal Pier's name was changed to Navy Pier. From 1965 until1989, Navy Pier was considered an underutilized eyesore. No government agency in or around Chicago wanted to invest money in it. Many advocates, inspired by the Plan of Chicago and the pier's successful use as a public gathering place in the 1920s, called for its reconstruction. In 1976, Navy Pier began its third life as an area for public exhibits, when the East were opened as exhibition halls. Special events including music and arts festivals began to draw crowds to the pier despite its aging infrastructure. In 1989, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority took control over the pier. Major renovation in the 1990s added fast-food kiosks, shops, a ballroom, a concert stage, and convention exhibition halls. Centerpiece attractions include a 150-foot (46 m)-tall Ferris wheel, an IMAX theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze and the Chicago Children's Museum. The pier now features a large front lawn showcasing numerous larger-than-life public art sculptures and an interactive animated fountain created by WET (of Fountains of Bellagio fame). The pier continues to be used as an embarkation point for tour and excursion boats. One of its most popular yearly attractions is the parade of lighted and decorated boats during the Venetian Night festival.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the all time rare pieces. SD

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