Also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, the event came to be considered as a defining moment for the youthful city in terms of exhibiting ambition, technology and, perhaps most importantly, architecture. Named the White City due to its prevalence of classical architecture made with white stucco and the effects of extensive electrical street lighting along the boulevards, the exposition brilliantly displayed the talents of the nation’s top architects and landscape architects. The one architect who strayed from the predominant Beaux-Arts style was Louis Sullivan, who designed the golden-hued Transportation Building depicted in the image above. Devoid of classical ornamentation, the building stood alone as an example of forward-thinking architecture at the fair.
William Henry Jackson, a photographer famous for capturing westward American expansion, was hired to create the official set of images for the Exposition. He treated the broad expanses of the lagoon, boulevards, and the midway much the same way he photographed the open environs of the American west. Most of the images were taken before the crowds arrived, and therefore, do not reflect the popularity of the exposition, which attracted over twenty-seven million visitors.
Images: Transportation Building and Art Palace exterior views, White City (as it was) and Jackson's Famous Pictures, (DOC 2010.001), Drawings + Documents Archive, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries.