The Dream City in Ashes

1893 Chicago World's Fair and Exposition

Continued--page 4



This Page:
Construction and Other Preparations
Fire!  The White City burns!



Most of the planning and building of the White City took place between 1891 and the first half year of 1893. The finished White City was open for only about 6 months in 1893. Then, most of the White City was destroyed by a series of four fires in 1893-94. The only remaining building is the Palace of Fine Arts, which is the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago today.

The first fire burned down the Cold-Storage Building and killed 17 (mostly firemen) in July of 1893. The second fire damaged the Casino, Music Hall, Peristyle, and the Mines and Manufactures Buildings in January 1894; a third fire took the Colonnade one month later. The fourth and final fire in July of that same year was massive--destroying the Court of Honor, Machinery Hall, the Electricity and Administration Buildings, and the Mines and Manufacturing Buildings.

The cause of the fires was the shoddy construction of this "temporary" city created out of the semi-wilderness of Jackson Park by Lake Michigan. It was a firetrap, a disaster waiting to happen--which is rather ironic considering it was to be the model of the ideal city of the future, when in reality it was a giant "wonderland" theme park created for the moment. Evidently little or no provision was made for the protection of the White City after the World's Fair concluded in December 1893.

Construction and Other Preparatory Work

Graham, Charles S. (18521911)

The Building from the Wooden Island--
a Gardener Planting a Sapling Just
across the Stream from the Columbian
--by Charles S. Graham.


Columbian Exposition--Placing Decorations on the
Horticultural Building
--by Charles S. Graham.


Manufacture and Liberal Arts building--View
from Lakeshore
--by Charles S. Graham.

Graham, Charles S. (18521911), and Dart T. Walker (1869-1914)


Quitting Time at Jackson Park, 1892--
by Charles S. Graham and Dart T. Walker.

Jones, Hugh Bolton (1848-1927)


Site of the Grand Court Aug. 1891
--by H. Bolton Jones.

Murphy, John Francis (1853 - 1921)


Jackson Park Jan. 1891
--by J. Francis Murphy.

Nichols, H. D. (1859-1959)

Interior of Manufactures and Liberal Arts building,
while it was being constructed, showing the base of
one of the Great Arches
, 1893--by H. D. Nichols.

Central Power Plant annexed to
Machinery Hall
--by H. D. Nichols.

Smedley, William Thomas (1858-1920)


Setting a Statue on the Agricultural Building
1894--by W. T. Smedley.

Thulstrup, Thure de (1848-1930)

World's Columbian Exposition--Workers in Staff
1892--by T. de Thulstrup.

Decorating the Dome of the
Administration  Building

--by T. de Thulstrup.


World's Columbian Exposition
--Finishing Large Statues

--by T. de Thulstrup.


Columbian Exposition--In the
Designing Room, Bureau of Construction

1892--by T. de Thulstrup.

Turner, Charles Yardley (1850-1919)


Artists Executing Designs for the Chicago
World's Fair
, 1893--by Charles Yardley Turner.

Unknown artists

Daniel Burnham, Director of Works: 'Make no small plans'
--artist unknown

Unrealized Proposal for a Massive
Monument to Christopher Columbus
for the Columbus Exposition of 1893,
Spanning Grant Park at Congress,
1892, Chicago
--artist unknown.

Lighting the Natural Gas
Torches on the Roof of the
Administration Building
--artist unknown.

Visit on the Roof of the Woman's Building
1892--artist unknown.


World's Columbian Exposition--Raising the Main
Shaft of the Great Ferris Wheel
--artist unknown.

Liberal Arts building--artist unknown.

Harvesting Ice on the Waterways of the Exposition
Ground at Chicago
--artist unknown.

Mowing Lawn at World's Columbian
--artist unknown.

Walker, Thomas Dart (1869-1914)


Columbian Exposition--Pay-day at
the Fair Grounds--by T. Dart Walker.

Columbian Exposition--Unpacking Exhibits
in the Art Gallery
--by T. Dart Walker.


Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building
under Construction
--by T. Dart Walker.

At Work on Japanese Buildings
--by T. Dart Walker.

Fire! A Dream in Ashes.

NOTE: The artists' names for many of the following paintings were not included in the printed sources (mainly popular magazines like Harper's Weekly, Scientific American, or Campbell's History of the Chicago World's Fair Illustrated). Since most of the major magazines had their own "official illustrator" for specials like the Columbian Exposition, the chances are that that artist created the following fire scenes. Charles S. Graham was the official illustrator for Harper's Weekly, and T. de Thulstrup for Campbell's History of the Chicago World's Fair Illustrated.


The Great Fire at the Chicago World's Fair, the Destruction of the
Manufactures and Liberal Art Building
1894--by H. W. Brewer.

Burning of the Cold-Storage
Warehouse at the World's Fair
--by Charles S. Graham.

Trapped Firemen Jumping to their
--by Charles S. Graham.


Burning of the Peristyle, Music Hall, Casino
and Manufactures Buildings, Jan. 8, 1894


Cold Storage Building Fire, 14 killed (photo)


Fire Boat and Agricultural Building, with a Fire Department Boat
Shooting Water Cannons, Chicago World's Fair
1893 (photo)


Columbian Expostion--White City Fire (photo)




White City Fire (photo).

Fire at the Chicago World's Fair


Title unknown.



World's Columbian Fair and Exposition, 1893: Selected Sources

Carr, Carolyn Kinder. "Mary Cassatt and Mary Fairchild MacMonnies: The Search for Their 1893 Murals." American Art, 18 (Winter 1994): 53-69.

Chalmers, F. Graeme. Women in the Nineteenth Century Art World. Westport 1988.

Elliott, Maud Howe, ed.  Art and Handicraft in the Women's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition. Rand, McNally, 1894.

Fryer, Judith. Felicitous Space. U of North Carolina Press 1986, pp. 23-6.

Galvin, Paul V. World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Library Digital History Collection, Illinois Institute of Technology.

The Book of the Fair: The Women's Department--detailed description of every aspect of the Women's Building.

Tour the Fair--short description, including a paragraph on Women's Building.

Weimann, Jeanne Madeline. The Fair Women. Chicago 1981.

Yandell, Enid, Jean Loughborough, and Laura Hayes. The Board of Lady Managers--Ch, 5, Three Girls in a Flat (1892), pp. 53-82; a first-hand report on the planning of, governing of, and exhibitions in the Women's Building.



Go to Women's Public Art and Architecture

Return to The White City

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These pages are for educational use only.

Text written by K. L. Nichols

Painting, top of page: Lydia Field Emmet,
World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago (1893)

Return to Nichols Home Page
Posted: 4-15-15; Updated: 1-28-18