The Party’s Over (11-1-1893)

Today was the day reality sank in.  The World’s Columbian Exposition—the White City, Chicago’s grand and glorious fair—had come to an end.  And now the whole thing was being torn down.

For the past six months, the 600 acres in Jackson Park had held the attention of the civilized portion of the earth.  Over 27 million people had passed through the gates.  They’d marveled at the wonders of electricity and moving pictures, they’d taken rides on Mr. Ferris’s giant wheel, they’d watched Little Egypt do her scandalous dance.

Columbian Exposition, 1893

World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893

Now the happy crowds were gone.  Now the bands were silent.  The sounds of this morning were the sounds of destruction.

The exhibitors were removing their displays.  Horse-drawn wagons backed up to the rear of the buildings, were quickly loaded with boxes and sent off.  The scene was confused and frantic.  Everyone seemed in a hurry to get away.  Everything was coming apart so fast.

Above the shouts of the men and the racket of the wagons, another sound could be heard.  Hammers and saws were at work.  As soon as the buildings were emptied of their contents, workmen began tearing them down.

During the night, a construction crew had laid down a railroad spur along the driveway north of the Administration Building.  Freight cars were shuttling in to help remove the exhibits.  When that job was done, the track would be extended to the end of the grounds, and used to haul away the rubble of the demolished buildings.

Replica statue

Replica statue “The Republic” at Jackson Park Golf Course

And in the middle of the chaos, scattered visitors kept arriving.  They wanted to go to the World’s Fair—and they couldn’t believe it was over.

The fairs of the past had been loosely managed.  Even after the official closing date, many merchants would keep their exhibits open a few days or weeks longer, hoping to take in some more cash.  The public expected this flexibility.

The Columbian Exposition set its own standard.  October 30th was the last day—period.  Yes, it really was over, the stragglers learned.  They would have to wait 40 years for another Chicago World’s Fair.

—30—

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