In Devil in the White City:
“Jackson Park was one square mile of desolation, mostly treeless … Olmstead himself had said of Jackson park: ‘If a search had been made for the least park like grounds within miles of the city, nothing better meeting the requirement could have been found.’ Page 95
In Real Life:
I did, of course, want to walk around Jackson Park to see the grounds of the World’s Columbian Exposition – described in The Devil in the White City. While Daniel Burnham and his team of architects laid out a plan to wrestle that park into a beautiful while city, landscape architects Daniel Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, headed up the planning for the grounds. When the fair ended, the site became a beautiful urban park marked with remnants of the greatness that was the world’s fair.
The most obvious place to start to look around is Wooded Island. Japan was the first foreign country to give money to the world’s fair – paying five hundred thousand dollars for an exhibit on a an island in Jackson Park. It became known as “Wooded Island.” Erik Larson recounts that just as Burnham and the white city’s architects had the Grand Court as its centerpiece – the landscape centerpiece would be the the central lagoon and wooded island. And even when the buildings of the fair disappeared, the remnants of it could be scene in Jackson Park. However, the garden fell into disrepair over the years. It was renovated in 1981. Then in 1992, the name was changed to Osaska Garden to honor Chicago’s Sister City. I found the gardens in very good condition and took a wonderful walk through them like so, so many did all those years ago at the world’s fair.
And there is another remnant of the fair in Jackson Park. It’s the Statue of the Republic or “Big Mary,” as she became known. She too was made of plaster – by the artist Daniel Chester French. He gilded her so she glinted in the sunlight – all one hundred and eleven feet of her. In fact Big Mary was so tall you could see her big golden head – along with the ferris wheel – from as far away as downtown Chicago. These days – she’s gone but a smaller version the Statue of the Republic is located in Jackson Park.