Midway Plaisance, University of Chicago

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5801 South Ellis Avenue,  Chicago, Illinois

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Midway Plaisance

In The Devil in the White City:

“The Midway was supposed to be fun, a great pleasure garden stretching for more than a mile from Jackson Park all the way to the border of Washington Park. It would thrill, titillate, and if all went well perhaps even shock.”  Page i361

In Real Life:

The midway for the World’s Columbian Exposition was very important to everyone involved in planning the fair. Erik Larson talks about it a lot in The Devil in the White City. And believe it or not – it’s still there today – a wide swath of green that runs right through the center of the University of Chicago. Students walk on it, play ball, jog around it – and I was thinking, as I saw all that – most of them probably have no idea they’re running along the Midway Plaisance of the World’s Fair of 1893. While the fair and the white city are gone, one thing remains which might have titillated midway strollers – the University. It opened for classes on October 1st, 1893, and just seven months later, the world’s fair opened right next door. I don’t know if it’s urban legand or what but I’ve heard John D. Rockefeller planned it that way – that he wanted the world to see his new University of Chicago. So, he built it in the Gothic style he hoped would intrigue fairgoers to walk over and look around. It might have worked. University of Chicago is internationally known to this day as world class institution. I walked along the midway imagining what it would be like cruising through the beautiful white city with a glimpse every now and then of the gothic spires Rockefeller wanted the world to see. It’s true  – those buildings do call to you.

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