Interstate Exposition Building
Life Span: 1872-1892
Location: S. Michigan and East Adams Streets
Architect: William W. Boyington
The Land Owner, June, 1873
With its accustomed enterprise, THE LAND OWNER presents this month to its readers all over the world, complete, accurate and exhaustive illustrations of another of Chicago’s great enterprises—the crowning work of our rebuilding—the Inter-State Industrial Exposition, which will open this fall in the great crystal palace designed by architect Boyington and immediately to be constructed on the lake front, a double-page view of which is given in this number. In presenting these illustrations early, THE LAND OWNER would remind the public that it does so in advance of all other publications, its artists having followed the architect in his drawings from the first, bringing our plates to complete the moment the executive committee adopted the plans.
Interior of the Building, Looking North From a Central Point Under the Dome.
The history of the Exposition enterprise is brief. Some months ago several of our citizens, whose names are given elsewhere, called a meeting and took the initiatory steps. Stock was at once subscribed, sufficient an amount to place the undertaking beyond a per-adventure, and all went to work with a will determined to make this the crowning glory of our Second Fire Anniversary. The great building is now under contract, and will be completed as soon as a thousand human hands can do the work, which is very quick here in Chicago.
The building will occupy the portion of the lake front at the foot of Adams and Jackson streets, having a frontage of 800 feet on Michigan avenue, and a depth of 200 feet. Some idea of its magnitude may be gathered from the statement that it could be used as a cover for the Michigan Southern and Rock Island Railroad depot, with sufficient space between the two to allow twenty or thirty people to walk abreast. The main walls, which are to be kept 24 feet high, will be of brick and glass. The cross section represents a clear story and semi-circular space of 150 feet, leaving an ante-room of 25 feet square and 36 feet in height on either side of the dome. The ends will be in dome form. In the centre of the ends facing Adams and Jackson streets will be projections of 80 feet front. In the centre of the Michigan avenue front there will be a projection of 60 feet, directly opposite, facing the lake, another of smaller dimension. The first is intended for a carriage exit. There will be two entrances, one on either side of the carriage exit, which will be carried up to two stories in height, or 70 feet, and set off with ornamental pediments and canopy. Over the exit will be a grand music stand. The approaches from Adams and Jackson streets are surrounded with domes 50 feet in diameter and 140 feet in height. The centre is surmounted with a dome 60 feet in diameter with 160 feet in height. The creating on the ridge of the main structure will be 100 feet from the ground, and will surmount the grand arch. Opposite the grand centre is to be an art gallery 45×120 feet, which will be lighted from the roof, 36 feet from the floor. It will be an inclosed compartment, and excellent for the purposes intended. Between the art gallery and the centre a large fountain will be placed—an attractive feature, visible from all parts of the palace. The superstructure, with the exception of the bricks in the main walls, will be composed of glass and iron. The front elevation shows that it will be a handsome building, an ornament, and one of which all Chicagoans will be proud. For the convenience of visitors, a steam elevator is to be placed in one of the domes. The elevators will be high enough to afford an excellent view of the city, and this dome will doubtless prove to be very attractive. The structure is to be embellished by various devices, emblematical of the trades and professions. It is the intention to have the building completed by the 1st of September.
The Great Exposition—Building on the Lake Front, the Biggest and Finest Industrial Palace Ever Erected in America.
In regard to the Exposition itself, the programme will soon be issued, and it may be sufficient to state at present that the plan embraces a representation of the products of every branch of art, including liberal and fine arts; the processes and products of every species of manufacturing, together with collections, models, drawings, etc., illustrative of the sciences. No more comprehensive scheme could be devised, except that it does not include live-stock, nor such operations and processes relating to agriculture, as require to be conducted and shown in the open air. It is intended to be a reflex not only of practical art and manufactures as they are found in this country, but, to a large extent, of the traffic of Chicago through those engaged in trade and commerce. Our merchants are invited to make an exhibition of the goods, wares and merchandise they handle, and to avail themselves of the facilities thus afforded for reaching the public with information relating to their business.
The Land Owner, October, 1873
The Great Exposition
Scene in Adams Street , Looking East from Wabash Avenue to the Main Entrance
With this idea fully carried into execution, it is easy to predict the popularity of the enterprise and its real value in affording to visitors from abroad, and even to our own citizens, the best possible opportunity to measure the importance of the interests to which it is devoted.
It should be borne in mind by those at home or abroad, intending to become exhibitors, that large as the space to be occupied is, it will be undoubtedly be crowded, and that their applications should be early and judiciously made.
Interstate Exposition Building, 1873
From Andreas’ History of Chicago
The Land Owner, October, 1873
Chicago having now entirely laid aside her smokecloth and ashes, which she has worn in all humility since the great fire two years ago, is receiving her guest, and doing her level best to entertain them. After seeing the new buildings, and providing themselves with THE LAND OWNER YEAR BOOKS to carry home, the visitors will spend the balance of their time in the Exposition and none will go away disappointed.
Our artist, Mr. Wallis, has given in this issue very graphic illustrations of this industrial palace, both exterior and interior, as well as the ground floors, and a view of the vast concourse of people that each day crowd down Adams street to the main entrance. These are the only engravings of the Exposition building and its surroundings that have been produced, doing it justice.
The Scotch granite from near Aberdeen, Scotland, is deserving the attention of builders and architects. This collection comprises a number of beautiful monuments, whose superb finish is apparent at a glance. Their value is $30,000, and the aggregate weight of material is one hundred tons.
Scotch granite contains no iron core, and consequently, will not tarnish when exposed to atmospheric influences. American granite, on the contrary, contains a considerable percentage of iron, and when expose to the air, its brilliancy will soon become dimmed and rust will appear. This is an important fact in reference to building valuable structures.
Another important advantage presented by the Scotch granite, is its superior density and its tensible force. The Scotch granite weighs 192 pounds per cubic foot, or seven pounds more than the American, and while the stone found in the best American quarries will burst when exposed to extreme heat, that from Aberdeen will sustain the most trying ordeal which fire can produce. The beautiful Scotch granite columns used in the New England Church, in this city, and in the First National Bank, before the fire, were absolutely uninjured, and their brilliancy undimmed, while the buildings themselves were in ruins.
Specimens of this granite, as found in Scotland, exhibit the most brilliant natural polish, whose lustre, as shown by scientific investigation, has withstood the storms of 1,700 years.
The collection here referred to is from the famous quarries of J. W. Carpenter, of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the exhibitors are Messrs. W. A. Soyer and B. W. Hair, of Chicago. These gentlemen are general agents for the North-West. Their office is at Room 4 Palmer Hotel. Upon inquiry, we find they can furnish the Scotch granite at prices corresponding with the American, and at rates only a trifle in advance of the common limestone so generally in use because of its supposed comparative cheapness. This firm will demonstrate the soundness of these statements.
Forty-eight magnificent columns supplied by them will adorn the collonade of the Indiana State capitol, at Indianapolis, and they will stand there as long as time lasts or every other material is crumbled to dust. The recent annual report of the Superintendent of the Spring Grove Cemetery Association, near Cincinnati, very expressively sets forth the superb qualities of this matchless stone, as adapted for cemetery purposes, while for every species of building ornament, we are certain that in durability and beauty, and real economy of cost, it is without an equal.
A fine illustration of this granite is shown in the building of Farrar & Wheeler, published in our last issue. This is one of our finest buildings, and it derives its chief beauty from the magnificent columns of that material, used thereon.
Ground Plan of the Great Exposition Building Showing Lake Michigan, Michigan Avenue, The Lake Front, Etc.
Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1873
Chicago Tribune, November 27, 1877
The work of putting a stock of goods into the Exposition Building was begun early yesterday morning, and so rapidly was it carried on that Messrs. Field & Leiter will be ready offer customers this morning everything that could be obtained at their old store. Visitors to the new establishment will be astonished at the transformation wrought in a little over a week in the structure at the foot of Adams street. Only about two-thirds of it is really occupied by the firm, the extreme southern portion being cut off by a partition, as is also a strip of about 150 feet at the north end. The space used for displaying goods is about 600 feet long and 200 wide. All that north of the fountain is covered with shelves and counters, while that south is devoted to the suit department, carpets, etc. Taken as a whole, there isn’t a more convenient store in the country. The opening to-day will doubtless bring together a large crowd, if the weather isn’t too wretched.
Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1879
The seventh annual Inter-State Exposition got under way last evening, and before the lights were turned out, and the big building shut up for the night, from 8,000 to 10,000 persons had seen its glories. Like all its predecessors, it was lacking in what some people might consider the rather essential feature of completeness on the opening night. But a certain proportion of exhibitors can always be relied upon to come in at considerably past the eleventh hour, although there isn’t the least possible or conceivable excuse for such tardiness. Particularly was this the case with the furniture men, the display in that line being meagre almost to bareness. In another case, however, Rand McNally & Co., the failure to be on time was properly accounted for. This firm had laid itself out to practically illustrate the process of book-making in all its stages, and for this purpose it had contracted for a lot of machinery for the occasion. By some mistake the stuff was shipped to St. Louis, where it no doubt excited as much interest as would a white elephant, instead of to Chicago. In the course of a day or so it will get around this way, and the Exposition visitors will see what, to many of them, a real novelty. Among the other notable features of the present show are the displays of pottery, the unusual variety of wood-working machinery, the metal-envelope manufactory—a beneficent scheme which forever disposes of the difficulty of sending sharp-pointed articles through the mail, and puts an end to to long-winded correspondence in the newspapers on the subject,—the very general improvement in the booths themselves, the enlargement and beautifying of the big fountain and aquarium, the increased attractiveness of the building itself in its new dress and with the addition of colored lights, and the complete discarding of the retail-store element which had heretofore prevailed. The Directors this year put their several feet down on that and refused to allow anybody to sell anything that is not manufactured in the building. The result, as it was foreseen, is a better display and a larger proportion of the process of manufacture than ever before. Some things are lacking that were observable in previous exhibitions, and particularly in this the case with the boot and shoe departments, which have been allowed to take a rest for a year. In the other hand, several firms have gone into the display business this year that have not taken any part in the annual exhibitions for some time back. Among them are the firms of Culver, Page & Hoyne, who have kept out since the first show back in 1873, but who now have a creditable display in the way of machinery for book-binding, etc. The Lydian Art-Gallery display shows up very well indeed, as also do the exhibits of O. R. Keith & Co., Gossage, Field & Leiter
Interstate Exposition Building
Interior view of the Great Exposition Building
Decorated for the Republican Convention
June 2nd, 1880
C.D. Mosher, Photographer
Interstate Exposition Building
Interstate Exposition Building, 1875
The Inter Ocean, May 24, 1891
THE OLD EXPOSITION BUILDING.
The announcement that the old Interstate Exposition Building must go no doubt sent a thrill of regret through the hearts of many people whose judgements approved the fist of destruction. The injunction granted by one of our judges staying the work of removal seemed like saving the life of an old friend. When it was erected Chicago was still largely in ashes and in great need of a spacious structure for various purposes. Besides the direct use for exhibition purposes, the building has played many parts, some of them highly favorable. Politically it recalls the conventions which nominated Garfield, Blaine, and Cleveland, besides those marvelous ovations to the eloquence of Ingersoll in 1876, and of Blaine in 1880. The lovers of music will recall the Thomas seasons, and that grand event, the opera festival. Out of the latter grew the Auditorium itself
But the time is near at hand when its disappearance will be demanded by the best interest of Chicago. It is a relic of an out-grown past. Its expositions have lost their charms and ceased to be up to grade. It an interstate exposition were to be a permanent feature of the city a good many changes would have to be made, for it is only as one recalls the past that either the building or its displays are entitled to kindly mention. So far from keeping up with the times, that exposition has possibly retrograded, and belongs in the list of things which have seen their best days. Perhaps one more exposition can be held there, but beyond that its lease of life should not extend.
The place now occupied by the Interstate Exposition should be selected, with some variations, as the site of a building to be used for the Columbian Exposition for the art display and the auxiliary congresses, and subsequently for a permanent art institute. Such a building would be in constant use during the fair, and should be able to accommodate not less than fifty thousand people. Of course much of such a vast building would be temporary. The permanent part could be accommodated to annexes without destroying the harmony and architectural symmetry of the whole.
Such a building ought to be as far north as practical so as to be the most convenient to all parts of the city. It should face south, and not west, like the old Exposition Building. The beauty of Michigan avenue as a superb boulevard would be greatly enhanced by such a front, with ornate landscape effect at the approach.
It may be said that the northern part of the Lake Front is too narrow for that purpose, and so it would be with railroad tracks so near the street line as they are now. There is no good reason why they should not be removed to the east 300 feet. The railroad company stands ready to do it. If that distance should i the end prove impracticable it is not too much to hope that sufficient removal will be effected to make it feasible to erect such a building as is contemplated well to the north on the Lake Front, facing south.
Interstate Exposition Building, 1890
Chicago Tribune, September 17, 1891
An old man with patriarchal beard stood in front of the band stand last night and mourned for its departed glory. he said:
This is the nineteenth? So it is. Time flies so fast, that I must needs consult a calendar before venturing to tell the year. I was here when Chicago welcomed the Inter-State Industrial Exposition back in 1873. It was the night of Sept. 25, the day before the banks in Chicago closed their doors in that great financial panic, and on that night W. J. Coolbaugh came from the rooms of the Board of Directors of the Union National Bank, when it had been decided to close the doors the following morning, and in a happy speech accepted the building from the Executive committee.
There were lots of notables there—the Governor of Illinois, the Mayor of Chicago, and smaller folk. When Chicago awoke the next morning it was to see the greatest panic in its history, and this same Exposition did more to help the business-men over those stormy days than any other one thing. And now that its days of usefulness are past it is to be torn down to make way for the growing city of 1891. Well, its history id like that of everything. It’s time has come. But the citizens, the business people of the city, should build a monument higher than the Eiffel to commemorate its past.
And the old man sighed long and deep until a handsome little fellow led him off with the remark:
Come, Grandpa, and listen to the phonograph sing “The Bogie Man.
Where There Are to Be Exhibits.
The Second Regiment Band ushered in the opening, and an old-time crowd of people—the doorkeeper said there were 10,000 during the night—walked around the aisles and looked at the places where there had been exhibits in years gone by and where there are to be exhibits before the present week is over. For there are not more than half of the displays in place, but those that are in shape are up to the standard of past years. The carriage displays and the furniture exhibits are in advance of all the others, but the big dry-goods houses are well along. There are several fine exhibits of glassware, and the museum in shape for visitors. Exposition people point with pride to a large square of floor space, railed off from the visitors’ aisles, when a Chicago glass house is to make the finest exhibit of the wares in its line ever shown in the West. At present, however, the railing and some scrap paper is all that presages the show to come.
The band is now stationed on a large raised platform that covers the space where the fountain used to be and where the goldfish have been wont to sport. When the horse show was held in the Exposition Building the old band gallery was taken down and the present one was put up in the hopes that it would be an improvement. The hope has been realized, too, for at every point in the big building, from where the elevator company exhibits all all of its elevators at 10 cents a head down to the other end where the pumps are are at work, the band can be heard perfectly. All about the band stand, which is octagonal in form, there was a display of flowers and potted plants. This is to be one of the principal features of the show, and last night’s exhibit was but an indication of the display with which the visitors will be feasted when all the plans are carrie out.
The Musical Program.
The Second Regiment Band played last night, and this is what the visitors listened to, with several pleasing additions in the way if encores:
The Aldine band will give tonight’s concert and will alternate night-by-night with the Second Regiment. Each band has thirty-five pieces.
The special feature of this year’s Exposition will be the floral display. The six rooms formerly used as the art galleries will be given over entirely to the display of flowers and plants, and the exhibits are expected to be more tasteful than any ever made in the West if not in the country. Cash prizes aggregating more than %5,000 will be given during the course of the Exposition. Of this amount $1,500 is given by the Exposition company.
Grand Exposition March by Louis Falk, Sheet Music
Interstate Exposition Building
Oil painting by Pauline Dohn Rudolph (1865-1922)
The Adler & Sullivan plan to remodel the 1873 Interstate Exposition Building into the Chicago Opera Festival Auditorium in 1885. Photo of the remodeling is below.
Interstate Exposition Building
Robinson Map, 1886
Volume 1, Plate 7
Interstate Exposition Building