On this day 83 years ago, Chicago’s second World’s Fair, the Century of Progress exposition, opened on the lakefront.
If the Columbian Exposition of 1893 celebrated the city’s return from the Great Fire, the 1933’s Century of Progress celebrated the city moving into the modern era as one of the world’s great cities. The august neoclassicism of the former was followed by the contemporary art deco; the Ferris wheel by gondolas crossing from the lakefront to Northerly Island.
Over the two years of the exposition, the War Department took aerial photos, capturing its spectacular architecture (the Ford building, the Travel and Transport Building) and its less timeless works (the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, the Midget Village). The photos were part of a series of aerial cityscapes, held at the National Archives, that record the evolution of the city during the 1920s and 1930s: the construction of Soldier Field, Grant Park, and Buckingham Fountain, the growth of Hyde Park, the evolution of the lakefront into how we recognize it today, and what thousands will see this Memorial Day weekend.