The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition was a global extravaganza the likes of which America had never seen before. It still captures the imagination 125 years years later, especially for readers of The Devil in the White City. You can explore the lingering architectural and cultural impact of this fairest of fairs on the 1893 World’s Fair Tour with Bars from Chicago Detours.
The tour is three hours long and you’ll walk just under a mile in total. The tour regularly runs on Wednesday at 5:45pm, Friday at 1pm, and Saturday at 4:30pm. It can also be booked for private groups.
The Spirit of 1893 is in Downtown
The fairgrounds themselves were miles away from downtown and almost everything from the famous White City was destroyed by fire. Today, the most visible impact of the Exposition is in downtown Chicago. Here the architecture, cityscape, and lifestyle still reverberate with the energy of 1893.
You’ll visit some of the few remaining (and spectacular) buildings from the time of the World’s Fair. In fact, the tour begins at the Congress Plaza Hotel, which was built for the flood of tourists who were expected to visit Chicago in 1893. Indeed, 27 million people attended the fair in the six months that it ran. Supposedly one of the most haunted buildings in Chicago, the Congress Plaza still maintains much of the style and spirit of the Columbian Exposition.
Architectural Landmarks from Gilded Age Chicago
One of the first stops on the tour is Louis Sullivan’s famed Auditorium Building. It was considered the biggest construction project since the pyramids at Giza and was proclaimed one of the wonders of the world when it opened. Fun fact: many political conventions were held at the Auditorium Theater, including the nomination of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Bull Moose” third party ticket in 1912.
The architect, Louis Sullivan, is one of the shining lights of fin de siècle Chicago design and architecture. His famously delicate and organic decoration inspired the work of his protege Frank Lloyd Wright, and his huge, light-filled spaces inspired countless future architects. You’ll see another one of his landmark buildings near the end of the 1893 World’s Fair Tour.
Fun, Food, and Drinks
One of the longest-lasting legacies of the 1893 World’s Fair are the everyday pleasures that visitors enjoyed. The famous Midway Plaisance was full to bursting with dance halls, beer gardens, fun houses, and cultural displays. It was also, of course, where the very first Ferris Wheel was constructed. Inspired by this legacy of good times, tour guests play a three-round game of visual scavenger hunts and trivia during the tour.
You’ll also get to enjoy some of the flavors that come to us from 1893. Popular snacks, like food on a stick and popcorn, were first consumed en masse at the Columbian Exposition. So, of course, you get to nosh on them near the start of the tour. The tour also makes a stop at the Berghoff, a historic German pub whose history in Chicago dates back to, you guessed it, 1893. There you can sip an authentic local brew and enjoy the historic atmosphere.