|Location||600 E. Grand Avenue Chicago, Illinois|
|Architect||Frost, Charles S.
|NRHP Reference #||79000825|
|Added to NRHP||September 13, 1979|
|Designated CL||November 14, 1977|
Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot (1,010 m) long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. It is located in the Streeterville neighborhood of the Near North Side community area. The pier was built in 1916 at a cost of $4.5 million. It was a part of the Plan of Chicago developed by architect and city planner Daniel Burnham and his associates. As Municipal Pier #2 (Municipal Pier #1 was never built), Navy Pier was planned and built to serve as a mixed-purpose piece of public infrastructure. Its primary purpose was as a cargo facility for lake freighters, and warehouses were built up and down the Pier. However, the Pier was also designed to provide docking space for passenger excursion steamers, and in the pre–air conditioning era parts of the Pier, especially its outermost tip, were designed to serve as cool places for public gathering and entertainment. The Pier even had its own tram. Today, Navy Pier is Chicago's number one tourist attraction.
Construction and World War I
Construction began in 1914 under the leadership of Charles Sumner Frost and took two years, at a total cost of $4.5 million. When it opened to the public in 1916, it was the largest pier in the world. The Pier was built both to handle shipping and as an entertainment site. The original Burnham Plan proposed five piers, but only one was commissioned. In 1917-18, during World War I (WWI), the Pier housed many Navy and some Army personnel, the Red Cross, and Home Defense units. It even had a jail for draft dodgers.
First use: commercial pier and entertainment
Even as Chicago Municipal Pier was being built, mass-produced automobiles and trucks were beginning to wreak havoc on the package freight and passenger steamboat industries of Lake Michigan. The Pier proved to be much more successful as a public gathering place. In the 1920s, the Pier expanded to have its own streetcar line, a theater, and an emergency room. It gained wide recognition in 1922 by hosting the "Pageant of Progress." In 1927 the Pier was officially named Navy Pier in honor of the Naval personnel that served there during WWI.
In this period, the Pier was described as a summer playground, with recreational facilities that included picnicking areas, dining pavilions, a dance hall, auditorium, and children's playground. A radio station. WCFL, operated from the north tower of the auditorium. During the 1920s, it is estimated that an average of 3.2 million visitors frequented the Pier annually. This decade is sometimes called the Pier's "Golden Age".
The advent of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, as well as the increased use of trucks and automobiles, resulted in the decline of freight and passenger ship activity; however, cultural and recreational use of the Pier continued. In 1933, the Century of Progress Exposition (World's Fair) on the lakefront also drew many conventions and visitors to the Pier. During the 1930s, the Pier also housed various New Deal agencies.
With war with Germany drawing close, the Navy needed much more space for technical training. In August 1941, Navy Pier was closed to the public, and in a five-month period was fully converted to a Navy training center designated to accommodate up to 10,000 service personnel. A large hangar-type building and a drill hall were built on 20 acres just west of the Pier. Six days before the attack on Pearl Harbor (7 Dec. 1941), classes began for aviation machinist mates, metalsmiths, and diesel mechanics.
The Navy's air group training arm docked a pair of converted flattops at the Pier, the USS Wolverine (IX-64) and the USS Sable (IX-81), to use as freshwater training carriers. During the war, about 15,000 pilots, including future President George H. W. Bush, received carrier-landing training.
Starting in January 1942, the Navy began a very intense and difficult training program for electronic maintenance technicians. Coordinated from a central operation in Chicago, this eventually had three levels: Pre-Radio School, mainly at Chicago Junior Colleges; Primary School, initially given by six engineering colleges across the Nation; and Secondary (or Advanced) School at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., at Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, and at Naval Air Technical Training Center Ward Island, near Corpus Christi, Texas. By December 1943, these Secondary Schools had reached their capacity, and a major portion of Navy Pier was quickly converted to a fourth school.
Classes started at the Navy Pier Secondary School on 5 June 1944; Captain Edwin A. Wolleson was the Commanding Officer, and Commander Charles C. Caveny served as the Educational Officer. Lecture rooms, laboratories, and offices of the Navy Pier Secondary School were highly secure, controlled 24 hours by armed Marine guards. Barracks were set up on upper floors of three former exhibition halls, each accommodating up to 1,500 students. In addition to the tough instruction (up to eight months of 12-hour days), the men had the challenge of dealing with birds roosting overhead in the living quarters with little respect for Navy cleanliness.
In mid-1946, with WWII over, the Navy returned Navy Pier to the City of Chicago. In the four and one-half years under the Navy, over 60,000 servicemen from the U.S. and Allied nations trained at the Pier in several types of schools; this included about 15,000 electronic technicians in the two years of the Secondary School.
Third use: college classroom
With the war over, Navy Pier went to the University of Illinois, which used the facility beginning in 1946 for a two-year undergraduate program primarily serving returning veterans. From the former Navy staff, Caveny stayed as the Undergraduate Division Dean, and Wolleson as the Dean of Students. During its University of Illinois days, Navy Pier was also the site of a string of public events. The International Exhibitions of the early 1960s drew attractions from around the world, including circus and folkloric dance acts, arts and crafts, and international cuisine. In 1965, the University moved to the Chicago Circle campus, and the Pier again fell into disuse.
Fourth use: public gathering place
From 1965–1989, Navy Pier was considered underutilized.
In the bicentennial year of 1976, opened by a concert by Fort Sheridan's 81st Army Band, Navy Pier began its fourth life as an area for public exhibits, when the East Buildings (furthest into Lake Michigan) were opened as exhibition halls. Special events including music and arts festivals (ChicagoFest was one) began to draw crowds to the Pier despite its aging infrastructure.
The halls were used to represent Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1986 movie The Color of Money for the 9-Ball Championship. From 1979 to 1987, a submarine, the USS Silversides, was docked at Navy Pier.
In 1989, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority took control over the Pier. Major renovation and construction followed in the 1990s at a cost of US$200 million. As rebuilt in the 1990s, the Pier's layout included fast-food kiosks, shops, a ballroom, a concert stage, and convention exhibition halls.
Centerpiece attractions include a Ferris wheel, an IMAX theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, the Chicago Children's Museum, the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, and at the entrance to Navy Pier is a statue of Oak Park comedian Bob Newhart, sponsored by the TV Land network.
The Pier now features a large front lawn showcasing numerous larger-than-life public art sculptures and an interactive animated fountain created by WET (of Fountains of Bellagio fame). The Pier continues to be used as an embarkation point for tour and excursion boats and is a popular place to watch lakefront events, including the annual Air and Water airshow and the parade of lighted and decorated boats during Chicago's Venetian Night festival.
The Pier and its grounds encompass more than 50 acres (200,000 m2) of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants and other shore entertainment. Navy Pier contains 170,000 total square feet of exhibition space, 50,000 square feet (5,000 m2) of reception space and 48,000 square feet (4,500 m2) of meeting room space.
Navy Pier attractions include sightseeing tours from companies such as Seadog Ventures, Shoreline Sightseeing cruises and Water Taxi service, and the Tall Ship Windy. There are also dinner cruises by Entertainment Cruises, on their ships the Spirit of Chicago, The Odyssey II, and the Mystic Blue. The Pier has fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday nights during the summer and Saturday nights during the fall.
The popular Strictly Sail boat show and Chicago Flower and Garden Show are held at the Pier as well as many other fairs and expositions throughout the year, and seasonal festivals for Halloween and Christmas. Also a part of Navy Pier is the Children's Museum with many different exhibits and activities for both children and adults to enjoy while visiting the museum. The Pier also has an IMAX theater and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, many of which were salvaged from Chicago mansions.
Pier Park is a landscaped area outdoors on the upper deck, between the Crystal Gardens and the Pepsi Skyline Stage.
Attractions include the 150-foot (46 m) tall Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, which was manufactured by Vekoma and opened on July 1st, 1995. It operates year-round, weather permitting, and has 40 gondolas, each seating up to 6 passengers. Its 40 spokes, spanning a diameter of 140 feet (43 m), are illuminated in the evenings.
The world record for the longest Ferris wheel ride was set by Clinton Shepherd, the park operations manager, who spent 48 hours, 8 minutes and 25 seconds riding the Pier's wheel over the weekend of May 18 - 19, 2013.
Other rides include a musical carousel, the Light Tower Ride, and Wave Swinger, an old-fashioned swinging thrill ride almost 40 feet (12 m) high.
Other Pier Park amusements include an 18-hole miniature golf course, and token-operated remote-control boats.
On January 13, 2006, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority released plans for a major renovation of the Pier, which would include a monorail, a 260-foot (79 m) spokeless Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, floating hotel, and an 80,000-square-foot (7,000 m2) water park with a Great Lakes theme. The plan would include nearly double the current parking and a replacement theater with a greater capacity. At the time of the announcement, a price tag of $2 billion was announced. No concrete progress was made on those proposals, as the financial condition of the Pier suffered with the recession.
Following the reorganization of the agency that runs Navy Pier and McCormick Place, a new study was commissioned to reinvigorate the upgrade process. The new study, by the Urban Land Institute, was released on November 11, 2010, and recommended a more modest set of enhancements aimed at retaining the Pier's role as a public space, rather than turning it into a theme park. Suggested elements include a concert venue, an enlarged Chicago Shakespeare Festival space, new restaurants, a renovated commercial area around the Pier's entrance, and additional park-like features to bring people closer to the lake. More grandiose possibilities, including the enlarged Ferris wheel and a hotel, are mentioned as more remote possibilities. In March 2012 a competition led to selection of a design concept presented by a team led by James Corner of James Corner Field Operations that focuses on the Pier's role as a waterfront promenade. In 2013 the Authority announced plans to carry out the first elements of a streamlined version of that concept, with reworked streetscape and a wider pedestrian space, moving tour-boat moorings to improve the view from a new central stairway centered on the Ferris wheel. Work is expected to begin during the winter of 2013-2014, with completion expected by Summer 2015.
In popular culture
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- "Crain's List Largest Tourist Attractions (Sightseeing): Ranked by 2007 attendance". Crain's Chicago Business (Crain Communications Inc.). 2008-06-23. p. 22.
- Federal Writers' Project (1939, rep. 1991). Chicago and Suburbs 1939. Evanston, IL: Chicago Historical Bookworks. p. 57. ISBN 0-924772-17-4.
- Watson, Raymond C., Jr.; Solving the Naval Radar Crisis, Trafford Publishing, 2007
- Watson, op. cit., pp. 241-245
- "University of Illinois at Chicago History – Navy Pier Campus". 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- Historic Navy Pier Attractions - Pier Park
- U.S.S. Chicago Anchor
- Historic Navy Pier Attractions - Pier Park
- Navy Pier's new attractions deemed 'critical' to luring variety of patrons.
- 10 millionth rider goes for spin on Navy Pier ferris wheel
- "Ferris wheel ride world record broken in Chicago". Yahoo News. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- Rummana, Hussain (2006-01-14). "More flash proposed for Navy Pier: Water park, hotel that floats, monorail part of master plan". Chicago Sun Times. p. 4.
- "Forrec Develops State on for Chicago's Navy Pier". 2006-02-25. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- "Second crack at Navy Pier Upgrade". Chicago Tribune. 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
- "Navy Pier redesign walks the line between populist and classy". Chicago Tribune. 2013-08-12. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Navy Pier.|
- Official website
- Chicago Children's Museum on Navy Pier
- Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier
- IMAX Theater on Navy Pier
- 3D Google Earth Model