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Devil in the White City

In: Historical Events

Submitted By scgiddings
Words 1122
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Chicago was looked down upon by many of the eastern cities, New York City and Washington D.C.. They believed that Chicago would fail in being able to produce a fair to top the great World Fair of Paris. The committee in charge of the exposition chose Daniel Burnham to design the the fair. Chicago before the 1893 Worlds fair was a dangerous and dirty place at the time. There were the Union stock yards killing thousands of pigs, and there was H. H. Holmes hotel killing hundreds of women. Chicago was in for a challenge to produce a fair that would top the Paris worlds. The country would have to come together in order to achieve producing a fair of such magnitude. The worlds fair would not have been so grand if it were not for one man Daniel Burnham. Burnham was able to bring together an amazing team of architects from throughout the United States, lead by John Root and Frederick Olmsted. With so many different people working on a project of this grandeur there are bound to be many challenges to face. The first challenge faced on this project was finding a suitable location to host the fair. It took nearly ten months to find a location for the fair and finally in December 1890 they settled on Jackson Park. Tragedy hit early in the development of the exposition, John Root passed away in early January 1891. The death of root had an effect on Burnham “Burnham kept silent. He considered quitting the fair. To forces warred within him: grief, and a desire to cry out (108).” Burnham is now faced to find a new designer for the fair and turns to Charles Atwood. There were many more deaths to come during the completion of the fair. As the fair is being built there is increasing economic trouble nation wide and Union conflicts are starting to put added weight to the construction of the fair. As the construction goes on Burnham struggles to come up with something that could beat the Eiffel Tower. George Farris comes up with a plan that would top the Eiffel Tower, the Farris Wheel. Olmsted has to battle many challenges, with delays in construction delaying the the landscape construction. When the fair finally opens on May 1, 1893 the Farris Wheel is not complete, and the landscaping is unfinished. “Olmsted had to redouble his efforts and Ferris needed to finish that damned wheel (239).” The Fair was now open and the city of Chicago would now be the home of the world for six months. Chicago was a very different city than most other cities I the United States at the time. The Worlds Fair helped Chicago grow, and for many years the city had the eyes of the world glaring down on them. Chicago was growing as fast as a bad weed, people were coming into the city everyday. “A thousand trains a day entered or left Chicago. Many of these trains brought single young women (11).” The city grew darker, dirtier, and more dangerous the more the city grew. This was a dangerous place for many of people new to the city. “Could step form a curb and be killed.... Everyday, on average two people were killed by rail crossings (12).” Trains were not the only dangers people faced. Disease would spread though the city because of the lack of sanitation. “In poor neighborhoods garbage mounded in alleys and overflowed giant trash boxes.... The corpses of many dogs, cats, and horses often remained where they fell They were not used to all the nightclubs and brothels that were throughout the city.... Many ended up in the Chicago River...and during heavy rains, river water would flow in greasy plumes far out into Lake Michigan, to the tower that marked the intake pipes for the cities drinking water (28).” The Union Stock Yards were killing thousands of pigs every day and the smell of death would fill the streets surrounding the yards. The yards were not the only place of death in the city, H. H. Holmes had his little stock yard. A young doctor came to Chicago prior to the great exposition, his name was Henry Webster Mudgett. Mudgett used an alias that became known throughout the nation, H. H. Holmes. Holmes settled down in “one of the fastest-growing suburbs, Englewood (45).” Holmes is a handsome smooth talking doctor who worked his way into a pharmacy owned by an old couple. The Owner of the business is an old man who is dying of cancer and his wife hires Holmes as the pharmacists. When the old man dies his wife sells the pharmacy to Holmes and she disappears. This is the first murder we see Holmes as a killer. As his aspiration for killing grew Holmes decides it is time to build a building where, “Flesh-and-blood women moved among its features (67),” he was building his stock yard. Holmes drew inspiration form the killing spree of Jack the Ripper in London. Holmes would have his victims trust him and get close to him before he would lure them into one of his many traps. Holmes would lure women close to with his eyes “his eyes deposited a bright blue hope (63).” He was a wealthy and successful man and women flocked around him. With his new building complete and the Worlds Fair right down the road Holmes decides to transform his building into a hotel, mostly for women only. Holmes was able to deter suspicion away from his building because every business on the lower level was owned by a different alias that Holmes created.
“Holmes was smooth and glib, a social chameleon (340).” There were also business that he created to aid in his killings. He owned a glass working company which had a giant kiln, Holmes would use it to burn remains of his victims. When friends of victims would come to Holmes asking questions he would always have a story with evidence. Holmes grows weary and leaves Chicago when a group of debt collectors come together with a lawyer to go after Holmes. Holmes is later arrested in Philadelphia for life Insurance fraud. While in prison a detective, Frank Geyer, starts investigating Holmes and discovers more than just Insurance fraud. Chicago was able to produce a Worlds Fair unlike nothing seen before. The Fair was the inspiration OZ and some of the most famous architectural designs by Frank Loyd Wright. The fair brought together a nation and showed the world the dominance of the United States. “The fair had a powerful and lasting impact on the nation’s psyche in ways both large and small (375).”

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