Baluster, Ohio Building

Image of baluster, Ohio Building, 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
Building the White City

In 1890, lead architect Daniel Burnham took on the impossible task of designing a model city in Jackson Park in Chicago for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (also known as the Columbian Exposition, which commemorated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus in the New World). The trouble was, architects and builders had just over two years to complete the monumental task. This baluster, recovered in archaeological excavations, is from a roof balustrade on the Ohio Building. The White City, as the collection of Fair buildings was known, was built to last as long as the fair (about six months). Short-lived decorations, like this baluster, were made of staff. This mixture of plaster, jute fiber, and horsehair was used on building exteriors, architectural details, and statuary.

Many of the principal structures of the fair, including the Ohio Building, were constructed in the Neoclassical style that some considered a rejection of the advances in architectural design achieved by the Chicago School and architects like Louis Sullivan. Today, little remains from the White City. Much of the site was destroyed by fire following the fair. However, the former Palace of Fine Arts survives today. You know it as the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

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