Chicago Academy of Sciences' Matthew Laflin Memorial Building, 1894

Image of Chicago Academy of Sciences' Laflin Building.
Chicago's first public museum

The Chicago Academy of Sciences has a long history in Chicago. Founded in 1857, the Academy opened Chicago’s first public museum in 1869. That building, located at Wabash and Van Buren in the downtown area, was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Following the fire, the scientific community and public rallied around the Academy. Businessman and philanthropist Matthew Laflin was the primary funder for a new building, which opened on October 31, 1894, in Lincoln Park. In this new space, much of the Academy’s earlier scientific work, including natural history collecting, was able to continue, and a new emphasis was placed on community involvement. This would be the Academy’s home for the next 100 years.