March 24, 2012

Ferris Wheel Park

The Neighborhood
Amusement Park
District of Lake View 
painting by Armando Pedroso
Some Background
In 1890, the U.S. Congress decided that the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America should be located in Chicago, and accordingly, on April 9, the State of Illinois licensed the corporation known as the World's Columbian Exposition to prepare for this grand event.
The Corporation's directors, in October, 1890, appointed the rising architect,

Daniel H. Burnham, Construction Chief and delegated to him autocratic powers. Burnham, architect of the first skyscrapers was a good bet to score a smashing success, both for the Exposition and for himself. At this early stage, he was chiefly concerned at the lack of participation by America's civil engineers.
Seeking to stir them into action, he arranged to speak before the 'Saturday Afternoon Club', an informal group of architects and engineers who were interested in the Fair. Their gatherings had served as a sort of public opinion poll on many of the architectural and engineering structures of the Exposition.

It was immediately proposed to build a tower 500 feet higher than Eiffel's, but since this would be playing second fiddle to Eiffel's genius, this idea was dismissed. Mere "bigness" was not what was wanted. Something novel, original, daring and unique must be designed and built if American engineers were to retain their prestige and standing.
The assemble of the axle 
- 1893 Chicago Columbia Exposition
photo - Ebay
The view at the top - Man on Five
(Click to enlarge)
The dimensions - The Man of Five
"Seated in the audience was a tall, slight young engineer with a pale, resolute face. This was George Washington Gale Ferris, at that time the senior partner in a firm specializing in building steel bridges. Thirty-two years old, he had been educated at the California Military Academy and Rensseler Polytechnic Institute, where he received an engineering degree in 1881. For several years, he had worked on railroads and mining ventures and was one of the first to make a profession of testing materials and structures.
The popular story is that Ferris designed the wheel while at dinner with friends in a Chicago restaurant and that it was built without a change being made to this original sketch. There is some evidence, however, that he had designed the Wheel five or six years prior to the Exposition and it is possible that he chose a quiet moment after dinner to reveal these plans.
Ferris decided that this was the proper time and the opportunity he had been looking for to build his Great Wheel and he set about this monumental task."
According to the Chicago Tribune - 1893
And Then the Move to the
 District of Lake View 
double fold 1906 postcard - Ebay
zoomed view of above postcard 
photo - Chuckman Collection
What the neighborhood look like during the time of 
Ferris Wheel Park. Seminary Place was located west & perpendicular to this park, west of Clark Street
Seminary Place = Drummond Place
Calumet 412 documented an amazing footage of the Ferris Wheel at Clark Street and Wrightwood Avenue, 1896. The vantage point in this short film is looking from the southwest corner of Wrightwood, northeast across Clark Street after having been moved from the grounds of the Colombian Exposition of 1893. This short movie filmed and directed by the Lumiere Brothers, is among the first film ever shot in Chicago. With this link is a stand-alone view of the film.
photos from 'storeyofchicago'
Review the photo towards the top of this post from Man on Five of the 'view' and imagine the view of the District of Lake View from Wrightwood and Clark streets.

photo - Ebay
It stood 264 feet tall and took 20 minutes for the 36 luxury cars to make one revolution
View southeast corner of Clark Street 
at Diversey Avenue (Parkway)
photo - Man on Five
 Streetcar on the move via Clark Street heading toward away from the car-barn (garage)
View one of the first movies filmed in America of the
 Ferris Wheel along Clark Street @ Wrightwood Avenue

 1894 Sanborn Fire Map 
This map shows the transit streetcar garages called 
car-barns that were located between Clark Street and Orchard. 
A Past and Present View
 Bill Epcke via Forgotten Chicago on Facebook 
Google Map east view from Drummond Place
Brian Wolf via Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
with a cool fade-out animation by Brad Cornelius  
According to a Forgotten Chicago contributor on Facebook, David Zornig, believes “just north of Wrightwood, there are still some odd shaped lots behind the old post office and the small hotel that used to be a movie theater; hence the odd driveway to the right of the hotel entrance. I believe that driveway was the lobby entrance. There's a picture of it on Cinema Treasures, but I don't recall the theater name. To the South of the current McDonald's, was the Playdium bowling alley that was there until the `70's. My grandfather sanded the lanes there. One could see from the McDonald's lot North, that there was a large enough strip of lots behind Clark St. storefronts, to accommodate something that size.” - 2012 testimony.
The Wheels' Planned Location in 1894
According to the authors of Northsiders: Essays on the history and culture of the Chicago Cubs (page 17) the residents of a subdivision of Pine Grove (northern Lakeview East ) voted in 1894 against a new trolley line along Evanston Avenue (Broadway) hence ending the opportunity of the ferris wheel to be located north of Belmont Avenue (exact location unknown). Chicago Tribune in 1894 indicated that the community of “Lake View would become a great amusement park area of the city”. 
Ferris Wheel Park was established in 1896 in the area south of Belmont on the corner area of Clark and (Sherman) Drummond in the new District of Lake View-Chicago.
Shortly after, and with vocal citizen opposition from a newly formed civic group called the Improvement and Protection Organization (IPO) the owners of the new park had to file for bankruptcy in 1900 due to lack of local community support and general citywide patronage. The lack of support of the park was due to its location within a residential subdivision and the residents of this new annex area were not fans of the owner of the park - Mr. Yerkes who owned the Chicago Electric Street Railway - owned and  operated streetcars on Evanston (Broadway) Avenue and Clark Street. Mr. Yerkes manage to extend his Clark Street operation to the end of the line on Drummond Avenue exclusively for this Ferris Wheel Park.
Transportation Industrialist Charles Yerkes
Mr. Yerkes owned the park and the transportation rails to his park - the end of the line from Chicago, at the time.
For years, Mr. Yerkes tried to circumvent property owners by trying through city governmental agencies to acquire property for his company without due process and succeed for a few more years with his creation until 1903-4.
In other words, he was trying to create a Great America in a middle of a urban residential street.
Construction or re-construction photo - not sure
The 'Wheel' was sold to the City of St. Louis by 1904 for their own amusement park that also failed.  As a side note, the man who owned the rights to the park, Charles Tyson Yerkes - the owner of the North West Rail Company that controlled transportation in the city at the time apparently skipped town by 1911 leaving his rail company to flounder and his dream park a distant memory. By 1906, the world famous carriage wheel was sold for scrap.
The 1895 re-assembly of the Ferris Wheel @ its new location along Clark Street & Wrightwood Avenue
Chicago History Museum
another view near Clark Street - 1899 
Man on Five
image - 'Challenging Chicago' by Perry Duis & 
donated Jackie Arreguin
View a vintage reel feed 
of the amusement park along Wrightwood & Clark
from YouTube via DNAinfo

images - Art Institute of Chicago 
Another season opener 1896
(click on article to enlarge)
Troubles in the Park 1896 
View from Pine Grove and Wrightwood Avenues
From content developer of Living History of Illinois and Chicago on Facebook, Neil Gale via Lee Bey of WBEZ
photo - Paul Petraitis, Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
In 1902 Another Possible Relocation

The Ferris Wheel found a home 
but not for long in 1906  

It's new home in the City of St. Louis 
It's Demise in 1906
photo - Glen Miller, Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
2013 The City of Chicago TV produced a video of the current Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier. Check it out!
2015 The newer Ferris Wheel will be larger than the second one but not as large as the first. Read more with this link.

Post Notes: 

On the west side of Western Avenue @ Belmont was the iconic Riverview Park. Western Avenue was the western border of Old (township,city, District of) Lake View so not part of my blog but here is a good summary + vintage photos from a Forgotten Chicago on Facebook contributor, Glenn Miller. Also, a YouTube memory by WGN. Read the commentary from Forgotten Chicago on Facebook about this park.

Important Note:
These posts are exclusively used for educational purposes. I do not wish to gain monetary profit from this blog nor should anyone else without permission for the original source - thanks!