Navy Pier

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Navy Pier
Navy pier.jpg
Navy Pier as seen from the 23rd floor of The Lake Point Tower
Navy Pier is located in Chicago
Navy Pier
Location 600 E. Grand Avenue Chicago, Illinois, 60611
Coordinates Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
Built 1914 (1914)
Architect Charles S. Frost
E.C. Shankland
NRHP Reference # 79000825[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 13, 1979
Designated CL November 14, 1977

Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long (1,010 m) 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, the pier is one of the most visited attractions in the entire Midwestern United States and is Chicago's number one tourist attraction.[2]

Construction and World War I

During construction, 1915 (Chicago Daily News)

Construction began in 1914 under the leadership of Charles Sumner Frost and took two years, at a total cost of $4.5 million.[3] 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.[3]

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. Radio station WCFL operated from the north tower of the auditorium.[4] 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 Great Depression in the early 1930s, coupled with the increased use of trucks and automobiles, led to reduced 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.

Second use: Navy training center

As the likelihood of war with Germany grew, 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 (Dec 7, 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.[5]

Classes started at the Navy Pier Secondary School on June 5, 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.[6]

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.[7]

Fourth use: public gathering place

Navy Pier from the John Hancock Building

From 1965–1989, Navy Pier was considered underutilized.[3]

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.

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 began in 1994 at a cost of $200 million. Navy Pier reopened to the public in July 1995 with a layout that included fast-food restaurants, shops, a ballroom, a concert stage, and convention exhibition halls.[8]

Navy Pier (left) extends into Lake Michigan

Major attractions include a Ferris wheel,[9] an IMAX theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, the Chicago Children's Museum, and at the entrance to Navy Pier is a statue of Oak Park comedian Bob Newhart, sponsored by the TV Land network.[10]

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.


USS Chicago (CA-136/CG-11) anchor
Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

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.[10]

The popular Chicago Flower and Garden Show is held at the Pier, as are many other fairs and expositions throughout the year. There are also seasonal festivals for Halloween and Christmas.

The Chicago Children's Museum is a part of Navy Pier, with many different exhibits and activities for both children and adults to enjoy while visiting the museum.[10][11]

The Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass is a free display of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows. The Pier also has an IMAX theater.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater performs at the pier.

An anchor from the naval vessel USS Chicago (CA-136/CG-11) is on display at the far end of the Pier.[12] Other art includes a statue of actor Bob Newhart on a couch as on The Bob Newhart Show,[13] the Captain On The Helm statue dedicated to maritime captains, and the Crack the Whip sculpture of eight children at play holding hands by J. Seward Johnson Jr.[14][15]

Pier Park

Pier Park is a landscaped area outdoors on the upper deck, between the Crystal Gardens and the Pepsi Skyline Stage.[9]

Attractions include the 150-foot (45.7 m) tall Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, which was manufactured by Vekoma[16] and opened on July 1, 1995.[17] 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 (42.7 m), are illuminated in the evenings.[9]

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.[18]

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, remote-controlled boats, and a miniature golf course, all of which are open seasonally.[9]

Plans for renovation

This is the iconic Navy Pier wheel which was put to retirement on 27th September 2015
File:Navy pier current logo.svg
Navy Pier logo as of 2008
File:Navy Pier Carousel.jpg
Musical carousel

Efforts to update Navy Pier for the twenty-first century began, on January 13, 2006, when the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority released a proposal for a major renovation of the Pier, which including a monorail, a 260-foot (79 m) spokeless Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, floating hotel, and a water park with a Great Lakes theme. The plan would have included 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.[19][20]

Subsequently, 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 Theater 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.[21]

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 began during the winter of 2013–2014, with completion expected by Summer 2015.[22][23]

A new Ferris wheel for the pier was announced on June 23, 2015. This Ferris wheel will be 196 feet tall, and will be fifty feet taller than the current wheel. Rides will also be twelve minutes instead of seven and feature three revolutions. The lights on the Ferris wheel will also be brighter. The new Ferris wheel is expected to open in May 2016.[24]

In popular culture

The halls were used to represent Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1986 movie The Color of Money for the 9-Ball Championship.[citation needed]

In the film Divergent, the pier and Ferris wheel are shown abandoned and decayed in a future Chicago.[25]

Winter Wonderfest

Navy Pier hosts the PNC Bank Winter Wonderfest from December through January.

Bus connections


  • #2 Hyde Park Express (weekday rush hours only)
  • #29 State
  • #65 Grand
  • #66 Chicago
  • #124 Navy Pier

See also


  1. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  2. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  4. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  5. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.[page needed]
  6. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  7. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  8. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  11. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  13. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  14. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  15. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  16. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  17. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  18. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  19. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  20. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  21. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  22. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  23. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  24. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  25. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

External links