THE BLUSTERING WINDS OF 1893
The year of
1893 began with a winter bluster of 45 straight days of snow, cold winds,
and freezing temperatures that tested even tough Saugatuckians. The ice was
10 inches thick on Kalamazoo lake and extended into Lake Michigan as far as
the eye could see.
During this frigid period, the steam barge George T. Burrows sailed south
from Milwaukee to Chicago and ran out of coal to power the ship. Strong west
winds blew the powerless ship across Lake Michigan to Michigan City where
the ship was marooned offshore--frozen in a two-mile ice pack. Two crewmen
were able to traverse the ice floes and secure a rescue party.
Other winds of change were coming across the lake from Chicago where the
finishing touches were being made on the World’s Columbian Exposition,
scheduled to open in May 1893 and run through October. The Exposition,
celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America, had
been in design and under construction for three years with major problems,
and now was struggling with difficult winter setbacks trying to meet the May
1st opening day.
It’s amazing that Chicago would win this honor when just 20 years before,
the entire city was destroyed in one of the worst fires in history—the
Chicago Fire of 1871. The cities in the competition all wanted to be the
American hosts, and the name-calling was often loud and offensive.
Which led the editor of the New York Sun to name the bluster that came from
Chicago as “that windy city”—a moniker that has stuck over the years and has
nothing to do with wind gusts.
The man that was put in charge of this mammoth project was the highly
respected Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham. Burnham, to his credit, pursued
and procured the nation’s most talented designers, architects, and
Among these talents were his architect partner Root, Louis Sullivan, and the
most sought after landscape architect in the world, Frederick Olmstead—the
man who designed Central Park in New York.
A lesser man than Burnham would have crumbled under the immense pressures,
construction problems, and back-room politics that tried to undermine him.
But he persevered and lived up to his credo: “Make no little plans; they
have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
On opening day, May 1, 1893, President Grover Cleveland gave a speech that
few heard; then pressed a button that lit up the fair. The fair introduced a
new standard for electricity invented by George Westinghouse - alternating
current that soon replace direct current electricity nationwide.
Admission to the fair was 50 cents, a little steep, but thousands thronged
the event including residents of Saugatuck and Douglas who could steam
across Lake Michigan for $1.50 round trip on the Bon Voyage (see
above advertisement) or other ships. Or for $20 room and board per week, you
could stay on the ship and walk to the fair.
All you needed was a horse & buggy to get you to the dock at Pier Cove.
Next: inside the fair. by Rob Carey