The World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893 – Chicago, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

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The World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893

What's left of the ruins of the 1893 Columbian Exhibition, or World's Fair, also known as the White City. 


Seemingly utterly forgotten, the remains of the Columbian Exposition, nicknamed the White City, lie in decay in Jackson Park. The Museum of Science and Industry, restored Japanese Garden, Wooded Island, and Big Mary replica are reminders of a bygone era.

First built for the Exposition as the Palace of Fine Arts, the Museum is the most impressive remaining building. Designed by Charles Atwood, it was the first home of the Field Museum of Natural History.

The Columbian Exposition had a small garden attached to the Japanese Pavilion.  This was expanded in the 1930s.  Following a restoration in 1992, it became known as the Osaka Garden, in recognition of the Sister City relationship between Chicago and Osaka, but is now called the Garden of the Phoenix.  Just outside the Garden gates is the site of the Japanese Pavilion from the World’s Fair, the Ho-o-den, which was vandalized during World War II, and ultimately destroyed in what is believed to be an arson fire in 1946.   Panels from the Pavilion were recently discovered and are now housed at the Art Institute of Chicago.   On the site of the Ho-o-den, there now stands a sculpture by artist Yoko Ono, called Sky Landing.

The Japanese Garden is located on the Wooded Island,  designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.  The Island is a quiet, restful place, and a prime destination for bird watchers.  In 2016, a renovation of the Island was completed.  Invasive plant species were removed, habitat restored, and new paths to scenic overlooks were built.

A 24-foot replica of the Statue of the Republic (which was sixty-five feet), aka Big Mary, was sculpted by Daniel Chester French, who designed the statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits at the Lincoln Memorial. The huge golden statue remains on a road at the south end of Jackson Park, commemorating the fact that these had once been the Exposition grounds.

Know Before You Go

The Japanese Garden is way off the road along a path. Walk until you feel like you must have somehow passed it, then you're there. Big Mary can be found off of Lakeshore, where E. Hayes Drive meets S. Richards Drive.

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