National Buildings and the Woman’s Building

The Fair was an opportunity for different countries and states to exhibit their achievements and celebrate their distinctive identities. Use the Rand McNally map of the fair, on this site, to explore the spatial relationships of these buildings. Where were they placed, and what did their designers seek to convey?


The Viking ShipTHE VIKING SHIP. The celebration of the discoveries of Christopher Columbus did not pass without a feeling, in Norway, that the world had not sufficiently honored a previous visitor to America. But the poems about the Vikings had been generally discredited, and when there was dug from a kitchen-midden in Norway a real Viking vessel a thousand years old, reproducing the pictures that had alone remained to tell their tale, the people of Norway, with almost one accord, set out by popular subscription to make a remarkable test of the truth of their traditions. With a fund gathered from every village in Norway, a replica of the ancient Viking vessel was made, and the Norwegian Commissioners took sail as the crew. Under Captain Magnus Andersen, the proud Norsemen put across the Atlantic in his small craft, and came to anchor by way of New York and the lakes at Jackson Park about five o’clock of Wednesday, July 17, 1893. The late Mayor Harrison went aboard at Racine, up the lake, and took command for the rest of the voyage, assuring all hands in good Norwegian, that he himself was descended from the sea-kings, which the good Norsemen might well believe. The scene on the lake was that day the most animated of the whole season, and it was generally held to be well-proved that Columbus, who had gone to Iceland in his earlier days, might easily have there learned of the discoveries of Lief Ericsson at Vinland, Markland, and Helleland, on the coast of Massachusetts.


THE EAST INDIAN BUILDING. This beautiful structure stood near the northern terminal of the Intramural Railway, and was erected at the expense of the British Government in Hindostan, although the empire failed to arrange for an official representative. Here the visitor saw the Oriental idea of ornamentation in architecture such as developed in the Golden Doorway of the Transportation Building further southward on the grounds, and it cannot be denied that the Asian decoration was worthy of the praise of its poets, nor should it be forgotten that golden doorways are for tropical climates, and ill-fitted to the bitter blasts and frosts of North America. The colors of the Indian Building were striking and harmonious; the celebrated Taj Mahal at Agra having served as an example to the builder. The structure was rectangular, eighty by sixty feet, and its main room was surrounded with a gallery in which goods were displayed. The main entrance was through a lofty arch surmounted by minarets which also rose from the corners of the edifice. Under the portal was a wide space, making a hemicycle similar to the one at the south end of the Electricity Building. The Indian Building, which cost $15,000, was built as a bazaar in which Mr. S. J. Tellery, one of the leading East Indian traders, was to carry on his trade under the patronage of the native rulers of Hyderabad, Joodpoor, Patteeala, Kapoorthella, Mahoor, Jheend, Kerowlee and Kutch. The building was redolent with sandalwood, and the natives who served tea and waited on customers were handsome and polite.


INTERIOR OF THE EAST INDIAN BUILDING. Our engraving truthfully portrays the novelty, beauty and diversity of the scene within the doorway of the beautiful East Indian Building. After the lithe and well-bred figures of the Hindoos, and the numerous idols that arrested the eye, probably the carved doors of sandalwood were the exhibits to be remembered and wished for. Here were exposed for sale, but at high prices, gold, silver and metal wares, ivory, marble, alabaster, stoneware and pottery, arms, silk, woolen and cotton cloths, carpets and a large collection of mosaics. Among the cloths that were offered were the printed and hand-made drills from Multan, and muslins of Bahar and Rahoon, the tinsel muslin of Delhi, the chintzes of Jeypoor and Joodpoor, the gold-figured muslin of Benares, and the sacred gold cord and sacrificial thread of the Brahmins at Bignor. In carpets and rugs the display was equally comprehensive, with offerings from Scrinaggar, Amritsir, Delhi, Meerpoor, Ahmedabad, Presidency and Warangel, all containing from fifty to eighty knots to the inch. One carpet woven in the dominions of the Nizar of Hyderabad contained six hundred knots to the inch. The large area near the doorway was always closely crowded with visitors, who drank tea and chatted with the agreeable Singhalese, who sold pieces of sandalwood and more costly articles to all who visited to purchase. The bazaar was managed by S. J. Tellery, a successful merchant of the East, who intended to make permanent arrangements for trade in America.


THE OTTOMAN PAVILION. It was officially announced by Ibrahim Hakki Bey, the chief commissioner, that for the first time in the history of all international expositions the Ottoman Empire, a land of three continents, consented to make a national display among the foreign powers in Jackson Park. For this purpose there were carved in Damascus, and transported to Chicago, the panels and sections of the highly wrought pavilion which is represented in the engraving. The model chosen by the imperial architect was a fountain near the Babi-Humagoon, in Constantinople. "A landmark," says Hakki Bey, "of splendor and magnificence in the reign of Ahmet III, from 1703 to 1730." The characteristics of the pavilion were its outreaching roof, and its outside walls of wood called mucharabian, which were thickly carved with arabesque texts and traceries. These panels at the end of the Fair were shipped back to Syria. The edifice was formally opened on the 26th of June, 1893, by Director Charles Henrotin, Consul-General for the Ottoman Empire, in the name of Hakki Bey and the Sultan. In this, the main pavilion, were displayed the most delicate and expensive manufactures of the Turkish countries, very largely silk and needle work, gold and silver embroidery, pipes, jewelry, soaps and perfumes. A smaller and similar pavilion, near by, contained a carpeted, tapestried and tufted chamber, enriched with divans that might have surprised even Edgar Poe with the sense of its elegance and luxury.


SWEDEN’S BUILDING. The engraving will show that no written description could convey to the reader, not already visually informed, any adequate idea of the form of the Swedish Building at the Fair. Yet it remains to be said that this curious structure made a beautiful appearance in Jackson Park, where it added piquancy to the scene. The edifice covered a triangular lot, and was built in Sweden, where it was taken to pieces for shipment to Chicago. It held the entire Swedish exhibit, and was dedicated with noteworthy festivities on June 26, 1893. The architect was Gustav Wickman, of Stockholm, who spent $40,000 in the work of recalling the style of two hundred years ago in churches and castles. The building was closed in the latter days of the Fair on account of adverse action by the insurance companies.


NORWAY’S BUILDING. Between the edifices of Germany and Ceylon, withdrawn slightly into the copse of willows that recalled old Jackson Park, stood the StavKirke of Norway, a small building that was missed by many visitors. The gables of this structure were its distinguishing characteristic, mainly, however, because of their decoration with the beaks of ancient Norse boats. The area was sixty by twenty-five feet, and the material of construction, Norway pine. The plans were drawn and the house built in the Fatherland, after which the sections were brought to Chicago and re-erected by Norwegian workmen. The Norwegian Commission had its headquarters here.


THE SPANISH BUILDING. The picture [on the left] represents the Spanish Building, whose interior was one of the most beautiful and impressive constructions of the Exposition, purposely recalling the Lace Exchange at Valencia. The hall was filled with columns and groined arches, and at the corner was the tower in which bankrupt and defaulting merchants were confined. The building was ninety-five by eighty-four feet, and fifty feet high; the tower was fifteen feet higher, and its roof could be reached by a circular stairway. The architect was Rafael Gaustivino. The cost was $45,000. The hall was principally filled with large and antique oil paintings, largely representative of the great Spanish discovery.


THE WOMAN’S BUILDING. Great interest attached to the fact that Congress authorized a "Board of Lady Managers" and gave them a Woman’s Building. The erection: of this novel structure was entrusted to Miss Sophia Hayden, architect, of Boston. It is considered noteworthy that the female sex, celebrated for its love of ornament, placed in Jackson Park the plainest of its buildings. The style is called Italian Renaissance, and the ungainly central feature is a skylight which, however, produced an interior effect of uncommon beauty and utility. The grand hall of this edifice was a popular meeting-place, and the whole fabric was thronged with prominent people. The loggias were attractive and impressive, and commanded fine views. There were cafs at each end of the roof, covered with Oriental awnings. The statuary on the building was modeled by Miss Alice Rideout, of California, and represented Sacrifice, Charity, Virtue and Wisdom. One of the paintings herein exhibited was the work of the lamented Marie Bashkirtseff; and the wife of MacMonnies, who made the chief fountain, was one of the principal interior decorators. The last nail was a golden one, presented to Mrs. Potter Palmer, President of the Board of Lady Managers, by the ladies of Montana, and it was driven in May, with a hammer presented by the ladies of Nebraska. The golden nail, when drawn, served as the principal piece of a brooch, which became the property of Mrs. Palmer, who had wielded the hammer. Dimensions of the Woman’s Building, one hundred and ninety-nine by three hundred and eighty-eight feet, sixty feet or two stories high. Cost, $138,000.


EASTERN VERANDA OF THE WOMAN’S BUILDING. Although the Woman’s Building was the theatre of many poignant discussions between cynical and experienced women, it was no less an object of the greatest curiosity to the mass of American home people. It was the first edifice of national importance in modern times to be built and conducted by women. Its managers composed the first legislature of women ever authorized by any government of men. Its halls and offices were dedicated to every propaganda that modern woman has seen fit to espouse, and every lecturer and leader might feel sure of an hour of glory here. The French gardeners lent their generous aid to the decoration of the premises, and it may be guessed how grateful would the multitude have been to sit here and gaze across the lagoon upon the Government Building, or northward, as in our engraving, upon the broad-spreading capital of Illinois. But chairs were not deemed necessary by the legislative mothers-- life was too short to allow time for reformation of the world and for rest in this delightful retreat. Therefore the people went inside and paid a dollar each for Isabella quarter-dollars with a crowned head on them; looked at Marie Bashkirtseff’s last picture; drank Ceylon tea; inquired for Mrs. Potter Palmer; got dinner on the roof-garden, where the summer passed without an accident; or, better yet, heard some famous woman lecture on the needed reforms of the age.


GUATEMALA’S BUILDING. Many visitors might, at first, blame the architects of the Exposition that they did not give to the foreign nations far more conspicuous stations in Jackson Park, but it must be recalled that the success of the Fair, both objectively and subjectively, was not attained with a single stroke, but was a gradual growth. At first, the foreign nations wanted little or nothing of it. Even in the end, Italy and Austria came near to a total default. In this manner, and for this reason of delay, when the Central and South American nations found it advisable to move in the matter, the ground was all taken, and the spaces had to be assigned off the grand avenues and among the shade trees that had been spared to mitigate the summer’s heat. The building of the Republic of Guatemala was situated on the southern shore of the north pond, between Costa Rica and Brazil. Like Spanish houses in general, the architect looked to the open interior court, with its rustic fountain and pyramid of tropical plants, for his main effects on the senses, and this spot, in the hot months, was one of the pleasantest in Chicago, clearly demonstrating the lack of summer architecture in northern climes. Here, again, the red and green plumage of birds was the chief spectacle, and coffee was the staple exhibit. The house was one hundred and eleven feet square, and, in an artistic inclosure near by, the Guatemalans sold coffee by the cup and dispensed good music. Cost of building, $40,000.


VENEZUELA’S BUILDING. West of the main pavilion of the Fisheries, on a grand avenue, and in line with Brazil, Turkey, Sweden and Hayti, stood the triple pavilion of the Republic of Venezuela. Like Brazil, Venezuela had a civil war, yet no sooner was President Crispo secure in office, and President Palacio overthrown, than a committee of distinguished citizens raised the necessary funds and placed their affairs in charge of Mr. J. M. Larralde and Dr. M. U. Toledo, two citizens of Venezuela living in the United States. Suitable exhibits were collected and shipped, and the building was opened as soon as the others, for all were desperately late, owing to the inclemency of the weather. The engraving shows the statue of General Bolivar which surmounted the east pavilion; on the western one, behind the foliage, was a companion effigy showing Christopher Columbus. The flag carried by Pizarro during his siege on the rocks, and in his conquest of Peru, was on exhibition, and was a curio that held thousands of scholars spell-bound with memories of the adventurer’s remarkable life. Prehistoric relics of still greater value (were their mysterious origin known), specimens of birds and animals, minerals, spices, preserves, fine needlework, products of the native looms, coffee, and vegetables, with many paintings, made up the contents of the interior. The dimensions were thirty-six by seventy-eight feet, and the cost $20,000. All the South American buildings were very attractive.


THE JAPANESE HO-O-DEN. A most cordial feeling for Japan instantly followed the official announcement that the Mikado, desiring to show his admiration for America, asked to present to the City of Chicago, for use during the World’s Fair, and for maintenance by Japan permanently, in commemoration of 1893, a reproduction of the most ancient, most beautiful and most celebrated temple in Japan, the Ho-o-den, or house made like the Phoenix (bird). To carry out the designs of the Emperor, the sum of $650,000 had been set aside out of his private fortune. At a banquet given by the Mayor of Chicago and the Commissioners, to Mr. Tegima, the Commissioner for Japan, this magnificent gift was accepted, and early in 1892, a company of odd, merry and industrious Japanese artisans made their appearance in Chicago, with innumerable packages and timbers. Their operations on the Wooded Island were, thereafter, daily contrasted with the progress of Americans on the great Manufactures Building near by, and a more instructive picture could not have been offered. While a dozen Japanese were working their little wooden pile-driver, which struck a blow of one hundred pounds, a company of men not larger across the lagoon was raising iron arches with a span of nearly four hundred feet, two hundred and twenty feet high. The original Ho-o-den, near Kioto, Japan, is undeniably beautiful. It cannot be said that the modern Japanese builders caught the spirit or fancy of the ancient temple, which, poised over its lotus-pond, produced the impression that it might be some fabulous bird, with outstretched wings.


JAPAN’S DEDICATION The engraving shows the gathering of invited guests on one of the earliest days in May, 1893, to dedicate the Ho-o-den, or Phoenix Temple of Japan, in Jackson Park. In the picture the main and central pavilion is at the left, while the left way (for the buildings represent a bird with pinions extended), is at the right. The dome of the Illinois Building is seen over a temporary structure beyond the stockade, all of which was soon to disappear. In the foreground stand the members of the little band of merry workmen who erected the temple. The backs of their coats show, by a cross of white in a circle, that the wearers have the honor and good fortune to be employed by certain Japanese contractors as master carpenters, and on the lapels of their coats are other trade marks and legends. The Japanese of higher rank who has superintended their labors and directed their daily lives for several months, stands in American raiment, with spectacles and silk hat, near the central foreground. Colonel Rice, commandant of the Columbian Guards, stands with his hand in his pocket exactly in the corner of the veranda and facing Thomas O’Niell, the Mayor’s private Secretary. The Chicago Ho-o-den is not a brilliant reproduction of the beautiful temple in Japan, and it seems that modern workmen have lost the cunning of their art, or that too much expense would have been incurred in a more faithful copy. As it is, the little buildings are by no means unsightly, and now become a permanent part of Jackson Park, a gift from the Mikado.


THE GERMAN BUILDING. Easily foremost among the foreign structures at the Exposition stood the German Building, on a choice site, with the waves of Lake Michigan beating over the granite-paved strand not fifty feet away. The German Building preserved the peculiarities of architecture in the Fatherland, as was done at the German Village, on Midway Plaisance; but there was added to the imperial edifice at the lake shore, a grace and a beauty that all were swift to admire and praise. "The German House" was poetical; it had a hundred delicacies of color and ornament that gladdened the hours in Jackson Park. It cost $250,000, so that the light and airy in architecture does not appeal to economy. There hung in its tall belfry a set of the deepest and sweetest bells that ever came West, and they were returned to the Church of Mercy, in Berlin, which was erecting in memory of the late Empress Augusta. The ground area was one hundred and fifty by one hundred and seventy-five feet. The cupola rose to one hundred and fifty feet. The notable things were the Swiss veranda, the Gothic bays, the high colors, and the ingenious adjustment of the Exposition plaster or "staff" to the South German methods of "castle"-building. The main portion of the fabric simulated a chapel, and by the inner timbering and furnishings of sacred figures, organs, candles and bibles, bore out the ecclesiastical idea. The right-hand region of the raftered and galleried house was filled with rare displays of books, and the visitor might there behold, often for the first time, a full set of Tauchnitz’ volumes, or Handel’s, Bach’s and Mozart’s complete works.


© Rebecca Edwards, author of New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905 by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press


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Part I: Excerpts from the Education Art Series, N. D. Thompson Publishing Company, St. Louis, Missouri, 1893, in a weekly series of 20 portfolios


Part II: Poems and Architecture in the State Buildings, by David Greenstein Vassar '05


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Perceptions and Realities: The Victorian Age Inventions of the era Tramps and Millionaires Yellowstone Park Journals of the era White City/1893 Worlds Fair The Civil War President McKinley