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

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. Created by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s Central Park, the Columbian Exposition’s Japanese Garden endured fires and vandalism during World War II by white Americans venting their anger at their country’s foe. It remained a wreck for decades until it was finally restored in 1974 and aptly renamed Garden of the Phoenix. The Wooded Island, also designed by Olmsted, is now a butterfly and bird sanctuary.

A replica of the Statue of the Republic, 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 near the Japanese Garden, 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.