Monday, May 28, 2012

Chicago's Navy Pier

The Navy Pier on Lake Michigan, close to Chicago's downtown was originally known as the Municipal Pier number 2,  one of two piers called for in a 1909 Chicago plan, but the other pier was never built. Construction started May 1914 and in 1916 it was opened to the public.  At the time it was the world's largest pier, 292 ft wide and 3000 ft long (89 x 914 metres). It was designed as a shipping and entertainment area and in its first decade, the Municipal Pier successfully attracted both. It was also temporarily used as a military facility during WW1.

In 1927 the pier was renamed Navy Pier in honor of World War I veterans. It would turn out to be a prophetic name change.  By the end of the 1920s, the Navy Pier's success started to decline. The introduction of cars and the opening of movie theatres created more competition for the Pier and the number of visitors dwindled. Shipping started to decline in the 1930s due to the Great Depression and the competition of road transport.

After WW2 it served as the Chicago branch of the University of Illinois. In 1965 the university moved to its new location and the Navy Pier started to decay. The first step in its redevelopment   was the 1976 restoration of the Auditorium building at the eastern end of the pier. One year later it was designated a Chicago Landmark. Another step to the redevelopment  was taken in 1989, when the city of Chicago and the State of Illinois installed the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, an organisation responsible for the management of the pier. At the same time they committed $150 million for reconversion of the pier as a recreational center. The renovation started in 1992 and was completed in 1994. The result was a very successful recreational centre next to Chicago's downtown area. Thanks to its many attractions and 50 acres (20 hecrares) of parks and gardens it attracts more than 8 million visitors each year.

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