Navy Pier

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Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot (1,010 m) long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. It is located in the Streeterville neighborhood of the Near North Side community area. The pier was built in 1916 at a cost of $4.5 million, equivalent to $90.5 million today. It was a part of the Plan of Chicago developed by architect and city planner Daniel Burnham and his associates. As Municipal Pier #2 (Municipal Pier #1 was never built), Navy Pier was planned and built to serve as a mixed-purpose piece of public infrastructure. Its primary purpose was as a cargo facility for lake freighters, and warehouses were built up and down the pier. However, the pier was also designed to provide docking space for passenger excursion steamers, and in the pre-air conditioning era parts of the pier, especially its outermost tip, were designed to serve as cool places for public gathering and entertainment. The pier even had its own streetcar. Today, Navy Pier is Chicago's number one tourist attraction.[2]



Construction began in 1914 under the leadership of Charles Sumner Frost and took two years, at a total cost of $4.5 million. When it opened to the public in 1916, it was the largest pier in the world. The Pier was built both to handle shipping and as an entertainment site. The original Burnham Plan proposed five piers, but only one was commissioned. In 1917-18, during World War I the pier housed many soldiers, the Red Cross, and Home Defense units. In years to follow the pier expanded to have its own streetcar line, a theater, and an emergency room. In 1927 the pier was officially named Navy Pier in honor of the Naval personnel that served there during the war.[3]

First Use: Pier

Even as Chicago Municipal Pier was being built, mass-produced cars and trucks were beginning to wreak havoc on the package freight and passenger steamboat industries of Lake Michigan. The pier proved to be much more successful as a public gathering place. By the late 1930s, the pier was described as a summer playground, with recreational facilities that included picnicking areas, dining pavilions, a dance hall, auditorium, and children's playground.[4] During the 1950s, it is estimated that an average of 3.2 million visitors frequented the pier annually, with peak attendance for the "Pageant of Progress". This decade is sometimes called the pier's "Golden Age".

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