Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Navy Pier
Navy Pier

Navy Pier

Located just to the north of the mouth of the Chicago River, Navy Pier endures as a 3,000-foot-long exclamation mark in the Chicago tradition of public works.

Aerial: Navy Pier, c.1920-21
Municipal Pier (renamed in 1927 to honor navy veterans of World War I) represented a compromise between the hopes of Daniel Burnham in his Plan of Chicago for two recreational piers and the city's desire for a modern harbor facility. The design by architect Charles Sumner Frost offered a little of both, with twin two-story freight and passenger sheds along with classically designed buildings at the head and foot of the pier, including an auditorium. Resting on a foundation of over 20,000 wood pilings, the pier opened in the summer of 1916 at a cost of $4.5 million.

The pier has been a jail for draft dodgers in the summer of 1918; the site of two annual Pageants of Progress (1921 and 1922); a terminus for lake excursion ships; and a convention center.

During World War II, the U.S. Navy used the pier as a training center. Afterward, the pier proved a ready facility for the University of Illinois. More than 100,000 students attended classes from 1946 to 1965.

The pier was in serious decline by the early 1970s. A refurbishing for the 1976 bicentennial revived interest in the pier, and in 1989, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority oversaw a $200 million renovation. The result is much as Burnham envisioned, with the pier again a site for recreation.

Bukowski, Douglas. Navy Pier: A Chicago Landmark. 1996.