Chicago History and Architecture Answers from Tour Questions

By Elizabeth Tieri on February 19, 2013

TOURSDAILY

To make good on our commitment to questions asked on our Chicago architectural and historical tours, here are some answers to questions from inquisitive people.

What ever happened to the World’s Fair?

This question struck me most of all the random requests that are made of my knowledge bank during our tours because I had absolutely no idea how to respond.  The most recent World’s Fair I could recall was the 1933 Century of Progress International Exposition held here in Chicago.  I knew that was a little ego-centric of me, so I decided to check this out.

Apparently, the Universal Expositions, which come from French tradition but are considered as starting with the Grand Exhibition in London in 1851, continue today.  Though they have shifted from being based on industrialization in the way that brought us the telephone and the Eiffel Tower.  For many decades, the World’s Fairs focused more on an exchange of cultures, as in 1964 in New York and in 1967 in Montreal.  The themes of these Fairs reflect desires for cross-cultural solutions to world-wide problems.

Nowadays, the Expo, as it is affectionately called, seems to be more about nation-branding, where countries vie to improve their global image.  The next one is scheduled for 2015 in Milan, who planned fairgrounds are pictured above, with the theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.

Where was the Chicago Public Library located after the Cultural Center and before the Harold Washington Library?

For nearly fifteen years, there was no central library building.  When the Cultural Center opened in 1977, it kept only the special collections of the Chicago Public Library. Until the Harold Washington Library opened in 1991, everything else was kept in the branch locations.

The Chicago Public Library today has over 75 branches in a network of neighborhoods.  This has been the work of over a century, orchestrated by Henry Legler’s 1916 proposal, A Library Plan for the Whole CityHis goal was to ensure “library service within the walking distance of home for every person in Chicago who can read or wants to use books.”

Though the Chicago Public Library has ridden the economic roller coaster of the 20th century since then, these branches continue to serve their neighborhoods.  The trick is no longer walking to them, instead it is finding them at a time when they are open.

Where is the Billy Goat Lager brewed?

Our first drink on the Good Times Historic Bar tour is at the Billy Goat Tavern, where our beer drinkers enjoy the Billy Goat’s own lager.  When I was first asked this question, it was at a table of friends with whom I deliberated.  Some guessed the house beers, which include a dark, were courtesy of Pabst Brewing Company.  That was our leading guess considering the similarities to the lager style of their Blue Ribbon brew and its connection to Chicago via the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.  Then we thought they might be from the Berghoff, a Chicago staple who has similar house brews.  Or we thought it might be a style of Schlitz, the only other beer on tap at the Billy Goat.

Since these were merely guesses, I decided to ask at the bar.  Now the bartenders here might seem a bit brusque, but they were happy to confirm that the Billy Goat Lager and Dark are Berghoff beers. As a bit of friend-guess-validation, our Exposition train of thought was not far off the track.  The Berghoff family established its historic Chicago cafe after a fond reception at the Exposition.  Originally the Berghoff family brewed in Ft. Wayne Indiana, but today their beers come from the Minhas Craft Brewery in Wisconsin.

As long as you keep giving us questions, we’ll keep giving you answers!

— Elizabeth Tieri, Chicago Detours Tour Guide