Navy Pier is a large pier on Lake michigan near Streeterville,
close to Chicago's downtown. Originally known as the
Municipal Pier nr 2, it is one of two piers called for
in Daniel Burnham's 1909 Chicago plan. The other pier
was never built.
started May 1914 and in 1916 it was opened to the public.
Navy Pier Entrance to Dock Street
At the time it was the world's largest pier, 292 ft
wide and 3000ft long (89m x 914m).
pier was designed as a shipping and entertainment area.
In its first decade, the Municipal Pier was successfully
attracting both visitors and ships. It was also temporarily
used as a military facility during the first world war.
By the end of the 1920s, the Navy Pier's success started
to decline. The introduction of cars and the opening
of movie theaters 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 transportation by
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, as the Navy Pier
Navy Pier seen from
John Hancock Center
served as a naval training
facility during the second World War. After the war
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 the redevelopment of the Navy Pier was
the 1976 restoration by Jerome R. Butler, Jr. 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 of the Navy Pier 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
dollar for reconversion of the pier as a recreational
center. The renovation by Benjamin Thompson & associates
started in 1992 and was completed in 1994.
is a very successful recreational center next to Chicago's
downtown area. Thanks to its many attractions and 50 acres of
parks and gardens (20 ha) it attracts more than 8 million visitors each year.
The two major buildings on the Navy Pier, Headhouse and
Auditorium - both designed by the architect Charles
Summer Frost and constructed in 1916 - have survived
its ups and downs.
most western building, a brick and terra cotta building
with two prominent towers is the Navy Pier Headhouse.
The name was derived from the area, which at the time
was known as the Headlands. Each tower housed a huge
2-million liter tank for the fire sprinkler system.
The Headhouse is now home to
Chicago's children museum.
At the western side of the building is the 19 acre
(8 ha) Gateway Park, featuring a modern, computerized granite
fountain with 240 jets.
the other end of the pier is the Auditorium, also known
as the Hall. This
beautiful building with a magnificent Grand Ballroom
measures 138 ft by 150 ft (42m x 48m) and has a 100ft
(30m) high half-domed ceiling.
The Navy Pier is home to many attractions, some may vary
depending on the season. For a
comprehensive list, prices
and schedules have a look at Navy Pier's own website:
Here's an overview of attractions found at the pier:
The most eye-catching is the 148 ft (45m) high Ferris Wheel. It
was modeled after the first ferris wheel built for the
1893 World Columbian Exposition.
Near the Ferris Wheel is a 44ft high musical carousel
with 36 hand-painted animals.
The skyline stage, a 100ft (30m) high vaulted roof structure,
is used as an ice skating rink during wintertime and
as a 1500-seat theater during summer.
The Navy Pier features two museums: the Children's museum
(which plans a move to Grant Park
) and the Smith museum of Stained Glass Windows, which opened in 2000.
Gateway Plaza and
A 7 story Shakespeare theater complex with a 525 seat
theater is another recent addition to the Navy Pier.
- The Navy Pier Aeroballoon, an anchored hlium-filled balloon that floats above the lakefront with up to 18 passengers allows visitors to admire Chicago's skyline from a height of 350ft (107m).
Other attractions are an 18 hole miniature golf course,
a funhouse maze, a beer garden, a 40ft high wave swinger and an IMAX
Navy Pier is also a starting point for many boat
trips. You have ample choice: You can take a trip on
a 148ft high, four-masted schooner or you can hop on
one of the 4 seadogs reaching speeds of up to 25 knots
Spirit of Chicago
Architecture cruises and water taxis (www.shoreline
) are also available. You can also
opt to take a romantic dinner cruise
and you can even
You can also rent some of the pier's areas, including
the English Garden Tent and the Crystal Gardens, a one-acre
indoor glass atrium with more than 70 palm trees.