Chicago Then and Now – 2023

In 1909 many nations and communities in the U.S. celebrated the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The Centennial Celebration Committee of New York City asked City Hall for $25,000 ($742,000 today) in 1908 for the event.


Chicago organized a committee of 100 citizens, who raised $40,000 ($1.2 million today) to sponsor a week-long celebration to outdo the efforts of any other city in the United States as an example of patriotism.


Located in the heart of downtown Chicago is the Fine Arts Building, also known as the Studebaker Building. It is located at 410 South Michigan Avenue, across from Grant Park, in the Chicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District.

It was built for the Studebaker company in 1884–5 by Solon S. Beman, the architect for the town of Pullman, in the Richardson Romanesque style. As the Studebaker company outgrew this headquarters, the Studebaker family converted the building to studios for artists, musicians, architects and others. The building’s role later expanded when it became home to both the women’s suffrage movement and the Arts and Crafts movement in the Midwest. To this day, the building remains true to its art roots, still housing art galleries and design firms.


It’s December 8, 1893 – The World’s Columbian Exposition just ended in Chicago, which saw an influx of people and made the Windy City a truly international destination. Imagine that you are on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street in downtown Chicago. Some modest buildings dot the skyline, and there’s a little hustle and bustle in the streets.

You look east and see open land – no Millennium Park with sprawling grounds – but you spot something new. A stately, classical Beaux-Arts building: the Art Institute of Chicago.

125 years later, soaring skyscrapers and even more city-dwellers populate Michigan Avenue, but the Art Institute still stands proudly and is considered one of the leading art museums in the world.


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