There is more than enough for a visitor to see here, and devoting a full day to exploring Hyde Park can make for a fine itinerary. Architecture buffs will have their hands occupied by the many Victorian mansions and Prairie School houses; anyone with an intellectual bent should be delighted by Hyde Park's independent bookstores, overawed by the University of Chicago's terrifying intensity, and intrigued by the Oriental Institute; and just about everyone will enjoy a trip to the stimulating Museum of Science and Industry or taking a stroll and a swim along the Point and the beach.
The project was paternalist, classist, and evicted many if not the majority of the neighborhood's low-income residents, but the end result of the University-driven "renewal" project is that Hyde Park is to this day one of the nation's most durable mixed-income, mixed-race neighborhoods, and is home to one of the only significant white communities for miles on the South Side. Hyde Park maintains its unique characteristics in its unique isolation from the rest of the city: no convenient L service, giant Washington Park to the west, frigid-in-the-winter Midway Plaisance to the south, and persistent redevelopment projects pushing to the north through Kenwood and to the south through Woodlawn.
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Aside from Rockefeller's decision to locate the university here, the neighborhood's biggest event was without a doubt The Chicago World's Fair in 1893, celebrating the 400 year anniversary of Columbus' first arrival in the New World. The event was designed largely by Frederick Law Olmstead and Daniel Burnham, and brought visitors (and exhibitions) from all over the world. The magnificently landscaped parks were all Olmstead's creation, which sparked a wave of "municipal beautification," to which Chicago owes the creation of many of its fantastic parks. Olmstead initially planned to dredge a canal along the Midway, topped by arched bridges, but costs and technical difficulties scrapped the plan (the plan was tried again in the 1920s, but was again canceled after the 1929 stock market crash).
Exhibitions were displayed in Washington Park, Jackson Park, and the Midway Plaisance. Attractions ranged from the world's first Ferris Wheel, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, the "Street in Cairo," performances by Scott Joplin, Balinese gamelan, and the first East-West international gathering of religious leaders. But the crowning glory was the White City, a collection of gleaming white neoclassical buildings in Jackson Park, watched over by the enormous golden Statue of the Republic.
The Columbian Exposition raised Chicago's international profile in spectacular fashion, and left it with some very well sculptured buildings and parks. Unfortunately, tragedy waited around the corner for the area. The fair provided the setting for one of the country's first serial killers, who lured victims to his "World Fair Hotel," where they met with grisly murders ( makes for a good read on a visit here). The fair also brought to Chicago a smallpox epidemic, and the city mayor was assassinated two days before the closing ceremony. Perhaps most cruelly, the White City burned down shortly after the fair ended, leaving only two landmarks â the still magnificent Museum of Science and Industry and the golden Statue of the Republic.