Slice of Life: Something Fishy at the Museum

Museum of Science and Industry - Chicago, Illinois - August, 2012 - 002a

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (5700 South Lake Shore Drive) is one of its architectural treasures, and one of the city’s buildings that I think looks better from behind (the lagoon side) than the front (the lawn side).

The building is one of the few structures remaining from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where it served as the Palace of Fine Arts.  It was designed by by Charles B. Atwood when he worked for the Burnham company.   By the time the next world’s fair came around in 1933, the Century of Progress Exhibition, the museum was fully in place thanks to the generosity of the former president of Sears.

Most of the buildings put up for the Columbian Exposition were shoddily made because they were only meant to be temporary.  This was one of the few with a substantial substructure.  In what may be one of the city’s first facade-ectomies, the entire outside of the building was recreated in limestone as part of its conversion into a long-term museum.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that very often when I come here, there are people fishing the lagoon. At first it was just fathers and sons doing it for fun. Then as the years progressed it became people catching their dinner. And recently, there have been people loading up buckets with lots and lots of fish — enough to, say, supply a restaurant.

While there aren’t any signs posted, I suspect there is a limit to the amount of fish that one can consume from these waters and remain healthy.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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