Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ellsworth Brings Landscape Architect Olmstead to Chicago World's Fair

Some of you will have read Erik Larson's national bestseller, The Devil in the White City (2003), and are aware of the key role James W. Ellsworth played in convincing Frederick Law Olmstead to serve as landscape architect for the 1893 world's fair. Known as the World's Columbian Exposition, the fair was hosted in Chicago and construction of the exposition site focused the talents of America's most notable architects of the day, including Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Burnham was the exposition's principal director, and Ellsworth, a friend of Burnham's, was on the exposition's board of directors.

It was in that capacity as a board member that Ellsworth approached Olmstead and lobbied the famous landscape designer to join the effort to make the World's Columbian Exposition a spectacular achievement designed to showcase America's architectural and engineering prowess. According to Larson's account of Ellsworth's July 1890 meeting with Olmstead, "Ellsworth assured Olmstead that by agreeing to help, he would be joining his name to one of the greatest artistic undertakings of the century." For more on Ellsworth's involvement in the 1893 exposition, see pages 48-52 of The Devil in the White City.