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Navy Pier is a   long pier on the Chicagomarker shoreline of Lake Michiganmarker. It is located in the Streetervillemarker neighborhood of the Near North Sidemarker community area. The pier was built in 1916 at a cost of $4.5 million, equivalent to $  today. It was a part of the Plan of Chicago developed by architect and city planner Daniel Burnham and his associates. As Municipal Pier #2 (Municipal Pier #1 was never built), Navy Pier was planned and built to serve as a mixed-purpose piece of public infrastructure. Its primary purpose was as a cargo facility for lake freighters, and warehouses were built up and down the pier. However, the pier was also designed to provide docking space for passenger excursion steamers, and in the pre-air conditioning era parts of the pier, especially its outermost tip, were designed to serve as cool places for public gathering and entertainment. The pier even had its own streetcar. Today, Navy Pier is Chicago's number one tourist attraction.


Construction of Navy Pier began in May 1914 and the Pier opened to the public in 1916. At that time it was the largest known Pier in the world. The Pier was built both to handle shipping and as an entertainment site.

First Use: Pier

During construction, 1915.
Chicago Daily News photo.
Even as Chicago Municipal Pier was being built, the invention of mass-produced cars and trucks was beginning to wreak havoc on the package freight and passenger steamboat industries of Lake Michiganmarker. The pier proved to be much more successful as a public gathering place. By the late 1930s, the pier was described as a summer playground with recreational facilities that included picnicking areas, dining pavilions, a dance hall, auditorium, and children's playground. During the 1950s, it is estimated that an average of 3.2 million visitors frequented the pier annually, with peak attendance for the "Pageant of Progress". This decade is sometimes called the pier's "Golden Age".

The use of the pier for serious marine purposes reached a temporary peak during World War II, when the city leased the pier to the U.S. Navy. The Navy's air group training arm made the pier a quay for a pair of converted flattops, the U.S.S. Wolverine and the USS Sable , which were used as freshwater trainee carriers. At this time, 60,000 sailors as well as 15,000 pilots including future President George H. W. Bush, used this area for training. In honor of this service, Chicago Municipal Pier's name was changed to Navy Pier.

Second Use: College Classroom

With the war over, Navy Pier went to the University of Illinois, which used the facility beginning in 1946 for a two-year undergraduate program to educate returning veterans. During its University of Illinois days, Navy Pier was also the site of a string of public events. The International Exhibitions of the early 1960s drew attractions from around the world, including circus and folkloric dance acts, arts and crafts, and international cuisine. In 1965, the University moved to the Chicago Circlemarker campus, and the pier again fell into disuse.

Third Use: Public Gathering Place

From 1965–1989, Navy Pier was considered an underutilized eyesore. No government agency in or around Chicago wanted to invest money in it. Many advocates, inspired by the Plan of Chicago and the pier's successful use as a public gathering place in the 1920s, called for its reconstruction.

In 1976, Navy Pier began its third life as an area for public exhibits, when the East Buildings (furthest into Lake Michigan) were opened as exhibition halls. Special events including music and arts festivals began to draw crowds to the pier despite its aging infrastructure.
Navy Pier from the John Hancock Building

From 1979 to 1987, a submarine, the USS Silversides, was docked at Navy Pier.

In 1989, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority took control over the pier. Major renovation and construction followed in the 1990s at a cost of US$200 million. As rebuilt in the 1990s, the pier's layout included fast-food kiosks, shops, a ballroom, a concert stage, and convention exhibition halls.

Centerpiece attractions include a -tall Ferris wheel, an IMAX theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Theatermarker, Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, the Chicago Children's Museum, the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, and at the entrance to Navy Pier is a statue of Oak Parkmarker comedian Bob Newhart, sponsored by the TV Land network.

The pier now features a large front lawn showcasing numerous larger-than-life public art sculptures and an interactive animated fountain created by WET (of Fountains of Bellagio fame). The pier continues to be used as an embarkation point for tour and excursion boats and is a popular place to watch lakefront events, including the annual Air and Water airshow and the parade of lighted and decorated boats during Chicago's Venetian Night festival.

The pier and its grounds encompass more than of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants and other shore entertainment. Navy Pier contains 170,000 total square feet of exhibition space, of reception space and of meeting room space.


Navy Pier attractions include sightseeing tours from companies such as Seadog I, II, IV, and Extreme, Shoreline Sightseeing cruises and Water Taxi service, and the Tall Ship Windy. There are also dinner cruises by the Spirit of Chicago, The Odyssey, and the Mystic Blue Cruise line. Other attractions include rides like the Ferris Wheel along with many seasonal festivals for Halloween and Christmas. The pier has fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday nights during the summer and Friday and Saturday nights during the fall. The popular Strictly Sail boat show and Chicago Flower and Garden Show are held at the Pier as well as many other fairs and expositions throughout the year. Also apart of Navy Pier is the Children's Museum with many different exhibits and activites for both children and adults to enjoy while visiting the museum. There is also an IMAX theater inside of the Pier to enjoy movies with the family while enjoying a day out in the lakefornt.

Future Plans

Navy Pier logo as of 2008.
On January 13, 2006, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority released plans for a major renovation of the pier which would include a monorail, a spokeless Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, floating hotel, and an water park with a Great Lakesmarker theme. The plan would include nearly double the current parking and a replacement theater with a greater capacity. At the time of the announcement, a price tag of $2 billion was announced. No concrete progress has been made on those proposals. The financial condition of the Pier has suffered with the recession. The Authority is again working with consultants on a plan for improvements, as well as looking for an outside company to build and operate a larger replacement for the current Ferris Wheel.


Image:Navy Pier.jpg|Navy Pier as seen from the shoreImage:Downtown Chicago Illinois Nov05 img 2612.jpg|Navy Pier as seen from the John Hancock CenterImage:NavyPierFerrisWheelAug2004.jpg|The Ferris wheel at Navy PierImage:P9080128.JPG|Image taken from Ferris wheelImage:Navy Pier 2.jpg|Navy Pier as seen from a sight-seeing boatImage:Navy Pier (USGS).png|Navy Pier from aboveImage:Chicago navy pier lake guardian.jpg|Navy Pier from the Lake GuardianImage:DigitalUrbanFlag1280sm.jpg|Panorama image of Navy PierImage:Navypierfromsouth.JPG|Navy Pier as seen from the convergence of the Chicago River and Lake MichiganImage:Navypierwalkingeast.JPG|A view walking in an easterly direction on the south side of Navy pierImage:Giant_Wheel_Navy_Pier_Chicago.jpg| Giant Wheel of Navy PierImage:Navy_Pier_Carousel.jpg| Carousel, one of many amusement options at Navy PierImage:Navypier.jpg|Another attraction at Navy PierImage:NavyPierAeroBalloon2009.jpg|AeroBalloon ride at Navy Pier



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