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The Other White City

The entrance at the White City amusement park on south 63rd Street in Chicago.
Published by Curt Teich & Co., Inc., of Chicago.

The name “White City” often confuses people. The “White City” wasn’t just a nickname used to describe the beautiful neoclassical structures at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, it was also the name of a popular amusement park that opened up in Chicago about a decade later.

The amusement park, which tried to recapture the same scenic elements as the Columbian Exposition, opened in 1905 and was built on the site of a former cornfield at 63rd Street and South Parkway (now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive). While there was no admission to get into the White City, people purchased tickets for special features such as the circus show or the arcade. The park also had a ballroom, roller rink, beer garden and boardwalk, among other attractions.

A view of the grounds and buildings at White City.
Publisher is unknown.
The park was probably best known for its giant electric tower of lights that could be seen from 15 miles away.

The amusement park closed in 1933 after going bankrupt, but the roller rink remained open at the site until 1949. Over the years, the White City came across criticism from African-Americans, who were not allowed to enter the amusement park. The roller rink also later became a site for demonstrations–including a lawsuit for discrimination against African-Americans–and it closed down in 1949. Housing was built at the site in the 1950s.

To this day, many people–especially those who like purchasing collectibles such as postcards – make the mistake of thinking that images of the amusement park are actually from the Columbian Exposition. Postcards from the Exposition are particularly valuable because they were the first in the United States to display images on the front. The postcards made prior to the 1893 World’s Fair were usually blank on both sides and only meant for writing purposes. As a result, many collectors end up believing that their postcards of the White City amusement park are more valuable than they actually are.

The postcards displayed in this blog show several images of the White City amusement park. Even though these postcards are not as valuable as those from the Columbian Exposition, they still depict an important, though lesser-known, part of Chicago history.

The temple of music, animal circus and Jamestown flood at White City.
Publisher is unknown. 

The electric tower at White City.
Published by V.O. Hammon Publishing Co. of Chicago.


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