Navy Pier is located on the lakefront of Lake Michigan. It combines the shipping business with recreational and entertainment activities and encompasses more than 50 acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants and other entertainment.
The Pier opened to the public in 1916. It was a great success because it incorporated business with recreation. Also, it was easily accessible to the public enabling people to flock to the area.
WORLD WAR I AND AFTER
During World War I, the Navy Pier continued to be a popular destination spot and the city helped its accessibility by adding its own streetcar, theater and restaurants. However, during World War I the pier also functioned as a military information center by housing the Red Cross, Home Defenses and other military units.
The Navy Pier hosted the “Pageant of Progress” during which the pier had more than a million visitors within a few days. The 20’s were considered the pier’s “Golden Age” due to the high attendance. It is estimated that 3.2 million visitors frequented the pier annually.
Throughout the Depression, the pier was still popular, but lighter freight and passenger traffic was experienced as result of the poor economic times. The success of the pier continued through the start of World War II.
WORLD WAR II
The city leased the pier to the Navy during World War II. At this time, 60,000 soldiers as well as 15,000 pilots used this area for training. It was not available for public use.
POST WORLD WAR II
The University of Illinois established a two-year branch campus at the pier just after the end of World War II. The great public gathering place the pier used to function as had changed its identity and function.
The Navy Pier fell into disuse after the University of Illinois was not using the facilities anymore.
REVITALIZATION AND REDEVELOPMENT
In 1989, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority obtained ownership of the pier and quickly acted to redesign the Navy Pier into one of the country most unique recreation and exposition facility. One million people visit per month and it is considered Chicago’s most popular year-round destination.