It’s a place chocked full of history, colors, life, activity, food, and drinks. It’s truly a place to see, walk and smell.
The Navy Pier sits on Lake Michigan’s southwestern shore and has lived several lives, so to speak. It’s come full circle in that it still serves its original intent — a place for the public to gather for entertainment — after once falling into disuse.
Built in 1914 and opened to the public in 1916, the pier originally served as a place for deliveries and shipments as well as a public gathering site. At the time, it was the largest pier in the world and spanned a little more than one-half mile. It was visited annually by millions during its early existence, and in 1933, served as the location for the World’s Fair.
By 1941, though, the Pier was closed to the public and converted into a naval education and training center where it docked the USS Wolverine and the USS Sable as training carriers for the Navy. The pier also served as training classrooms and housing for servicemen stationed there. It’s during this phase of the pier’s life that it earned its well-known name.
By 1946, with the war over, the Navy Pier was turned back over to the city of Chicago.
From 1946 to 1965 the pier was used as classrooms for the University of Illinois. During this time it was also used for public events but once the University moved off the pier, it was essentially abandoned.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that the Pier took on the life we know of today.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority took control of the pier in 1989 and after about $200 million worth of renovation, it reopened.
Today the Navy Pier boasts a Ferris Wheel, an IMAX Theater, Chicago’s Children Museum, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It has become a must see on the “to-do” lists of visitors worldwide.