A Symbol

In 1893, the Midway Plaisance played host to the World’s Columbian Exposition, a celebration of 400 years of progress in the New World, a tribute to the city of Chicago’s resurrection after the Great Chicago Fire, and an unveiling of technologies, products, and ideas that would go on to change the world.

The Midway Plaisance, 1893

Yet today, the Midway lies fallow. Ironically, the very spot on which the foundations of 20th century urban design were laid is now an empty (save for a skating rink, a statue, and now some giant lightsabers) strip of grass and pavement in the midst of one of the world’s great cities. If the World’s Columbian Exposition was a symbol of American—and Chicagoan—success, then the Midway today is as powerful a symbol of American—and Chicagoan—failure. It has become a mausoleum for our erstwhile dreams, an old thing to be appreciated rather than experienced.

The Midway Plaisance, Today

But it doesn’t need to be this way. Today’s world faces different challenges from those of 1893. The American dream, in the form that developed in the decades following the World’s Columbian Exposition, is no longer tenable. Our lifestyles, which have become so dependent on fossil fuels, must adapt. And in our quest for innovation, the Midway Plaisance can once again play a starring role.

Midway Village Flag

This flag represents what the Midway Plaisaince could be. It is based off the flag of Chicago, the third star of which represents the World’s Columbian Exposition, one of the four defining historical events in Chicago’s history. In the Chicago flag, the white field and light blue stripes represent the areas and waterways of the city. Here, they represent the Midway Plaisance. Out of the legacy of the World’s Columbian Exposition emanate small streets. By transforming the Midway into a small streets village, we can make it as much of a symbol of success to the 21st century as it was to the 20th. We must let the Midway bloom.

About Evan Jenkins

I am an algorithmic trader and occasional writer living in Hyde Park, Chicago. I recently received my PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago.
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