How easy it was to disappear. A thousand trains a day entered or left Chicago. Many of these trains brought single young women who had never seen a city but now hoped to make one of the biggest and toughest their home.
So far the year had been a fine one. Chicago’s population had toppled one million for the first time, making the city the second most populous in the nation after New York.
Though Chicago was rapidly achieving recognition as an industrial and mercantile dynamo, its leading men felt keenly the slander from New York that their city had few cultural assets.
He had dark hair and striking blue eyes, once likened to the eyes of a Mesmerist. “The eyes are very big and wide open,” a physician named John L. Capen later observed. “They are blue. Great murderers, like great men in other walks of activity, have blue eyes.”
That Prendergast was a troubled young man was clear; that he might be dangerous seemed impossible. To anyone who met him, he appeared to be just another poor soul crushed by the din and filth of Chicago.
There were rules about courtship. Although no one set them down on paper, every young woman knew them and knew instantly when they were being broken. Holmes broke them all … it frightened [Myrta], but she found quickly that she liked the heat and the risk.
The hair was sold for wigs, the clothing given to settlement houses. Like the Union Stock Yards, Chicago wasted nothing.
The dome was too much — not too tall to be built, simply too proud for its context. It would diminish Hunt’s building and in so doing diminish Hunt and disrupt the harmony of the other structures on the Grand Court.
At Jackson Park, aggravation was endemic. Simple matters, Burnham found, often became imbroglios. Even Olmsted had become an irritant. He was brilliant and charming, but once fixed on a thing, he was as unyielding as a slab of Joliet limestone.
Though sexual liaisons were common, society tolerated them only as long as their details remained secret. Packinghouse princes ran off with parlormaids and bank presidents seduced typewriters; when necessary, their attorneys arranged quiet solo voyages to Europe to the surgical suites of discreet but capable doctors. A public pregnancy without marriage meant disgrace and destitution. Holmes possessed Julia now as fully as if she were an antebellum slave, and he reveled in his possession.
If an engineer capable of besting Eiffel did not step forward soon, Burnham knew, there simply would not be enough time left to build anything worthy of the fair. Somehow [Burnham] needed to rouse the engineers of America.
Unlike the majority of the audience, Monroe believed the poem to be rather a brilliant work, so much so that she had hired a printer to produce five thousand copies for sale to the public. She sold few and attributed the debacle to America’s fading love of poetry. That winter she burned the excess copies for fuel.
As best anyone could tell, the owner also was a forgiving soul. [Holmes] did not seem at all concerned when now and then a guest checked out without advance notice, leaving her bills unpaid. That he often smelled vaguely of chemicals — that in fact the building as a whole often had a medicinal odor — bothered no one. He was, after all, a physician, and his building had a pharmacy on the ground floor.
Visitors wore their best clothes, as if going to church, and were surprisingly well behaved. In six months of the fair the Columbian Guard made only 2,929 arrests.
The exposition was Chicago’s great pride. Thanks mainly to Daniel Burnham the city had proved it could accomplish something marvelous against obstacles that by any measure should have humbled the builders.
Holmes was such a charming man. And now that Anna knew him, she saw that he really was quite handsome. When his marvelous blue eyes caught hers, they seemed to warm her entire body. Minnie had done well indeed.
The panic came, as it always did. Holmes imagined Anna crumpled in a corner. If he chose, he could rush to the door, throw it open, hold her in his arms, and weep with her at the tragedy just barely averted. He could do it at the last minute, in the last few seconds. He could do that.
[Pendergast] knew that revolvers of this particular model had a penchant for accidental discharge when bumped or dropped, so he loaded it with only five cartridges and kept the empty chamber under the hummer.
Why had Holmes gone to the trouble and expense of moving the children from city to city, hotel to hotel, if only to kill them? Why had he bought each of them a crystal pen and taken them to the zoo in Cincinnati …?
The thing editors could not understand was how Holmes had been able to escape serious investigations by the Chicago police. The Chicago Inter Ocean said, “It is humiliating to think that had it not been for the exertions of the insurance companies which Holmes swindled, or attempted to swindle, he might yet be at large, preying upon society, so well did he cover up the traces of his crime.”
As Wright’s academic star rose, so too did Sullivan’s. Burnham’s fell from the sky. It became re rigueur among architecture critics and historians to argue that Burnham in his insecurity and slavish devotion to the classical yearnings of the eastern architects had indeed killed American architecture. But that view was too simplistic, as some architecture historians and critics have more recently acknowledged. The fair awakened America to beauty and as such was a necessary passage that laid the foundation for men like Frank Lloyd Wright …
The fair’s greatest impact lay in how it changed the way Americans perceived their cities and their architects. It primed the whole of America — not just a few rich architectural patrons — to think of cities in a way they never had before.