The Devil in the White City attempts to contrast the glorious achievements of Burnham and Root transforming windswept swampland on the shores of Lake Michigan with the despicable activities of one of America's most vile serial killers. Both entities constructed edifices to exacting specifications: A fair to delight the public and establish Chicago as a world class city and a "murder palace" to satisfy murderous desires. The book shows the loss of America's innocence in both a good and bad way: America was seen as a viable competitor on the world stage and Chicago as a great city but its citizens realized that real evil existed in their midst.
The Columbian Exposition would celebrate America's 100th anniversary and hence establish America and Chicago's place on the world stage. As a World's Fair, the Exposition would both showcase and be attended by people from all over the world. Burnham and Root were chosen to bring the fair to life. Grand plans for marble buildings were soon demonstrated to be impossible due to time and financial restraints so special construction techniques were employed to assemble the required venues with an emphasis on appearance over durability. There was very little time to get the fairgrounds ready; in fact, many buildings still were under construction until the final weeks of the fair.
The construction of the required Exposition grounds and buildings provided an oasis of employment for thousands who would otherwise have been jobless due to the fact that America was in a depression. Knowing that the huge crowds would attract reprobate elements, a proactive police force was created that would become the model for police forces nationwide. Imagine the beauty of the city at night: White buildings illuminated with thousands of electric lights in an age when most of the world relied on gas or kerosene lanterns. Picture the wonder of the farmer and his family from the heartland watching the acts of Cossacks, ...
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