The Devil in White City

Parking Today’s Parking Industry Exhibition (PIE) is being held in Chicago next year and the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) International Conference is being held in Chicago next month. I just finished a fascinating true story about another Exhibition that took place in Chicago – the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition. The Devil in the White City is a non-fiction book written by Eric Larson in 2003 about Daniel Burnham, the chief architect behind the 1893 World’s Fair, and Dr. H.H. Holmes, one of the first documented serial killers  who lived in Chicago at the time of the 1893 World’s Fair.

Daniel Burnham, designer of Union Station in Washington DC and the Flatiron Building in New York City, was put in charge of designing and overseeing the World’s Fair which consisted of over 600 acres and 200 new buildings. Over 27 million people visited the fair during its six month run while the U.S. population stood at 65 million.

Cars were not in widespread use in 1893 but transportation played a huge role in the planning and development for the 1893 World’s Fair. Chicago created the “L” train line a year before the fair to transport the masses of visitors to the entrance of the World’s Fair. Unfortunately, the train made a stop directly in front of Dr. H.H. Holmes hotel, also known as the Murder Castle. Holmes designed and built a hotel with murder in mind for visitors of the World’s Fair. The hotel consisted of hidden passages, gas chambers and sound proof vaults among other eerie labyrinth constructions that Holmes used to murder his hotel guests.

Even with the disturbing chapters about the Dexter-like serial killer, this book was a fantastic read. Visit your local library and give it a shot. Besides, Leonardo DiCaprio just purchased the film rights to this book, so by reading it, you will have the chance to be one of those movie goers that pretentiously assert, “The book was so much better than the movie!”

-        Isaiah Mouw

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2 Responses to The Devil in White City

  1. John Hammerschlag says:

    Try Larson’s latest book, “In the Garden of the Beasts”. Although not about transportation, it’s the true story about William Dodd, a former Unversity of Chicago professor, who was the first U.S. ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, and his family, particularly his high flying daughter who mingled with a variety of those in power. Couldn’t put it down.

  2. Isaiah Mouw says:

    I most definitely will do. I have “In the Garden of the Beasts” and “Isaac’s Storm” on my list. I hope you get to check out “The Devil in the White City”.

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