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Archival Photographic Files, [apf digital item number, apf2-05124r], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
Archival Photographic Files, [apf digital item number, apf2-05121r], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
The Midway Gardens is a lost treasure in Chicago's long list of demolished buildings. The Midway Gardens was built in the prime of Frank Lloyd Wright's career. He was settled in at his Taliesin home with his mistress Mameh Cheney in Wisconsin, but commuted weekly to Chicago for work. The commission for the Midway Gardens came from Ed Waller, an old friend and client of Wright's. The concept was for a beer garden and concert hall for the upper middle class leisure goer. It was to be designed in the material of concrete, cast, with strong Asian influence. Frank Lloyd Wright collaborated with sculptor Alfonso Ianelli to magically bring the concrete to life. The famous sprite sculptures were designed for this work.
The Midway Gardens came to fantastical fruition in the summer of 1914, and opened to the public on July 27, 1914, while the complex was still partially under construction. It received outstanding praise from critic Harriet Monroe. However, for Wright, the glory of the Midway Gardens was short lived. Less than one month after the Midway Gardens opened, Wright received word of the Taliesin Tragedy while he was finishing up the Gardens, on August 14th, 1914.
The Midway Gardens was a popular attraction in its first several years. But by the 1920's, prohibition severely strained business. It changed ownership and names twice, the Edelweiss Gardens became the Midway Dancing Gardens, before it was demolished in 1929.
The story goes that the demolition company went bankrupt trying to dismantle the Midway Gardens and subsequently dumped a vast amount of Midway refuse into Lake Michigan. The Midway Gardens was located on the corner of Cottage Grove and 60th, named for the Midway Plaisance from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.
Archival Photographic Files, [apf digital item number, apf2-05125r], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
Cast concrete tile preserved from Midway Gardens
Dismembered head of Sprite sculpture