Chicago History in Photographs

I must see this exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, it sounds fascinating. Nothing seems to be available digitally, at least yet, the print edition of this Tribune article had a photograph of the Chicago River at Addison – a single structure, no bridge, lots of empty land. Hard to imagine in the context of what exists there now.

When author Michael Williams got permission 10 years ago to search a little-known photo archive at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, he was on a hunt for old pictures of the Rogers Park neighborhood.

What he found made him feel like Indiana Jones stumbling upon a great lost treasure.

It was a collection of 25,000 6-by-8-inch glass plate negatives that district photographers made while documenting a project that began in 1892 to reverse the flow of the Chicago River.

Among the negatives are thousands of rarely seen images of Chicago’s downtown and city and suburban riverfront scenes at the turn of the last century, as well as rural, horse-and-buggy Illinois vistas.

A taste of what Williams and his business partner, author Richard Cahan, culled from the archive is on display through March 13 in “The Lost Panoramas” exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. They plan to publish a book of the images next year.

“The collection is so large and so broad that any number of groups could go into it and come out with unique books and texts on architecture, city infrastructure, waterways and scenes totally unfamiliar to us now,” Williams said. “The city has been remade a couple of times since these pictures were taken.”

(click to continue reading Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum exhibit gives peek at century-old vistas of city, suburbs and downstate –


Author Richard Cahan gives us recently discovered plate images from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Archives and unveils a forgotten world of turn of the century Chicago and Illinois landscapes. Originally commissioned by the State of Illinois to document land development, these images reveal a changing world where open lands and waterways are molded and tamed into the modern urban environment that we know today.

(click to continue reading The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum :: Lost Panoramas.)

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