by Joel S. Dryer
"In the spring of 1859 the Chicago Tribune announced people had cause for "pride - in our young city" striking down the thought that Chicago was "entirely devoid of all taste and culture in art." In The Daily Chicago Times the stir was well summarized:
Taken in itself, and located in Paris, London or Vienna, our first art exhibition would attract only a limited attention; in New York, Boston or Philadelphia, it could not fail to excite the interest and curiosity of the citizens; but placed in a western city which, twenty-five years ago was only an Indian trading post in Chicago, it justly becomes an object of wonder and gratification.
The event changing the cultural landscape was an exhibit that opened on 9 May 1859 at Burch's Building on the northeast corner of Wabash and Lake. It was the city's first fine art exhibition, a show of paintings, engravings, and sculpture borrowed from local art collections. It was a striking success in a town that only some twenty years earlier had incorporated and elected its first mayor. The collection of art brought over 12,000 people to Burch's in a city that had a population of a mere 110,000 who were generally naïve about art. Most importantly the show helped to popularize the collecting of fine art in Chicago."
Read the entire article at FindArticles - First Art Exhibition in Chicago, The
Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Spring 2006, by Dryer, Joel S
Side Notes of Interest:
The Burch's Building burned to the ground in 1868 during the Lake Street Fire.
According to the Chicago Tribune, January 29, 1868:
LAKE STREET IN FLAMES.
Two Destructive Conflagrations Last Evening. The Heaviest Fires on Record in this city. Wabash and Michigan Avenues and Lake Street Burning. Three Entire Business Blocks Destroyed. Twenty-Two Business Firms Burnt Out. The Whole City Lighted Up---An Immense Crowd Gathered. Scenes of Horor--Falling Walls--Explosions. Loss, Over Two Millions of Dollars-Insurance, $1,486,000. ORIGIN OF THE FIRE. ... BLOCK. SIMON & STRAUSS. MANNING BROS. & WEST. HAYWOOD, CORTLEDGE & HONORE. S. C. GRIGGS & Co. ... KELLOGG. VACANT. M'DOUGALL, NICHOLAS & CO. SCHOENFELD & CO. ... BROS. MESSRS. R. G. ... & CO. DANGER. A ... BURCH'S BUILDING OTHER STORMS ... RECAPITULATION. The Second Fire. MERRILL & HOPKINS. FRANKLIN BAKER. SEYMOUR, ... & CO. WHITNEY BROTHERS THE BUILDINGS. FOREMAN, HARRIS & CO. A CRASH. EXPLOSION. FITCH, WILLIAMS & CO., BURNHAMS & VAN SCHAACK. KEITH, WOOD & CO., ... HENDERSON & CO. BOARDING HOUSE. STEALING. VOLUNTEERS. Insurances. The Scene. BUILDINGS INJURED. REMOVING PROPERTY. FROZEN WATER. LACK OF WATER. A STEAMER
The Lake Street Fire was called “The Great Fire” by the Chicago Tribune on January 30, 1868. “The great conflagration of Tuesday ... which has shocked the entire community, and which will be remembered hereafter as an epoch in the city's history, will be worth all it has cost if it shall compel us to mend our system of constructing buildings.”
Painting: View of Cotopaxi, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church American, 1826-1900. Exhibited at the Chicago Exhibition of Fine Arts and later at the McVicker's Theater. Given to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1919.