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Beacon of Progress

Major collection: Architecture & Design
Named collection: Désiré Despradelle Collection
Object type: drawing
Maker: Despradelle, Constant Désiré
Date made: 1893 - 1900
Materials: graphite; ink; watercolor; paper
Site location: Chicago, Illinois
Measurements: 50 1/2 in x 20 1/2 in; 53 in x 23 in
Plan type/view: site plan

Site plan showing obelisk, stairs, and jetties and breakwater extending into lake.

Despradelle envisioned Chicago as the site for the Beacon because of the importance of the Columbian Exposition in its conception. Recognizing that the Exposition buildings would be razed after the fair closed, Despradelle proposed his monument to memorialize the site. The location on Lake Michigan on the city's south side allowed for an esplanade and marina, with long jetties into the lake that could accommodate thousands of spectators for regattas and other events. Eventually, the Chicago site was rejected and Despradelle took his ambitious project to other cities. For New York, he reportedly suggested that his tower, with nearly 1500 interior rooms, could serve as a new city hall. For Washington, D.C., he proposed to adapt the tower as a monument to the States. Everywhere the Beacon was praised as visionary but implausible. "It will continue to exist in the world of dreams," one critic wrote in 1902.

Related People

thumbnail Despradelle, Constant Désiré

Related Sites

thumbnail Beacon of Progress