Chicago's Navy Pier today
After the end of both wars, Navy Pier shifted visions several times before finally becoming the iconic landmark and attraction it’s known and loved as today.
After the end of WWII, the first Chicago campus of the University of Illinois opened on the Pier, helping provide education and opportunity to veterans taking advantage of the GI Bill. Over the years, Navy Pier has seen its share of good and bad times. It continued to be home to trade shows and exhibitions, and was even honored with a visit from Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. The Pier faced disheartening years in the 60s, when the relocation of the University and the decline in commercial shipping began to sink in. But in 1976, America hosted her Bicentennial celebration, and the Pier began to find new life.
The launch of ChicagoFest, a summer music festival hosted from 1978–82 helped bring national attention back to the Pier and by the early 90s, reconstruction was officially underway. In 1995, Navy Pier re-opened with the inclusion of a 146-foot tall Ferris wheel, as a nod to the very first Ferris wheel unveiled at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Today, Navy Pier is among the best-known destinations in the Midwest, drawing over nine million visitors each year. In 2011, the Centennial Vision was announced, transforming the space into a “Pierscape”; a modern re-imagining of Burnham’s original vision as a thriving civic and recreational space. Through Navy Pier’s long and noble history and into today, it continues to shine as an icon of Chicago and undying service to a nation.