AKA: World's Columbian Exposition, California Building, Chicago, IL

Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - exposition buildings

Designers: Brown, A. Page, Architect (firm); Arthur Page Brown (architect)

Dates: constructed 1892-1893

2 stories

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Stony Island Avenue
Hyde Park, Chicago, IL 60637

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A. Page Brown's California Building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago was one of the earliest designs in what became known as the Mission Revival Style. This style came about as California was gaining economic strength and had begun to self-consciously review its architectural past, searching for appropriate models from which to develop an indigenous regional style. By the 1870s and 1880s, tourists to California had begun to focus on the state's Franciscan missions, which by that time had fallen into general decay. The 1876 Centennial Exposition spurred Americans to research their past, in order to isolate truly essential American cultural expressions. In a pluralistic, ethnically hetereogenous country this effort at crystallizing an American architecture baffled many; in California, the missions' Hispanic heritage was conveniently overlooked, as Anglo architects, like Brown, adopted a melange of Mission motifs--red tile roofs, domed bell towers, churrigueresque stars, scalloped parapeted gables, and stucco walls-- to represent an emerging Californian identity. The Mission Revival became dismissed as simplistic by academically trained architects of the 1910s, but for over 20 years (1893-1917), this loose style was replicated for public buildings (particularly schools), commercial blocks and single-family residences.

Building History

A notice in the San Francisco architectural journal, The California Architect and Building News, published a basic program for the California Pavilion in its 01/20/1892 issue: “The style is to be of the Mission and Moorish type, covering a ground area of from 60,000 to 65,000 feat, with a gallery floor space of two-thirds the same area, and the interior must be so provided as to easily arranged in departments, with offices, committee and assembly rooms, cafe, kitchen and lavatories. An interior court is to be provided for semi-tropical plants around which arcades will be constructed.” (See "The California State Building for the World’s Fair," California Architect and Building News, vol. XIII, no. 1, 01/20/1892, p. 2.)

Appletons' General Guide to the United States and Canada, (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1893), had a large section detailing the design of the World's Columbian Exposition. It stated of A. Page Brown's Columbian Exposition: "The architecture of this structure is in the style of the old California Missions. P. Brown [sic], of San Francisco, was the architect and the cost was $75,000. State appropriation, $300,000. (See Appletons' General Guide to the United States and Canada, (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1893), p. 595.)

Building Notes

Robert Jay, in his book, The Architecture of Charles W. Dickey, wrote of the California Pavilion at the Columbian Exposition: "In 1892, the Calfiornia commission sponsored a competition to design a state building for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The commission specifically stipulated that competitors should prepare their proposals in a Moorish and Mission style. A. Page Brown, the winner of the competition, designed a building that was of truly monumental proportions; at 144 by 435 feet, it was second in size only to Illinois' among the buildings representing individual states. Although Brown took many liberties with the austere style of the early Franciscan missionaries, his California Building was nonetheless heralded as indicating a new and promising direction in West Coast architecture." (See Robrt Jay, The Architecture of Charles W. Dickey, [Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1992], p. 82.)

The California Building was located on the Columbian Exposition's northwest border, close to Stony Island Avenue, directly west of the North Pond.

PCAD id: 11082