Archeologists dig up 1893 World’s Fair bones and fragments at Obama Presidential Center site

obama chicago fair
Louis Sullivan's Transportation Building from the 1893 World's Fair (Chicago Tribune archive photo)

Archaeologists digging on the site of what will become the Obama Presidential Center have discovered remnants of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition as part of the federal review of plans for the proposed complex.

However, while the discoveries from the old fair buildings are interesting, the Chicago Tribune reports officials believe the discoveries aren’t significant enough to significantly disrupt the project’s construction schedule.

The archeologists uncovered red fragments that might be from the multicolored Transportation Building by architect Louis Sullivan, as well as and shards of cups and saucers that bear the mark of Chase and Sanborn, the fair’s official coffee supplier.

They also also discovered animal bones, most of which they identified as waste associated with food eaten at the fair.

State officials who oversaw the archaeological survey say the artifacts don’t provide significant new knowledge about Jackson Park and therefore don’t merit listing on the National Register of Historic Places, The Tribune reported.

“People may be interested in those bits and pieces, but just because they’re these historical curiosities doesn’t make them eligible for the National Register,” Brad Koldehoff, chief archaeologist for the Illinois Department of Transportation, was quoted as saying.

If state historic preservation officials concur with the report’s recommendations, it will eliminate one regulatory hurdle for the Obama Foundation building the $500 million center.

IDOT completed the archaeological study on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration, the lead federal agency in the Obama center’s construction.

Chicago officials estimate the cost of taxpayer-funded roadwork and underpass construction for the center to be $175 million.

The Obama Foundation, which had been expected to seek approval from the Chicago Plan Commission in April, but now is likely to do so in May, wants to break ground on the center late this year and open the facility in 2021, The Tribune reported. There will be a museum tower, a forum building containing an auditorium and a third structure that may house a Chicago Public Library branch.


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