Photos: We Hope The Set Of 'Devil In The White City' Looks As Good As The Real Thing

By Emma G. Gallegos in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 14, 2015 4:20PM

With all due respect to Martin Scorsese's directing talents and Leonardo DiCaprio's acting chops, the most exciting thing about their upcoming collaboration The Devil In The White City will probably be the set design. DiCaprio will star as a prolific serial killer who conducts his ghastly business against the backdrop of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

A lot was riding on the 1893 World's Fair, and the designers rose to the challenge. Earlier that decade, Chicago had just pulled ahead of Philly to become the country's official second city, and this was its big chance to show off how far Chicago had come as a city, especially since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The United States was eager to prove that they still had it after the French unveiled a pretty cool tower in 1889. Frederick Law Olmsted, the guy who designed Central Park (and Riverside's parks, my grandma liked to remind me), was in charge of designing the fair's White City along with architect Daniel Burnham.

They pulled it off. The fair was 600 acres and a fantastic creation. Its pièce de résistance was the White City, full of grand (though temporary) buildings in the neoclassical style. They were painted a soft white that seemed to glow in the sun by day and the spotlight by night. Both "Wizard of Oz" author L. Frank Baum and illustrator W. W. Denslow attended the fair (along with almost 26 million other visitors), and it is believed that the White City might have offered inspiration for The Emerald City.

What is clear is that the fair's layout, design and architecture had a lasting effect on the way we think about cities. The Columbian Exposition showed that cities could be orderly, beautiful, harmonious and even clean places, not just a place to cram together as many disease-stricken, overcrowded tenements as possible. Of course the fact that there was a serial killer doing his dirty deeds against this backdrop casts a shadow on the White City.

We've assembled some of the coolest photos from the event just to whet your appetite for the film, courtesy of The Field Museum. This set of photos includes the famed White City, along with representations from forty-six countries and all the states (and a highly questionable representation of native people to commemorate Columbus' "discovery"). It was a big deal for the city and on Chicago Day, you can see some of the 751,026 people who made it out to the event. Hopefully, the set design is even a fraction as cool as the real thing.