The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed Americaby 

Erik Larson (Goodreads Author)

I enjoyed this book. This was a book with two parallel stories running simultaneously.

This first was about the city of Chicago during the worlds fair. It spoke of the architecture, design, and application to have the worlds fair in Chicago. Chicago was not ready for such an immense responsibility, but they set out to prove that they could do it. They hired a young man that came from California to supervise the project and get it going. There so many set back including multiple fires that kept this from happening. The timeline was getting shorter and shorter to opening day. Were they going to make it? There was two years to make this all happen.

There was a new wheel, it was called a Ferris wheel. It was supposed to the be latest and greatest and would bring people from all over. However there was a major recession brewing. Would this fair make it through the recession? Would they make all of the money back that was spent to build?

There were others that would capitalize on the fair and set up outside, charged less, and allowed people to do fun things as well. Would this harm the fair? Would it help the fair?

While this was happening, a man named HH Holmes moved to town. He appeared to be a rich man. He wanted to get involved in the fair. He was a pharmacist by trade and conned people into selling their businesses/services to him. He took over the the local pharmacy from a widow. He ran it well. While he was building this, he was building a castle across the street from the fair. Everyone was impressed. However Holmes was getting a reputation of stiffing people out of money by telling them their work was shoddy, or by buying materials on credit that he never intended to pay. This went on for awhile. As it stood, when you have contractors that you do not pay, they leave. New ones come on board. This worked well for him, as he had them building unorthodox properties onsite. He would have excuses, and no one questioned him. If they did, they seemed to leave town…or did they?

He was a ladies man. He would get women to come work for him that would come to see the fair. They had hoped for this new life they were being promised. This would have been either a career with him, or perhaps a love interest. Soon they all started leaving him…or did they?

I found all of the history in this book fascinating. There are maps that you can view online of that area at that time. There are also pictures of the castle available, some are just recreations of what they think they might have looked like.

Some of the architecture from that era are gorgeous. No expense was spared. After all, Chicago was trying to get themselves on the map. Sadly, the majority of the fair fell into disrepair after being abandoned, other sections had burned. There is not much left of the original worlds fair structures. There are maps available online, if interested.

I live around Spokane, Washington. We had the worlds fair here in 1974. It was a huge deal. Our area from our fair was preserved and turned into a park that is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Over the years, it was remodeled to keep up with changing trends or coding changes. It is really stunning. If interested, you can look up Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington. There is some great history there, as well.

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