Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Distance in the White City

The most striking features of The Devil in the White City were certainly the tiny details which Larson so carefully collected. One such particular was the fact that Burnham lived in a make-shift "shanty" in Jackson Park during the fair's construction. It was not possible for him to commute from his family home in Evanston. Although the disconnection between south side and north side continues to sometimes feel this extreme, it's obvious that we don't have communicate with loved ones in different parts of the city by letter, as Burnham did:

"You must not think this hurry of my life will last forever,' he wrote in one letter. 'I shall stop after the World's Fair. I have made up my mind to do this.' The exposition had become a 'hurricane' he said. 'To be done with this flurry is my strongest wish" (Larson p. 128).

It was obviously possible to get from Evanston to Hyde Park in 1892, in one chapter Burnham is up waiting for his son's to arrive by train, but the idea that the city was sprawling up its current size while communication and transportation raced to keep up is very interesting to me. It makes it easier to imagine how someone like Holmes operated in the relative anonymity that he did. You could get lost in very modern urban crowds, while worrying only about a letter from some concerned Wisconsin parents that would eventually tip of the police.

Long distance relationships from Hyde Park to Evanston raises interesting questions about the relative seclusion that different neighborhoods operated within-- it makes it clearer how allegiances, myths and stereotypes about different parts of the city were born. Living in apartments abutting one another, sitting next to each other on trains, standing in quiet elevators, It makes me wonder how distant we still are from each other.

No comments:

Post a Comment