Grab a blanket, chair, pack a picnic and head to Navy Pier. A 75-minute mash-up of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters and celebrated plays returns to Navy Pier.
At each Shakespeare performance around the city a specially equipped truck rolls into the park, a stage unfolds, and a company of professional actors shares Shakespeare’s jubilant, music-infused romantic comedy with families and neighbors of all ages.
The Comedy of Errors
The story unfolds when Antipholus and his lifelong servant Dromio find themselves in Ephesus as they search the world over for a twin, lost in infancy. Everywhere they go in this foreign land, complete strangers insist that they’re best of friends. Is everyone here quite mad? Mistaken identities abound, as one bewildering day in Ephesus makes for hilarious complications—and a bewitching theatrical experience.
Navy Pier History
Daniel Burnham creates the “Master Plan of Chicago” which originally envisioned five piers. Eventually, only one 1.5 mile long recreational pier with freight and passenger ship docking facilities was commissioned to be built near the mouth of the Chicago River.
Construction begins under the direction of the nationally known architect Charles Sumner Frost. Completed in two years, construction of the Pier costs $4.5 million.
Municipal Pier opens to the public. It is the only pier to combine the business of shipping with the pleasure of public entertainment.
When the U.S. enters World War I, the Pier houses several regiments of soldiers, Red Cross and Home Defense units as well as a barracks for recruits.
The Pier boasts its own streetcar line, theater, restaurants and an emergency hospital.
The Pier enters its “golden age” of recreational and cultural activity as Chicago Mayor William H. Thompson’s “Pageants of Progress” draw nearly a million visitors during 15 days of events.
The Chicago Federation of Labor establishes its pioneer radio station and transmission for WCFL, “the voice of labor,” in the north tower.
Municipal Pier is officially renamed Navy Pier as a tribute to Navy personnel who served during World War I.
The Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression, as well as the increased use of automobiles resulted in the decline of freight and passenger ship activity. During the 1930’s, the Pier housed various New Deal agencies.
Navy Pier’s freight and passenger traffic declines with the onset of the Great Depression, though cultural and recreational use continues.
Century of Progress Exposition (World’s Fair) on the lakefront draws 1,500 conventions and 1.5 million visitors.
Pilot training begins at Navy Pier. 15,000 pilots were qualified for military service, including George H.W. Bush, the future President of the United States. As many as 200 WWII planes still rest at the bottom of Lake Michigan as a result of accidents during training.
The Navy operated various training programs at Navy Pier throughout the war. By the time training ceased in July 1946, some sixty thousand people—including sailors from Great Britain, Canada, Brazil and Peru—were trained at Navy Pier.
The Navy moves out and the University of Illinois moves in as a two-year undergraduate branch campus that remains in existence until 1965. The Navy’s main mess hall becomes a giant library considered “the largest reading room” in Illinois.
The Pier handles 12-16 huge trade shows/exhibits and social events annually. Until McCormick Place opens in 1960, all trade shows in Chicago are held either on Navy Pier or at the Union Stockyards Amphitheater.
The Pier was widened by 100 feet with the construction of the South Dock. At its peak in 1964, Navy Pier handled 250 overseas vessels annually and was one of the greatest inland ports in the world.
The city’s first Holiday Folk Fest is held at the Pier, featuring food and products from countries represented by Chicago’s many ethnic groups.
The University of Illinois moves from Navy Pier to its new Circle Campus, just west of the city.
Fire destroyed the original McCormick Place. Navy Pier helped keep many conventions and trade shows in Chicago for the four years it took to rebuild McCormick Place.
After McCormick Place re-opened, Navy Pier falls into disuse.
The spectacular Grand Ballroom undergoes a renovation as part of the city’s observance of the country’s Bicentennial Celebration.
City Hall designated Navy Pier as a Chicago Landmark.
Navy Pier hosts ChicagoFest, drawing millions of visitors with music, food and entertainment.
Navy Pier abandoned and left to deteriorate into state of disrepair.
The Illinois General Assembly created the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) to manage and operate both McCormick Place and Navy Pier. The Authority moved swiftly to redesign and rehabilitate Navy Pier.
As part of the $150 million Navy Pier redevelopment project, improvements are made to nearly every aspect of the Pier. The 1,500-seat outdoor Skyline Stage opens to the public.
The newly renovated Navy Pier re-opened, featuring a mix of year-round entertainment, shops, restaurants, attractions and exhibition facilities.
Navy Pier hosts the City of Chicago’s first-ever Tall Ships festival.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater opens.
The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows opens. This permanent display of 150 stained glass windows is housed in an 800-ft.-long series of galleries along the lower level terraces of Festival Hall. 2015 This has been moved and reduced to a dozen windows.
MPEA Trustee changes governance structure. This change shields Navy Pier’s finances and governance from public access and scrutiny. Despite protests from media and other public watch dog groups the Pier Authority now operates in secrecy.
NPI unveils The Centennial Vision, a new redevelopment framework that reimagines Navy Pier.
Construction continues on the Centennial Plan.