Indigo Country, White City

Yes, this place actually existed in Charleston, SC over 100 years ago! It was one of several “World’s Columbian expositions” – or world’s fairs – that occurred throughout the United States, the most famous of which was Chicago’s expo of 1893. Thanks to its larger-than-life Neoclassical exhibit spaces and abundant incandescent lighting, the Windy City’s version of the world’s fair became known as the “White City.” The 1901-1902 South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition met with less success than its predecessor in Chicago. As most any South Carolinian will tell you, what worked up north probably isn’t right for South Carolina.

Hampton Park’s “duck pond” was an artificial lagoon (pictured here) and is one of the few remnants of South Carolina’s exposition. The organizers of the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition had sought to position their state for a 20th-century economic revitalization.

The lasting legacy of Chicago’s exposition include the Ferris Wheel, alternating current, the 40-hour work week, and crime prevention; the White City was the first place in urban America where a married couple could safely enjoy a romantic stroll on the waterfront after dark – now a highlight of many Charleston getaways – thanks to patrolling policemen. Chicago had lived up to its big talk, for which it was tagged “the Windy City.”

South Carolina holds dear its impeccable manners, mustard-based barbecue sauce, shag, Gullah dialect, bow ties and seersucker, camp meeting, sweetgrass basket weaving, benne wafers, and pride in its flag. South Carolina is nationally renowned for the conservation of its dramatic landscapes, the preservation of its historic architecture, and the reinvigoration of its charming main streets.

South Carolinians know where they come from and who they are today. How will its people and places grow and advance while maintaining what makes them special? South Carolinians’ vision, leadership, responsibility, and courage will shape the state’s future. One thing is certain: South Carolina will continue to be unique. Nevertheless, wisdom from which South Carolina can benefit abounds throughout the country.

In the 1890s, the leaders of Chicago understood they could not set their city apart by duplicating what worked elsewhere. The previous world’s fair in Paris, France had succeeded with the Eiffel Tower, then the world’s tallest structure, as its centerpiece. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 featured a giant wheel that transported hundreds of people at a time in circular motion. The Ferris Wheel was unique, yet also a remarkable feat of civil engineering.

Will South Carolina yet fulfill its vision of a “White City?”

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