The ambitious lead architect and Director of Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition. Burnham is a skilled leader who assembles a team of elite architects and manages to get them to work together. He works tirelessly under pressure, and pulls off the creation of the White City in an impossibly short timeline. While he harbors insecurity over his rejections from Harvard and Yale, Burnham grows as a businessman and artist to become one of the most famous architects in America
A serial murderer who builds the World’s Fair Hotel. Holmes is a sociopath who does not feel any empathy. His only goal is to revel in power and possession, which he does by manipulating people through seduction and money. In copying human emotion perfectly, Holmes comes off as a caring, gentle, and trustworthy person, and fools almost everyone he meets. He uses his good looks to his advantage, and kills many people—usually young women—without any remorse.
Burnham’s architectural partner. Root is an artist at heart and complements Burnham in their firm. The public views Root as the artist driving the World’s Fair, and Burnham as the businessman. When Root dies early in the planning of the World’s Fair, Burnham is crushed.
A skilled landscape architect whom Burnham and Root hire to join their team creating the World’s Fair. Olmsted constantly battles between his artistic vision for the Fair and his failing mental and physical health. Despite being prone to severe depression and bedrest in his 70s, he is an extremely strong character, and his landscaping is one of the main highlights of the Fair. He gets agitated when people do not understand the ethereal nature of his long-term landscaping vision.
Olmsted’s protégé. Olmsted loves Codman because of his loyalty and genuine understanding of Olmsted’s taste and vision. Codman covers for Olmsted when he is sick, and while working on the Fair, dies of appendicitis at age 29.
Olmsted’s landscape superintendent. Ulrich is supposed to supervise the overall landscaping while Olmsted is away, but tries to be too involved and doesn’t delegate well. Olmsted ends up distrusting him to carry out his vision.
A talented painter and one of Burnham’s closest allies in planning the Fair. He is savvy and innovative, and Burnham puts him in charge of coming up with ways to boost attendance. Millet plans countless special days and events that ultimately get the Fair out of debt. He remains close friends with Burnham and dies onboard the Titanic.
Director of concessions on the Midway. A young entrepreneur from San Francisco, Bloom initially only wants to bring an Algerian Village to the Fair, but Commissioner De Young knows how business-savvy he is and convinces him to lead the Midway. Bloom has a way of creating profitable solutions to most problems, and later becomes a congressman.
The persistent engineer who designs the Ferris wheel.
The charismatic mayor of Chicago who is assassinated before the Fair’s Closing Ceremony.
A young Irish immigrant, the supporter and then assassinator of Harrison. Prendergast has a paranoid disorder, and his mental capacity devolves over time. He believes that Harrison owes him a job for his campaign support, and ends up shooting Harrison when he doesn’t offer the job.
An architectural designer who replaces Root.
Holmes’ second wife and mother of his child Lucy.
Holmes’ young, enthusiastic secretary and victim.
Holmes’ third wife whom he previously courted years ago. Desperate and completely trusting, she unwittingly gives Holmes her land inheritance. Holmes kills Minnie and her sister.
Minnie’s sister and one of Holmes’ victims. She is protective and suspicious of Holmes, but quickly warms up when he invites her over for the summer. He promises to take them to Europe before suffocating her in his vault.
Holmes’ assistant. He is loyal to and trusting of Holmes. Holmes kills him for life insurance, then kidnaps and kills his children.
Benjamin’s children and Holmes’ victims. They trust Holmes and believe they are going to visit their father in hiding, but Holmes leads them all over the country before killing them.
Director General of the National Commission. Davis is a bit bossy and pushy, and he often struggles with Burnham over who should control the artistic design of the interior exhibits. He also wants his political commission to control federal money.
Partner of Adler & Sullivan, secretary of architects, and designer of the Transportation Building. A pouty and arrogant man, he thinks of himself in lofty, artistic terms. He is talented but difficult to work with, and his firm fails after the Fair. After Burnham dies, Sullivan turns against him and puts down his work. He dies an alcoholic.
Charismatic New York politician and strong advocate for the Fair.
Designer of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, the largest building at the Fair.
Chairman of the architects who designs the Administration Building. Hunt is loud and commanding.
Entrepreneur and creator of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. When he is turned down for a space within the fairgrounds, he buys land outside it to do his show. He is very successful and profitable.
Articulator hired occasionally by Holmes. He begins as a machinist for Holmes, who then discovers Chappell can clean and reassemble skeletons to sell. Chappell is willfully ignorant and discreet.