The Devil in the White City

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Part II: An Awful Fight (Chapters 16-21)

Summary Part II: An Awful Fight (Chapters 16-21)

The architects unanimously decide to paint the buildings a solid white. Originally this job belonged to William Pretyman, a friend of Root’s, but he quits angrily when the architects make this decision without him. Burnham hires the New York painter Francis Millet to replace him. Millet develops a way to apply paint through a hose and nozzle, essentially the first spray paint.

Chicago’s drinking water is filthy. Burnham advertises piped spring water from the village of Waukesha. When a mineral springs company tries to lay pipe through the town, a mob of angry villagers resist. Burnham buys a spring in a town outside Waukesha, and nobody is the wiser.

On June 13th, a storm hits the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, collapsing 100,000 feet of lumber. Burnham pushes the builders to work harder and faster. Workers die. The congressional investigators see that discord between the Exposition Company and National Commission slows everything, and the executive committee names Burnham the director, finally giving him full control.

The Pittsburgh engineer brings detailed specifications to Burnham for his idea. The Ways and Means Committee grants a concession, but revokes it in the morning. The “monstrosity” has no precedent and seems too fragile. So, the engineer spends even more money on specifications.

Olmsted returns to Chicago to relieve a sick Codman. He finds his surface landscape damaged by construction, but the less apparent foundations are improving. To his relief, Burnham has opted for electric boats.

Francis J. Bellamy writes The Pledge of Allegiance for all schoolchildren to recite on Dedication Day.