Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago

Places associated with Swami Vivekananda

The Columbian Exposition

Columbian Exposition

The World's Columbian Exposition, 1893

"The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western disciples" briefly describes Swami Vivekananda's observations reactions at the fair: 'He was struck with amazement at the wonders he saw. Here all the latest products of inventive and artistic minds of the entire world had been brought to a focus, for examination and admiration. He visited the various exposition palaces, marveling at the array of machinery, at the arts and products of many lands, and, at the energy and practical acumen of the human mind as manifested by the exhibits.' Chicago had put its best foot forward to welcome Swami Vivekananda in its own inimitable style.

The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Ave.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

Swamiji's most famous discourse ‘In Response to the Welcome Address’ was delivered at the Hall of Columbus at the Art Institute. He spoke several times at the Art Insitute. He attended Charles Bonney's reception here and also led the conference at the Scientific Session of the Parliament. Many additions to the original Art Institute have been constructed over the years, and the interior has been considerably modified. The Hall of Columbus is no longer there. Fullerton Hall now occupies the place where the speaker's platform and a part of the gallery were located.

Midway Plaisance, between Ellis and University Avenues

Midway PlaisanceFerris Wheel

Midway Plaisance and Ferris Wheel

Swamiji must have visited the Midway several times; either to talk to an Indian finger nail artist, or to take a spin on the Ferris Wheel or to visit the 'East India Bazaar.' The Midway Plaisance, an area surrounded by Stony Island Avenue on the east, Cottage Grove Avenue on the west, and 59th and 60th streets on the north and south respectively, offered fairgoers a chance to amuse themselves and an opportunity to see how the people in other parts of the world lived . It was essentially a 'Bazaar of all nations', and 'the exposition's commercially run entertainment strip'. The Ferris Wheel was a superb engineering feat and could carry more than 2,000 people at one time. The world's first Ferris Wheel was erected at the center of the Midway. Built on speculation by George W. Ferris, a bridge builder from Pittsburgh, the ride was the fair's most prominent engineering marvel. The wheel rose to 264 feet, surpassing the Eiffel Tower, and offering breathtaking views of the fair and the city.

The Women's Building, Jackson Park

Women's building

Women's building

Swamiji spoke on "The Condition of Women in India" at the Women's Building. In charge of this all woman project was a Board of Lady Managers chaired by Bertha Potter Palmer, a wealthy and influential patron of the arts. Placing women in charge of their building was considered a rather revolutionary idea at the time and was not enthusiastically supported by some Fair authorities.
Mrs. Potter Palmer, the president of the Board of Lady Managers, gave a reception for the delegates on the evening of September 14, 1893 at the Women's Building in Jackson Park. Mrs. Palmer delivered an address of welcome followed by a speech by Mr. Thomas Palmer (unrelated), president of the World's Columbian Exposition, who later hosted Swami Vivekananda in his house in Detroit in 1894.

Art Palace — Museum of Science and Industry, 57th St and Lake Shore Drive

Museum of Science and Industry

The Art Palace, now the Museum of Science and Industry

Swami Vivekananda walked in this area, during the Parliament of World Religions in 1893.
The museum was built as the 'Art Palace' for the World's Columbian Exposition. The Art Palace was one of the buildings from the World's Fair that was saved. It was universally praised as an exemplary work of art. Designed by the New York architect Charles B. Atwood, and located on the North Bank of the North Pond, this was the only building built to last a long time housing its priceless collection of art. It came to be known as the Atwood Palace. It was refurbished and became the Museum of Natural History. In 1934, the Palace of Fine Arts became the nucleus of what is now known as the Museum of Science and Industry.

Gold Coast, 1400 — 1600 North Dearbon St.

Gold Coast

Houses on the Gold Coast

On the morning of Setember 10, 1893 Swamiji walked east from the Chicago and Northwestern Station. Hungry and tired, he begged for food and directions to the Parliament office as he plodded through the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast area was an exclusive residential neighborhood where the Potter Palmers lived. The people and butlers had no time or sympathy for a strange looking monk, in rumpled clothes and with a travel worn appearance and slammed the doors in his face. Swamiji traveled the entire area of what is now known as the "Gold Coast", still an exclusive residential area.

Hale residence, 1415 North Dearborn St.

Hale House exterior

Hale house exterior

Swamiji arrived tired at the north end of Dearborn Avenue, 2 blocks from Lincoln Park. Totally exhausted, he sat down on the curb on the opposite side of the Hale home at 541 Dearborn Avenue. Mrs. Ellen Hale saw him and took Swamiji into her home and heart. She took Swamiji to meet the officials of the Parliament of World's Religions and set the chain of events in motion that would go down in history as the initiation of the Vedanta movement in the West. He stayed here in 1893 (November and December), 1894 (May and June) and 1895 (Janunary). He also asked that all letters written to him should be addressed to the Hale Residence even when he was travelling. The Hale home was demolished in the late 1960's and a high rise apartment complex built on the site. The high rise building now is 1415 North Dearborn Street.

Hale house front hall and library

Hale House HallHale House Library

Second Hale residence, 1210 North Astor St.

Hale House 2

The second Hale residence

On his second visit to the West Swamiji stayed with the Hales again. Mary Hale threw a party in Swamiji's honor the day after Swamiji arrived in Chicago. On November 27, 1899 Swamiji gave a lecture at the Hale residence in the form of a parlor talk. The McConnell Building is presently at 1210 N. Astor Street. At the northwest corner of Astor and Division Streets, the building stands tall among the others around it. It is part of the 'Astor Street Historic District' and is located within the Gold Coast area of Chicago.

Cobb Hall, 5811 South Ellis Ave., University of Chicago

Cobb Hall

Cobb Hall at the University of Chicago

The University Chapel was located in Cobb Hall, which exists on the west side of the quadrangle on Ellis Avenue even today, as a part of the original campus of 1892. Cobb Hall was the first building of the University of Chicago, erected with donation by Silas B. Cobb. The University Chapel was on the 1st floor of the building taking up almost all of the north end. The room no longer exists the way it did at the time. It has been converted to four large lecture rooms, two on each side of a hall. Swamiji spoke at the University Chapel on March 1, 1894. The subject of his talk was "Modern Schools of Hinduism".

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park

While living with the Hale family, Swamiji went for strolls to Lincoln Park very often. It was here that he did babysitting for a 6 year old child. This child was "Agnes Ewing". She later became a student of Swami Akhilananda at the Boston center. In addition to being a park at the lakefront, Lincoln Park had many other attractions at that time. This 250 acre park was bounded by Lake Michigan on the east; Clark Street on the west; North Avenue on the south, and Diversey Street on the north. The park included a Conservatory, a Zoo which had a Bengal tiger, the Chicago Academy of Sciences and the Lincoln Statue.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Swami Vishwananda who was the head of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago from 1938 through 1965 received a letter in 1939 from Sarat Chandra Chakravorty, a disciple of Swamiji. The letter revealed this incident associated with Swamiji at Lake Michigan
... Swamiji once told me that one moonlit night when he was on the shore of Lake Michigan, his mind began to merge in Brahman. Suddenly he saw Sri Ramakrishna and remembered the work for which he had come to this world. Then his mind came down and again turned toward the fulfillment of his mission".

Dearborn Station, 47 West Polk St.

Dearborn Station

Dearborn Station

Swamiji went to Streator by the Santa Fe railroad and came back by it as well. He had embarked the train at the Dearborn station. Although there were a number of railroad stations in existence in Chicago during that time, it is almost certain that Swamiji used the station on more than one occasion. Since the Santa Fe railroad had used the Dearborn station exclusively, he definitely used it for his trip to California as well. Completed in 1885, the Dearborn Station at the end of South Dearborn Street and West Polk Street is the oldest surviving railroad terminal building in Chicago. Since that time it has lost many parts including a huge cupola on the clock tower and a steeply pitched roof that was destroyed during a fire in 1922. Its shed was removed in the 1960s. The whole station has been restored with only minor changes beyond those mentioned.Its passenger operations ceased in 1971 when it was renovated as office and retail space, and its vast backyard replaced with residential developments.

Hotel Richileu, 318 South Michigan Ave.

Hotel Richileu

Hotel Richileu

On October 27 1893 Swamiji lectured at the Ladies Fortnightly Club on the subject of Buddhism. The club's address was 10 Van Buren Street, but their meetings including the one on October 27, were held in Hotel Richelieu at 186 S. Michigan.
Shy of publicity the club did not encourage newspapermen to attend such lectures, neither did it record its detailed proceedings. The content of Swamiji's lecture therefore remains unknown. This was a very prestigious and exclusive club, drawing its membership from the upper crust of Chicago. The club's goal was to enhance intellectual and social culture.
The Hotel was built in 1885, but its front facade was extensively renovated and some additions were made in 1911. After a subsequent alteration in 1892, it now stands at 318 S. Michigan Ave.

Hull House, 800 South Halsted St.

Hull House

Hull House

The Hull House was set up by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates as an intellectual oasis where they conducted movements for political and social reforms. The Hull Mansion has been designated as Jane Addams Hull - House Museum. Swamiji's photograph adorns a wall of the room on the southeast corner of the building. The inscription says -
"Swami Vivekananda (1893-1902); Indian Social Reformer; Participates in World's Parliament of Religions."
Swamiji spoke at the Hull House sometime between October and December of 1893. The subject of his speech was 'Economic and Social Conditions in India'.

Hindsdale Unitarian Church, 11 West Maple St, Hinsdale

Hinsdale Unitarian Church

Hinsdale Unitarian Church

The Hinsdale Unitarian Church was favored by addresses on two Sundays by Swami Vivekananda in 1893. A group of prominent citizens from Hinsdale got together in 1887 formed the Unity Church Society, and decided to build a church. The church was built in 1888 and dedicated in 1889. Rev. Gould invited Swamiji to speak from the pulpit. A small paragraph in the Unity, a Unitarian weekly magazine published from Chicago, said on November 2 —
The pulpit at Hinsdale was filled October 15 and 22 by the Rev. Messrs. Vivekananda and Nagarkar, who preached with much acceptance to overflowing houses. A course of lectures by Messrs Vivekananda and Hirai are also being attended to the full capacity of the Church.
The Church's name changed to Unitarian from Unity in the 1930s.

Harbert residence, 1412 Judson Ave., Evanston

Harbert residence

Harbert Residence

Swamiji spoke on the subject "Reincarnation" at the Harbert Residence in Evanston. He pointed out the popular error which exists concerning the passing of humanity into animal forms. He said that "It was a mistaken idea to think that his people were so careful of animals because they thought some former human being was now living in the form of the animal. On the contrary, it is simply a part of their religion to be kind to animals. Reincarnation is either progression, which is advancement to a higher type of manhood, or retrogression, which is the relapse of humanity to a lower plane of living."

Bradley residence, 1745 North Hinman Ave., Evanston

Bradley residence

Bradley Residence

Swamiji visited the Bradley Residence in October of 1893. In his letter to Prof. John H. Wright Swamiji refers to Prof. Bradley. He writes - "Your friend Prof. Bradley was very kind to me and he always cheered me (during the parliament speeches)... I am going to Evanston tomorrow and hope to see Prof. Bradley there."
Prof. Bradley lived with his wife Susan Bradley and the house was a short walk from the Congregational church Swamiji was invited to. The large house is on the southeast corner of Hinman and Clark. It is now an Evanston Landmark. Its unique Tudor style architecture sets it clearly apart from the other houses around it.

Elisha Grey residence, 461 Hazel Ave., Highland Park

Elisha Grey residence

Elisha Grey's residence

Immediately following the Parliament, Swamiji was invited to the house of Mr. Elisha Gray. The guests at the vegetarian dinner, given in Swamiji's honor, were some very illustrious scientists and engineers. The British physicist Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Prof. Hermann Von Helmholtz, Prof. Edourd Hospitalier were all there along with other distinguished people.