In 1913, Wright was approached by Edward Waller Jr., the son of one of his early clients, who informed him, “I want to put a garden in this wilderness of smoky dens, car-tracks, and saloons.” Designed and built over the course of the next year, Midway Gardens was an entertainment complex featuring indoor and outdoor dining and performance spaces. Located on Chicago’s South Side, Midway Gardens stood adjacent to the Midway Plaisance, the former site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and near the University of Chicago. The multi-level, three-story building of brick and patterned concrete was conceived as a harmonious composition uniting architecture, sculpture, landscaping, painting, and music. The elaborate decorative scheme reflects the influence of Wright’s year abroad in Europe, where he witnessed the work of the Vienna Secessionists.
The project is closely related in design and detail to Wright’s Imperial Hotel, the initial designs of which were undertaken concurrently with Midway Gardens.
Midway Gardens, view from the stage looking out over the Summer Garden. The indoor Winter Garden in the center is flanked on either side by the Promenades and the Belvederes on either end.
Photographed by Henry Fuermann & Sons, September 1914