I’m enjoying Columbus Day. School is closed and the office is closed.
The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492.
The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria Come to the World’s Columbian Exposition
During the fair, replicas of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria were moored in the south lagoon of Jackson Park.
William Curtis, an official with the U.S. State Department in Spain, had proposed the idea of building replicas of Columbus’s caravels. A commission was established in Spain to build the ships and sail them to Chicago, site of the World Columbian Exposition marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage.
Building the Santa Maria went smoothly, but the construction on the Nina and the Pinta which Americans in Spain were building, went more slowly. Instead of building new ships, the builders used the hulls of two rotting ships for the replicas of the Nina and Pinta.
The Santa Maria was finished and sea worthy by July 1892, but officials ruled that the Nina and the Pinta were not sea worthy. The Santa Maria sailed for Puerto Rico under its own steam, while two United States Navy ships towed the Nina and Pinta from Spain. All three of the replica ships were towed through the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes to Chicago.
After the fair, the three ships were turned over to the City of Chicago. Tourists still came to see and tour them, but the city of Chicago didn’t maintain them. The city of Chicago decided to use them in the ceremonies for the opening of the Panama Canal, sailing them from Chicago to the new Panama Canal.
The three ships ran into rough seas on Lake Michigan. The Nina and the Pinta managed to reach the shores of Lake Erie, where they had to be beached and eventually towed back to Chicago. The Santa Maria struggled on to Boston.
The idea then became to show of the ship at ports along the East Coast. But the crowds did not come.
The Pinta sank at its moorings and in 1919. The Nina caught fire and sank. In 1920, the Santa Maria was rebuilt and drew tourists until 1951, when it, too, burned.