WTTW’s Geoffrey Baer tells the sweeping story of CHICAGO’S NAVY PIER in a new 60-minute local television special and website, NAVY PIER: A CENTURY OF REINVENTION on Thursday, October 27 at 8:00 pm on WTTW11 and on WTTW.com.
As Navy Pier celebrates its 100th birthday in 2016 with a dramatic facelift and a new Ferris wheel, WTTW’s Geoffrey Baer – nationally known writer, producer, and host of many specials on Chicago history and architecture – spent the summer with a WTTW camera crew shooting this special, which traces a day in the life of the Pier, during which he discovers its dramatic and colorful history…from underused shipping terminal, to military training center, to university, to rough-edged concert venue, and now, top tourist attraction. Audiences can go along as Geoffrey takes a thrilling ride aboard the Seadog speed boat, shows us joyful children at play in the new interactive fountain in Polk Bros Park at the entrance to the Pier, stops in at WBEZ public radio, dons 3-D glasses to take in a film at the IMAX theater and recalls other movies that were shot there, hops on the new Ferris Wheel and attends its grand opening, gets a close-up view as pyro technicians launch one of their twice-weekly fireworks displays on Lake Michigan, explores the Wave Wall and the Shakespeare Theater, hangs out in the popular Beer Garden, samples some of the diverse food offerings, and much more.
WTTW has also produced a mobile website with original content at wttw.com/navypier, which will launch synchronously with the premiere broadcast. It will feature a phone- and tablet-ready interactive tour with Geoffrey Baer as your guide, a timeline of historical milestones, fun trivia and a quiz about the Pier, web-exclusive video stories, and a place for site visitors to share memories and photos of fun on the Pier, and submit their creative ideas for the Pier.
“Navy Pier is one place everyone in Chicago has visited, but experienced in different ways. We wanted to capture a portrait of the Pier that revives old memories, but also transports you there today,” said producer Eddie Griffin.
Geoffrey Baer admits that this production altered his long-held perceptions about the Pier. “Like many Chicagoans, I left Navy Pier to the tourists about twenty years ago. But after spending a summer there filming this program, the new improvements have won me over! The clutter is gone, the views of the skyline and water are opened up, and you can really feel what we discovered in our film: that Chicago is rich in maritime history, and Navy Pier has been a key player in that story for a century.”
Along the way, through rare archival images and footage and insights from historians, we learn about the Pier’s fascinating up-and-down history, from its inclusion in Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago; the visionaries who conceived it and the controversies surrounding its design and construction; its vital role during two world wars – especially as a naval training center during World War II -- and its first incarnation as a successful tourist attraction; its postwar role as a unique college campus, “Harvard on the Rocks;” through its reincarnation as a mixed-use space and home of the popular Chicago Fest; its deterioration and rebirth; and much more. Notably, the program offers a tantalizing glimpse of the Pier’s dramatic new design by the famed architect of New York’s High Line, James Corner.
NAVY PIER: A CENTURY OF REINVENTION is produced by Eddie Griffin, hosted by Geoffrey Baer, and written by Geoffrey Baer and Eddie Griffin. Associate Producer: Erica Gunderson. Director of Photography: Tim Boyd. Lighting Director: Danny Rozkuszka. Editor: Paul Thornton. Art Director: Linda Fox. Executive Producer: Dan Soles. The website is produced by WTTW’s digital team, including Designer Jenny Macchione; Developers Chris Ege, Kevin Crowley, and Justin Henderson; Content Producer Margie Newman; and Digital Executive Producer Anne Gleason.
Major funding for NAVY PIER: A CENTURY OF REINVENTION is provided by: BMO Harris Bank and Nicor Gas. Additional support is provided by: Pritzker Military Museum & Library, ITW, James McHugh Construction Co., SP+ Parking, Odyssey Cruises and Shoreline Sightseeing, and Riva Crab House. Funding is also provided by: Bruce Bachmann; Virginia and Norman Bobins, The Robert Thomas Bobins Foundation; Joan and Bill Brodsky; Denny and Sandy Cummings; Peter Kelliher II; Martha and Richard Melman; Ken Norgan; and Joan and Paul Rubschlager.
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