Once-lost photos show reversal of Chicago River

November 15, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum takes visitors back in time with a new exhibit called The Lost Panoramas. Photos show a young Chicago not long after the Great Fire at a time when the impossible was accomplished, when the city fooled with Mother Nature and the Chicago River.

"The Lost Panoramas is an exhibit and a book that's based on an incredible cache of twenty two thousand glass plate negatives that were taken by the sanitary district from 1894 until 1928 when they reversed the Chicago River," Richard Cahan, author "The Lost Panoramas," said.

From 1894 to 1928 photographers recorded the reversal of the Chicago River and how it changed the history of Illinois. The negatives were lost until two years ago when they were discovered in a sanitary district warehouse.

"What a snapshot of time these photos are. They show Chicago and the area down the Illinois River and the Chicago River before the river was changed," Marc Miller, vice president of Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, said.

The quality of the enlargements, as you can see, is amazing. They look digital, but remember most of these photos were taken over 100 years ago.

"They contain an awful lot of photographic information. And when you scan them with modern computers you can see things no one would ever have imagined," Cahan said.

A photo from 1902 shows the construction of the State Street Bridge looking northeast. The panoramas are made by photos that fit together like a picture puzzle.

"One of the amazing discoveries was when they looked at the photos and realized that the horizons all matched up that these photos put together formed these amazing vistas ... panoramas," Miller said.

The Lost Panoramas at The Peggy Notebaert, naturemuseum.org

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