“Trip to Henry Crown Space Center Inspires Book” by S.M. O’Connor

Local author Robert Kurson was sitting in the Museum of Science and Industry’s Henry Crown Space Center when he developed an interest in the Apollo 8 mission, which led him to write Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon.[1]  Something that struck Kurson was that most N.A.S.A. missions have up to eighteen months’ worth of prep time, but the Apollo 8 mission had a mere four months.[2]  Kurson is an author non-fiction books including Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II.  His essays have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Esquire.

The Apollo 8 was the second manned space flight in the American Apollo program. It launched on December 21, 1968 and became the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and safely return to Earth. The three astronauts were the Commander, Colonel Frank Borman II, U.S. Air Force (Retired); the Command Module Pilot, Captain James (“Jim”) Lovell, Jr. U.S. Navy (Retired); and the Lunar Module Pilot, Major-General William Anders, U.S. Air Force Reserves (Retired). It was Anders who took the famous Earthrise picture while in the Moon’s orbit.


Figure 1 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is former astronaut Captain Jim Lovell, Jr. U.S. Navy (Retired) in the Henry Crown Space Center in 2009.

The Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, also known as the Fine Arts Building, which is the last palace from the White City fairgrounds of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), still standing in Jackson Park.[3]  [Note that The Art Institute of Chicago (A.I.C.) in Grant Park is also tied to the World’s Columbian Exposition.[4]]  Thus, the building turned 125 years old this year.  The façade is modeled on temples standing on the Acropolis of Athens.  Upon the exposition board naming him Director of Public Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, on October 30, 1890, Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912) named his partner John Wellborn Root, Sr. (1850-1891) the supervising architect and the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) the supervising landscape architect.[5]  Root died after visiting Jackson Park on a stormy night. Burnham replaced him with Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895) as Chief Architect of the World’s Columbian Exposition and Atwood personally designed the Illinois Central Railroad Station, the Peristyle of the Court of Honor, and the Palace of Fine Arts.

The neoclassical design Atwood developed for the Palace of Fine Arts combined Roman domes with Ionic Greek columns, statues, and frieze panels.  He borrowed the Central Pavilion’s north portico from a painting of a fanciful art museum by Paul-Albert Besnard (1849-1934) that had won the Prix de Rome. Atwood had two assistants. Alexandre Sandier had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Besnard.  Ernest R. Graham (1868-1936) coordinated much of Atwood’s work on-site, including aspects of the Palace of Fine Arts.  Philip Martiny (1858-1927) carved the caryatids, the entablature figures, and the figure of Victory (the goddess Nike) that had initially crowned the Central Pavilion’s dome.   He was paid $18,920.00 for his work. Martiny’s contract did not cover installing his statues. Nike weighed too much, and had to be removed, but her finial remained. The Palace of Fine Arts originally had eight pairs of plaster guardian lions. Pairs of lions flanked Athena at the South Portico and Augustus at the North Portico of the Central Pavilion and there were two each at the north & south porticos of the East & West Pavilions.  Alexander Phimister Proctor (1860-1950), sculpted the plaster lions flanking the Central Pavilion’s south stairs.  Edward Kemeys (1843-1907) sculpted the plaster lions flanking the Central Pavilion’s north stairs.  Augustus Baur sculpted the plaster lions flanking both the north and south stairs of the annexes (East & West Pavilions).  [Mrs. Henry Field[6]  paid to have the plaster lions made by Kemeys cast in bronze and placed outside The Art Institute of Chicago.[7]]  The Palace of Fine Arts held art treasures from around the world.  To protect the world’s art treasures, unlike the other palaces of the White City, the Palace of Fine Arts had a “fireproof” brick substructure under its staff superstructure.  This precaution was undertaken because world leaders were nervous about placing precious objects on display in a city that had been rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The other palaces were made of wood or steel framing clad in a kind of plaster known as “staff.”[8]  Initially, the South Park Commission[9] wanted to tear down the Palace of Fine Arts after The Field Museum of Natural History vacated it in 1920, but sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936) rallied groups in support of restoring the building. Mrs. Albion Headburg organized 6,000 women to donate $1 each to restore a small part of the Palace of Fine Arts to show what it could look like. They changed the mind of South Park Commission. The South Park Commission asked voters to approve the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds to finance restoration of the building to serve as a science museum, trade school, sculptural art museum, and convention center.[10]  Dr. Charles R. Richards, author of The Industrial Museum and Director of the American Association of Museums, attested to the suitability of the Palace of Fine Arts as the future home of a science museum in 1925.

      Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, who was already a famous philanthropist, told The Commercial Club of Chicago he would back the foundation of an interactive science museum like Oskar von Miller’s Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology) in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.  [The Commercial Club had earlier sponsored Burnham’s Plan of Chicago (1909).[11]] In 1926, the Museum Association incorporated as the Rosenwald Industrial Museum.  A modest man, Julius Rosenwald persuaded his fellow trustees to drop his name.  In 1929, the Museum Corporation officially changed its name to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Designing the restoration and reconstruction of Atwood’s staff superstructure and brick substructure fell to the architectural firm employed by the South Park Commission: Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White – principally to Alfred Shaw (1895-1970).  He also designed the Art Moderne interior. Upon the death of Messrs. Probst and White, another firm, Shaw, Naess, and Murphy, undertook completion of the new interior’s design, beginning in January of 1937. The façade and substructure underwent restoration and reconstruction between 1929 and 1931.  When it became apparent $5,000,000 would be insufficient to restore the building, Julius Rosenwald pledged to pay for completion of the project, in addition to his endowment pledge of $3,000,000.

Sculptors Fred Bruner and Harry Donato setup shop in the Shawnee Stone Co. facility in Bloomington, Indiana where the rest of the limestone for the new façade of the Palace of Fine Arts was prepared. For the Museum of Science and Industry, Bruner & Donato copied Hering rather than Martiny. Bruner & Donato sculpted statues that copied Martiny’s staff angels from the entablature. They also copied Hering’s Field Museum caryatids and executed in limestone Hering’s entablature figures. This is why the four central figures carved by Bruner & Donato in the 1920s are not replicas of the Martiny’s Muses of Art, Painting, Music, and Sculpture.[12]

The Museum of Science and Industry opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940, with the first opening ceremony on July 1, 1933.  These events coincided with Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34), which opened on June 1, 1933.

Dr. Victor Danilov (1924-2018), who served as the sixth Director of the M.S.I. from 1972 to 1987 and the sixth President of the M.S.I. from 1978 to 1987, answered Susan Crown’s question about what the M.S.I. could really use by saying it could expand in the form of a space pavilion. [13]  Her father, Colonel Henry Crown (1896-1990), had been instrumental in bringing the U-505 to the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Crowns wanted something at the Museum that would be a fitting monument to him (rather than, say, a plaque at the U-505).  The philanthropic Crowns had controlling interest in General Dynamics, which was an aerospace as well as a submarine manufacturer at the time, though in 1993 General Dynamics sold its Space Systems Division to Martin Marietta, and agreed to provide a large part of the $12,250,000 project.[14]

Subsequently, the 31,000-square-foot Henry Crown Space Center opened on July 1, 1986. Designed by Hammel Green & Abrahamson, Inc., the Henry Crown Space Center has a limestone base, a metal panel roof, a seventy-six-foot projection dome fashioned of copper and stone, a 10,000-square-foot hall for the display of artifacts related to space exploration, and the 334-seat Omnimax® movie theater.[15]

On December 13, 1988, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman; James A. Lovell, Jr.; and William Anders celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the first manned flight to orbit the Moon back in 1968 at a dinner in the Henry Crown Space Center with Mr. & Mrs. Lester Crown and Dr. and Mrs. James S. Kahn.[16]  [Dr. James Steven Kahn (1931-2013) served as the seventh President & Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of Science and Industry from 1987 to 1997.]  More than 150 people attended the event, including Admiral Richard H. Truly, N.A.S.A.’s Associate Administer for Space Flight.  For the first time since their historic flight, all three men were reunited with the Apollo 8, which was on loan to MSI’s Henry Crown Space Center from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum.  For the Man in Space exhibit, the Air & Space Museum had also lent the M.S.I. Borman’s space suit and helmet from the Apollo 8 mission, samples of food like the three astronauts would have eaten on Apollo 8, lunar tools, and “space shuttle hygiene items.”  Lovell had lent “intravehicular coverall garments he wore aboard the Apollo 8 and the flight instruction book containing lines from the Book of Genesis which were read by the Apollo VIII astronauts as they circled the Moon on Christmas Eve.”

Nearly six years later, on November 14, 1994, Captain Jim Lovell, Jr. appeared at the M.S.I. to sign copies of his book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13.  In addition to Captain Lovell having been one of the first three people to orbit Earth’s Moon when he piloted the command module of the Apollo 8 mission in 1968, and in 1970 commanded the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission in 1970.  Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lovell is has more more recently been a longtime resident of the affluent Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois.  He was a member of M.S.I.’s non-governing President’s Council.[17]

In 2016, over 300,000 people visited the M.S.I.’s Omnimax® Theater.  In May of 2017, the Museum of Science and Industry unveiled a state-of-the-art projection system in the Omnimax® Theater, which it renamed the Giant Dome Theater to emphasize the change in projection technology.  The Museum of Science and Industry is the first institution in Chicago and the second in the world to install the new system from D3D/Christie Laser Dome, a company based in north suburban Evanston, Illinois.  It uses three different laser projectors to create a composite image.  The Dover Foundation supports the Giant Dome Theater.

On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, the M.S.I. reverted to regular hours (9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.).  On the weekend of Saturday, November 17, 2018 and Sunday, November 18, 2018, the M.S.I. will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  The M.S.I. will be closed on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 22, 2018) and the First Day of Christmas (Tuesday, December 25, 2018).  Extended hours (9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) will be in play again from Friday, November 23, 2018 to Sunday, November 25, 2018; Saturday, December 1, 2018 and Sunday, December 2, 2018; Saturday, December 8, 2018 and Sunday, December 9, 2018; Saturday, December 15, 2018 and Sunday, December 2016; Sunday, December 23, 2018; and Wednesday, December 26, 2018 through Sunday, December 30, 2018.  There will be longer hours, from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 22, 2018.  On Christmas Eve (Monday, December 24, 2018) and New Year’s Eve (Monday, December 31, 2018), the M.S.I. will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  On New Year’s Day (Tuesday, January 1, 2019), the M.S.I. will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  From Wednesday, January 2, 2019 through Friday, January 4, 2019, the M.S.I. will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Regular hours (9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) will resume on Saturday, January 5, 2019.  Check this Webpage and the Museum of Science and Industry’s social media for updates.


9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018


Thanksgiving Day

(Thursday, November 22, 2018)

9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Sunday, November 25, 2018

9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Sunday, December 2, 2018

9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Sunday, December 9, 2018

9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 22, 2018


9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Christmas Eve

(Monday, December 24, 2018)


Christmas Day

(Tuesday, December 25, 2018)

9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Friday, December 28, 2018

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Sunday, December 30, 2018

9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

New Year’s Eve

(Monday, December 31, 2018)

11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

New Year’s Day

(Tuesday, January 1, 2019)

9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Friday, January 4, 2019


Often stylized as the “Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago” or the “Museum of Science + Industry” the institution is located at the northern end of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park, on the south side of 57th Street, between Lake Shore Drive to the east and Cornell Drive to the west, in the East Hyde Park neighborhood of the Hyde Park Community Area (Community Area #41) on the South Side of Chicago.  The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.  The M.S.I. is open every day of the year with two exceptions: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  On most days, it is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but during peak periods it is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/ and the phone number is (773) 684-1414.



[1] Joel Reese, “Good Reads” CS| Modern Luxury, April, 2018, p. 40

[2] Ibid

[3] Some of the palaces were disassembled in Chicago and reassembled in state capitals.  The Peristyle and some other structures burnt down on January 8, 1894.  Seven more palaces burnt down on July 5, 1894.  The German building was turned into a bathhouse, was renamed the Liberty Building during the First Great World War, and burned down.  The Japanese Tea House burned down during the Second Great World War.  The Iowa Building became an eyesore and was demolished at the Museum of Science and Industry’s expense.  [The limestone structure in Jackson Park now mistakenly identified as the Iowa Building was built by the Works Progress Administration during the Second Great Depression.]  La Rabida Children’s Hospital, at the south end of Jackson Park, is housed in a replica of the Friary La Rábida, where Christopher Columbus prayed and consulted with the Franciscan friars in 1490 before his first voyage of discovery in 1492.  It was built by the Kingdom of Spain for the World’s Columbian Exposition.

[4] In 1885-86, the aforementioned John W. Root of Burnham & Root designed a Romanesque building to house the Art Institute, at 404 South Michigan Avenue, which opened on November 19, 1887, but the A.I.C. soon outgrew that building. In 1892, the A.I.C. sold Root’s Romanesque building to the Chicago Club.  Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844-1913), the founder of mail-order retailer Montgomery Ward & Company who sued the City of Chicago several times to clean up Lake Park (later re-named Grant Park) did not object to the A.I.C. building being built in Lake Park.  Charles A. Coolidge with the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge designed the Italian Renaissance-style structure at the west end of Lake Park along Michigan Avenue.  Before the A.I.C. took possession of the building, it was used as a lecture hall during the World’s Fair, the World’s Congress Auxiliary.  The “Congresses” (international conferences and symposiums) were the brainchild of Chicago lawyer, judge, teacher, author, and orator Charles Carroll Bonney (1831-1903), and covered such topics as women, labor, medicine, education, finance, temperance, evolution, religion, philosophy, literature, architecture, and art.  The Art Institute opened in its new home on December 8, 1893.

[5] Some 19th Century sources state the Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Root and Atwood, but Root’s Second Empire-style design work was not incorporated by Atwood.

[6] Henry Field was Marshall Field I’s younger brother.  See Axel Madesn, The Marshall Fields, pages 19, 32, and 33

[7] Timothy N. Whitman, “Museum of Science and Industry,” Submitted to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, January 5, 1994, p. 16

See also Jane H. Clarke, “The Art Institute’s Guardian Lions,” Museum Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1988, p. 55

[8] Staff is a combination of plaster-of-paris, hemp fibers, and Portland cement.

[9] The South Park District was one of twenty-two park districts in Chicago that merged in 1934 to form the Chicago Park District.

[10] On March 17, 1925, William E. Furlong filed his first lawsuit to enjoin the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds by the South Park Commission to finance the restoration of the Palace of Fine Arts.  On April 23, 1926, the Supreme Court of Illinois ruled against Furlong in Furlong vs. South Park Commissioners, declaring that the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds by the South Park Commission to finance the restoration of the Palace of Fine Arts was legal.  On April 16, 1929, Furlong filed a second lawsuit to enjoin the sale of bonds by the South Park Commission.      On April 17, 1929, Judge Oscar Hebel of the Superior Court of Cook County denied Furlong’s temporary injunction. On June 28, 1929, Furlong filed an amended lawsuit to place an injunction on the South Park Commission’s executing the ordinance passed and agreements made on March 20, 1929.  On June 29, 1929, Judge Hebel denied an injunction by Furlong against awarding the contract to restore the Palace of Fine Arts, and the sale of $1,500,000 in bonds by the South Park Commission.

[11] In 1906-09, Burnham and assistant Edward H. Bennett (1874-1954) drafted the Plan of Chicago with the financial support of Chicago’s Merchants Club, which merged with The Commercial Club of Chicago in 1907.  The report, published in 1909, circulated amongst Commercial Club members and public institutions, and was adopted by the Chicago Common Council at the urging of Mayor Busse.  The Commercial Club of Chicago also sponsored the Chicago Zoological Society.

[12] They are, instead, Hering’s stylized representations of four races and geo-political centers of civilization: Europe, Far East Asia, Egypt, and the Americas. One difference between Hering’s clay maquette and the statues Bruner & Donato made is they gave East more Asiatic features. They also gave West different features, and a different stance. Hering borrowed the imperial orb from Daniel Chester French’s Republic, which had an eagle in place of a cross. A small-scale replica of Republic, funded by the Benjamin Ferguson Fund, stands south of the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park.  The replica is twenty-four feet tall, while the original was sixty-five-feet-tall.

[13] Jay Pridmore.  Inventive Genius: The History of the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (1996), p. 136

[14] See Pridmore, pages 136 & 137

[15] OMNIMAX and IMAX theater technologies were developed in the 1960s by the IMAX Systems Corporation of Toronto.  Known today as the IMAX Corporation, it is both a manufacturing company and a service company.  It manufactures IMAX cameras and projectors, produces films, develops IMAX film, and provides postproduction services.  At the time the Museum of Science and Industry built the OMNIMAX Theater in the Henry Crown Space Center, films were produced for the OMNIMAX format by the IMAX Systems Corporation, a consortium of science museum theaters, and other organizations.

[16] “Astronauts Celebrate 20th Anniversary,” Progress, January-February, 1989, p. 3

This is the only source cited for this paragraph.

[17] His co-author on Lost Moon had been the popular science writer Jeffrey Kluger.  The book was later dramatized by director Ron Howard as the film Apollo 13 (1995), which starred Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell, Bill Paxton (1955-2017) as Fred Haise, Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert, Gary Sinese as Ken Mattingly, Ed Harris as Gene Kranz, and Kathleen Quinlan as Marilyn Lovell.

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