• Linda Borromeo

Fairy Lamps on the Wooded Island

Updated: Mar 19

For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. (Song of Solomon 2:11-12 ESV)

What makes light so powerful?

Light just seems to make many things feel more hopeful and promising.

At the Chicago World's Fair, a beautiful kind of light was remembered by many who attended the Exposition in 1893. In an island world apart from the main Fair, the Wooded Island was a place of natural beauty in the midst of the sometimes overwhelming Exhibition full of new technological wonders.

Unlike the main Fair, the Wooded Island did not rely on electricity. Small, multi-colored oil lamps gave the Island a warm and inviting glow after dark.

In the painting above, the fairy lamps are shown by the path, ready to lend their light to strollers after dark.

A Place of Joy and Wonder

Designed by Frederick Law Oldstead, the Wooded Island provided a place of peaceful beauty for fairgoers to take a break from viewing the thousands of exhibits at the main Fair. Many people were in awe of the vast network of electric lights powering the central part of the Fair. But on the Wooded Island, people loved the oil fairy lamps giving the paths a magical feeling of joy and wonder.

Chicagology shares a passage from the Picturesque World's Fair about the fairy lamps:

"The very spirit of the island’s atmosphere is caught in the illustration [below], the flowers, the shrubbery, the sturdy trees and the fairy lamps which gave such brilliancy to the night scene, are all depicted just as they were. The spot was one of the most charming on the Island."

An Island Mystery

These fairy lamps play an important role in lighting the way and giving hope to my characters, Christie and Melina in Mystery Fair.

They are searching for Melina's father. Long thought dead, new evidence gives a small ray of hope that he may still be alive. If so, Melina knows he must be in immediate and serious danger.

Melina follows the clues to the Wooded Island. As twilight approaches, she slips out into the darkness to search for answers. Her way is lit by the small oil lamps glowing warmly along the winding paths on the Island.

All around Melina, these lights shine out, jewel-like, through colored glass globes. The multi-colored lamps flicker and dance, making the Island a fairy world of light guiding her way.

As with the increasing light of spring, Melina finds the promise of hope illumined by the little fairy lamps. Even in the dark, they provide a message that she may find answers if she does not give up and continues to search for the truth wherever it may lead.

Reliving a Moment in Time

Long after the Fair, visitors remembered the fairy lamps. Sometimes memories can be caught and relived; but most of the time it's not the same. People tried to recapture their memories of the fairy lamps six years later. The Chevy Chase Historical Society shares an attempt to recreate the Wooded Island and the little oil lamps:

"Visitors to the World’s Fair, at Chicago, will long remember the enchanting scenes on the Wooded Island during the summer evenings, when lit up by apparently innumerable miniature lamps in glowing colors, giving it the appearance of a veritable fairyland.  At a heavy expense the management has arranged with the Chicago Lamp-Candle Company for a revival of these delightful scenes..."

Can fairyland be recaptured? Perhaps not. However, the sights on Chevy Chase Lake may have created new magical memories for those who saw the beauty of fairy lamps for the first time.

Enjoy the longer days of light arriving with a new spring and summer!

Then God said, "Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. (Genesis 1:14 NLT)

#ChicagoWorldsFair1893 #Islands #NatureInspiration #WoodedIsland

In my stories, you'll find islands, mystery, friendship, and danger. 

My novel, Mystery Shores, is set on a lighthouse island filled with secrets. 

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