Municipal Pier costs $4.5 million and stretched 3,300 feet into Lake Michigan, according to a timeline from WTTW
. When it opened to the public on July 15, 1916, visitors could walk the pier, visit the head house on the west end and peek in on the Grand Ballroom, which would host special events.
To celebrate the pier’s opening, the Department of Public Works booked several popular bands to bring in the crowds, including the “Johnny” Hand Band.
But the renowned conductor, John “Johnny” Hand himself, wouldn’t get to conduct the concert.
Born in Prussia, 20-year-old Hand arrived in Chicago on Nov. 4, 1851 — Election Day according to the Chicago Daily News. He landed his first paid gig that year playing a Christmas dance in LaSalle.
When the Civil War erupted, Hand served as a bandman in the 24th Illinois infantry “until he was mustered out,” the Daily News reported. He later joined a group of Chicagoans going to Kentucky to deliver supplies to the wounded, but Morgan’s raiders captured the group and held Hand prisoner for two days.
By 1916, Hand’s health had deteriorated, and though his band played Municipal Pier, he could not conduct.
“The veteran bandleader sat in an automobile as near the band as he could get and listened. He was too fatigued to lead the band himself and so delegated the duty to his son, Armin,” a July 17, 1916 report in the Chicago Daily News said.
Three months and one day later, the paper published Hand’s obituary.
“His son, Armin F. Hand, was hastily called to his father’s bedside and was with him when he died.”
Take a look at how storied Navy Pier, which turns 105 this year, has changed and evolved since opening day here.