The Navy Pier currently encompasses more than fifty acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, family attractions and exhibition facilities and is the top leisure destination in the Midwestern United States ("Midwest"), drawing nearly nine million visitors annually. It is one of the most visited attractions in the entire Midwest and is Chicago's number one tourist attraction.
Navy Pier opened to the public on July 15, 1916. Originally known as the "Municipal Pier", the pier was built by Charles Sumner Frost, a nationally known architect, with a design based on the Plan of Chicago (1909) by Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett Its original purpose was to serve as a dock for freights, passenger traffic, and indoor and outdoor recreation; events like expositions and pageants were held there.
In the summer of 1918 the pier was also used as a jail for draft dodgers. In 1927, the pier was renamed Navy Pier to honor the naval veterans who served in World War I.
In 1941, during World War II, the pier became a training center for the U.S. Navy; about 10,000 people worked, trained, and lived there. The pier contained a 2,500-seat theater, gym, 12-chair barber shop, tailor, cobbler shops, soda fountain and a vast kitchen and hospital.
In 1946, as the Navy was winding down from its mission, the University of Illinois at Chicago held classes at the pier. Though the maximum capacity was exceeded the school outgrew the pier and the university relocated to Circle Campus.
After the university left, the Navy Pier became underutilized.
In 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened and increased commercial shipping activity at the pier for a short time, though business died down and left for more modern facilities at Lake Calumet.
In 1976 the East End buildings were renovated and for a brief period the pier was alive again, home to summer events like ChicagoFest. But maintenance was not done and the pier went into decline.
In 1989, the City of Chicago had the Urban Land Institute (ULI) reimagine uses for the pier. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) was created; its responsibility was to manage and operate Navy Pier as well as McCormick Place. The MPEA undertook the redevelopment, incorporating some of ULI's recommendations.
In 1995, Navy Pier was redesigned and introduced to the public as a mixed-use venue incorporating retail, dining, entertainment, and cultural spaces.
Starting in 2014, the redevelopment plan called The Centennial Vision was implemented. The purpose of this plan is to fulfill the mission to keep Navy Pier as a world-class public space and to renovate the pier so it will have more evening and year-round entertainment and more compelling landscape and design features. The Centennial Vision was completed in summer 2016. The Polk Family Foundation (founded by Sol Polk) donated $20 million to the redevelopment effort; the park and fountain at the entrance to the pier was named the Polk Brothers Park and Fountain.
According to wikipedia