Shedd Aquarium (formally the John G. Shedd Aquarium) is an indoor public aquarium in Chicago, Illinois in the United States that opened on May 30, 1930. The aquarium contains 32,000 animals, and was for some time the largest indoor aquarium in the world with 5,000,000 US gallons (19,000,000 l; 4,200,000 imp gal) of water. Shedd Aquarium was the first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection. Located on Lake Michigan, it is located on the Museum Campus Chicago, which it shares with the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History. In 2015, the aquarium had 2.02 million visitors. It was the most visited aquarium in the U.S. in 2005, and in 2007, it surpassed the Field Museum as the most popular cultural attraction in Chicago. The aquarium contains 1,500 species, including fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects. The aquarium received awards for “best exhibit” from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for Seahorse Symphony in 1999, Amazon Rising in 2001, and Wild Reef in 2004. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Shedd Aquarium was the gift of retail leader John G. Shedd, a protégé of Marshall Field (benefactor of the adjacent Field Museum), to the city of Chicago. Although Shedd only lived long enough to see the architect’s first drawings for the aquarium, his widow, Mary R. Shedd, cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony.
The aquarium cost $3,000,000 to build, and initially included 132 exhibit tanks . Groundbreaking took place on November 2, 1927, and construction was completed on December 19, 1929; the first exhibits opened on May 30, 1930. As one of the first inland aquariums in the world, the Shedd had to rely on a custom-made railroad car, the Nautilus, for the transport of fish and seawater. The Nautilus lasted until 1959.
In 1930, 20 railroad tank cars made eight round trips between Key West and Chicago to transport 1,000,000 US gallons (3,800,000 l) of seawater for the Shedd’s saltwater exhibits. In 1933, Chicago hosted its second world’s fair, the Century of Progress. The Aquarium was located immediately north of the fairgrounds, and the museum gained exposure to a large international crowd.
In 1971, Shedd Aquarium added one of its most popular exhibits, a 90,000-US-gallon (340,000 l) exhibit reproducing a Caribbean coral reef. That same year, the aquarium acquired its first research vessel, a 75-foot (23 m) boat for exploring the Caribbean, manned by a crew to conduct field research and collect specimens. In 1985, this boat was replaced with the aquarium’s current vessel, the Coral Reef II.
In 1987, Shedd Aquarium was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
John Shedd’s grandson, John Shedd Reed, who had served as president of Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad from 1967 to 1986, was president of the aquarium’s board from 1984 until 1994, and was a life trustee until his death in 2008. Ted A. Beattie served as president and CEO of the aquarium from 1994 until his retirement in 2016. Bridget C. Coughlin assumed duties as President and CEO of the company in the Spring of 2016.
Shedd Aquarium is also notable for its architecture. The basic design, by architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, is taken from classical Greek architecture, more specifically Beaux Arts, to match the other structures of the Museum Campus. The central aquarium building is octagonal, fronted by Doric columns and a formal staircase and topped by a dome. Aquatic motifs are worked in at every opportunity; tortoise shells, dolphins, octopuses, waves, and even the Trident of Poseidon can be found all over the aquarium’s exterior and interior. Improving upon its predecessor inland aquarium, the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, extensive use was made of designs by Mary Chase Perry Stratton, incorporating her custom-made Pewabic Pottery tile. The Oceanarium is done in a more modern style representing the Pacific Northwest, but one that blends with the older part of the building. “Whale Harbor”, the Oceanarium’s 2,000,000-US-gallon (7,600,000 l) main tank, is backed by a wall of windows that look out onto Lake Michigan.