Grant Park, Lake Park (1836-1899)
Life Span: About 1836-Present
Location: East Side of Michigan Avenue, from Randolph Street to 12th Street
1836 Plat Map of Lake Park
Jackson Street on the north and Lake Avenue (11th Street) on the south.
“Public Ground- A Common to Remain Forever Open, Clear and Free of Any Buildings or Other Obstruction, Whatever.”
Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1865
Ald. Lawson introduced the following resolution, which was passed:
WHEREAS, It appears by the records of the City of Chicago, that there are now two public parks designated by the name “Lake Park,” therefore
RESOLVED, That the park recently separated from the unoccupied portion of the old cemetery grounds, shall hereafter known and designated as Lincoln Park.
Great Central Depot
Illinois Central Roundhouse
Illinois Central & Michigan Central Railroads Breakwater and the Lake Park Basin.
Chicago Tribune, Editorial, November 27, 1871
THE LAKE PARK.
The work of filling the Lake Park with the broken bricks and other debris of the burnt district progressed so rapidly that in a very short time the whole area from Randolph street to Park row will be filled to the railroad track. The “basin” has practically ceased to exist. The great change which has taken place with respect to property in the South Division has but hastened the result which was rapidly approaching—the consignment of Michigan avenue to business purposes. It is not likely that any person will build a residence on that avenue north of Congress street. To that point, therefore, Michigan avenue, south of Randolph. Whatever reason, therefore, may have heretofore existed for keeping Lake Park an open space, exists no longer. All that is left of a special nature is the outlook upon Lake Michigan. This privilege is of no advantage to business property. On the contrary, it is highly advantageous for business purposes that both sides of the street should be occupied.
Here then is an area of twenty-five to thirty acres of land, extending from Randolph street to Park row, especially adapted to warehouses and wholesale establishments. Including the cross streets, there will be over two miles of frontage. This property has been ceded to the city with the sole instruction that, when sold, the proceeds shall be applied to park purposes, to be divided among the several divisions in the proportions of the value of the taxable property. Since that legislation was passed, a great and unforeseen change has taken place. The city has been reduced to straitened circumstances. Millions of dollars’ worth of public property has been destroyed. The borrowing power of the city has been exhausted. We have an abundance of other than park property to improve. The whole North Division is an unoccupied waste, which will require many years and many millions of dollars to rebuild. Many hundreds of acres in the South Division have to be rebuilt. The suburban parks must wait until Chicago has been rebuilt before public funds can be diverted to their aid. But here is this Lake Park—this twenty-five acres of land, worth many millions of dollars. Shall it remain idle and unproductive? Shall we tax the property which has been swept of all its productive improvements to the point of distress, when here, at the very gate of the city, is an estate may be converted into money, sufficient to clear up all our municipal embarrassments, and place the city on its legs again? There is no longer any reasonable pretext for maintaining Lake Park as a park. It should be converted to business purposes. If the Legislature would repeal the no longer applicable restriction directing the use of the proceeds for park purposes, we should have a once the means to pay our debts, replenish our empty treasury, rebuild our public works, and continue our permits improvements, without grinding taxation.
Ground Plan of the Great Exposition Building Showing Lake Michigan, Michigan Avenue, The Lake Front, Etc. This was the first structure to be built on Lake Park since the Fire of 1871.
Robinson Fire Map
Michigan Avenue at Lake Park
Chicago Tribune, July 18, 1897
General John Logan Memorial
Lake Park at 9th street
Dedicated on July 22, 1897
Looking east across Lake Park, at Congress, featuring the original Christopher Columbus statue
Alice Austen, Photographer
Chicago Tribune, March 3, 1899
Senator Case and Representative Varley introduced a bill today changing the name of the Lake-Front Park in Chicago to the “U.S. Grant Park.” It is understood that a concerted action by the members of the Grand Army of the Republic will be made to get this bill through the General Assembly. A great many citizens of Chicago are interested in the matter from patriotic motives. While parks have been named after Lincoln, Washington, Jackson, Garfield, and Douglas, the name General Grant has not been connected inseparably with any of Chicago’s parks.
Chicago Tribune, September 18, 1901
The lake front park is Grant Park. It was so named by the Legislature two years ago.
President Joseph Donnersberger of the South Park Commission:
- Grant Park was named by an act of the Legislature. Of course, it would be an appropriate thing if we had a McKinley Park. Grant Park should always retain its present name. Chicago owes it to the memory of one of Illinois’ greatest men.
Commissioner William Best:
- It would be a grand thing if we could have a McKinley Park to add to our Lincoln Park and Garfield Park. I wish we had a large tract of land out of which to create such a park.
Grant Park looking north from Central Station (12th Street) in the late 1890s. Visible is General Logan at 9th Street. In the background can be seen the lakefill in progress. There are tracks for dumping fill, and boats at both the old and new shoreline
Inter Ocean, April 4, 1902
If the plans of George H. Jenney carry, Grant Park will be a reality before June 15. Grant park is the name to be given that part of the lake front lying between the Art institute and the temporary postoffice, and extending from Michigan avenue to the Illinois Illinois Central tracks, as soon as it has been transformed from an unsightly dumping ground into a pretty stretch of rowing lawns, dotted with flower beds, trees, and shrubs. The work of grading was begun yesterday. Mr. Jenney is chairman of the new Grant park board.
The transformation is to cost the city nothing. Montgomery Ward, the Chicago Athletic association, Marshall Field, Gage Bros., the McCormicks, and other lakefront property owners have promised to contribute the necessary funds, and the city council has authorized the commissioner of public works to co-operate with the new board in the work of laying out the park.
The park board is composed of George H. Jenney, chairman; William C. Thorpe, A.B. Adam, Frederick W. Bode, and John C. Fetzer. These five men will collect the voluntary subscriptions of the property owners. The work has already been begun and before it is concluded it will have involved an expenditure of $10,000.
To Have $5,000 Fountain.
The designs for the new park were drawn under Mr. Jenney’s direction, by Thomas Hawkes, a landscape architect, who practically contributed his services. A spot near the center of the park has been reserved for a fountain, which has been promised by a Chicagoan, who wishes to withhold his name for the present.
The fountain will cost in the neighborhood of $5,000. This item is not counted in the $10,000 which it is estimated the work of laying out the park will cost. Yesterday a force of men ws plowing up the land and grading will be rushed as soon as warm weather sets in.
The park when finished will contain a carriage drive which will afford down-town sight-seers a view of Lake Michigan. The land will be graded up to the terrace at the north end of the Art institute, and flower beds, 1,200 shrubs, and 115 trees—firs, lindens, and oaks—will meet metamorphose the waste patch. At the north end of the park will be an elevation, which will hide from view the building now occupied as a postoffice.
Grant Park progress in 1902.
Park to Be Extended Later.
The park will be maintained at the expense of the property-owners, who have signed contracts to this effect, and have promised to keep it in condition forever, until such time as one of the city park boards shall take it off their hands. When the temporary postoffice building is torn down, which it is expected will be in about three years, the park will be extended as far as Randolph street.
The work so far has all been done by Mr. Jenney, who was empowered by President Henry F. Frink of the Chicago Athletic association to act for the club. He first went to the city council finance committee, and failing to get an appropriation, succeeded in getting the ordnance passed authorizing him and his committee to lay out the park under the direction of Commissioner Blockl. The ordnance alsoi gave the park committee or board police power.
Chicago Daily Herald, October 25, 1902
Illinois Supreme Court has decided that the Illinois National Guard cannot build its armory on the lake front in Chicago
Revised Preliminary Plan for Grant Park
Chicago Tribune, October 27, 1909
Trustees of the Field Museum, defeated in the long legal controversy with A. Montgomery Ward over the erection of a home, for the museum on the lake front in a decision handed down yesterday by the Supreme Court of Illinois, will rise once more—and immediately—to the battle of rights.
Scarcely had the news of the eagerly awaited decision reached the public when Stanley Field, president of the board of trustees, and John Barton Payne, the board’s council, announced they had one more card to play—a card they had concealed from the beginning.
This trump, which the trustees believe will swing the side of the battle finally in their favor, was not played before on account of the south side commissioners. It was kept in the hand because—in the words of Mr. Field—”the park commissioners felt that it was necessary for the future welfare of the park.”
Probably today or tomorrow Mr. Payne will institute condemnation proceedings against Montgomery Ward’s easement.
May Select Another Site.
But even if the play should fall, Chicago, at any rate, will not lose the museum, for the trustees will build in some other part of the city.
In the city council in the evening a resolution was presented asking for a conference between the Lincoln Park board and the museum trustees withe the end of finding a site in Lincoln Park. The resolution was referred to committee. The move was regarded as significant of offers likely to come from many sources.
The forces behind the general movement for the beautification of Chicago refused to regard the Supreme Court decision as a vital blow.
At the worse, in the view of the promoters of the Commercial club plan, only two structures—the Field museum and the John Crerar library—are affected.
To Montgomery Ward, however, the long fight was drawn to a conclusion.
Ward Proud of His Victory.
In his apartment at 4352 Drexel boulevard Mr. Ward celebrated the victory by demolishing a precedent in his history. He gave The Tribune an interview on the long fight that has brought him criticism from many quarters, and closed it with the hope that Chicago might appreciate and value his efforts during his lifetime, though he had his doubts. Mr. Ward began:
- It has been an uphill fight, but the victory is sweet. Had I known in 1890 how long it would take me to preserve a park for the people against their will I doubt if I would have undertaken it. I think there is not another man in Chicago who would have spent the money I have spent in this fight, with the certainty that even gratitude would be denied as interest. I have lived here since 1865 and have watched and assisted the city’s development, but this is one of best things I ever did for Chicago.
I have no antagonism against the Field Museum, but I do not think Grant Park is the place for it, aside from the legal basis of my fight. It should be placed near the University of Chicago, where it can be of service to the growing generation. But had I not fought the museum project the park commissioners would have filled the park with buildings, for they had nineteen projects in view. It would have been the case of the camel warming nose in the tailor’s shop all over again.
Says the Poor Want Park.
I fought for the poor people of Chicago—not for the millionaires. In the district bounded by Twenty-second street, Chicago avenue, and Halsted street, live more than 250,000 persons, mostly poor. The city has a magnificent park and boulevard system of some fifty miles, but the poor man’s auto is shank’s mare, or at best the street cars. Here is a park frontage on the lake, comparing favorably with the bay of Naples, which city officials would crowd with buildings, transforming the breathing spot for the poor into a showground of the educated rich. I do not think it is right and the highest court in the state has thrice upheld me.
Why should I enter an agreement for the erection of the Field or any other museum in Grant Park? The law would not permit it, in the first place, and the city councils and park boards shift annually. My experience in this regard has been one of broken promises. Nearly twenty years after I had won my first case I permitted the old battery D armory on the lake front to remain on promise of removal in ninety days. At the end of that time they refused to demolish it and another law suit was necessary.
Lake Front Dumping Ground.
The building netted somebody about $85,000 a year, I am told, in rentals for dog and prize fights, the First ward balls of that period, and similar affairs. The city used the ground for a dumping ground for dead animals and street refuse, a disgrace to the city and a menace to health. Today the lake front is clear and comparatively a thing of beauty. But all that is forgotten.
This court decision will not interfere the ‘City Beautiful’ plans for they do not need a background of museums. I am interested in the Commercial club’s plans and contributed much as any one to aid their preparation, but the public is not told that.
I have nothing at stake in this fight, but the good of the people now and for future generations. Perhaps I may see the public appreciate my efforts, but I doubt it.
Trump Card for Museum.
The confidence of Mr. Ward, however, did not disturb his opponents. They held their trump card a mighty instrument. It is drawn from the statute governing the right of condemnation, passed in 1891, amended in 1903, and found in the revised statutes. This provides:
- If any owner or owners of any lands or lots abutting or fronting on any such public park or adjacent thereto have any private right, easement, interest, or property in such public park, appurtenant to their lands, lots, or otherwise which would be interfered with by the erection and maintenance of any museum, as herein provided, or any right to have such public park remain open or vacant and free from buildings, the corporate authorities of the city or park district having control of such park may condemn the same.
When in formed of the new move promised by the museum trustees Elbridge Hanecy of counsel for Mr. Ward classified it as “mere bunk.”
South Park Board to Act.
In reply to this Mr. Payne said:
- Mr. Hanecy is a charming gentleman. It was the original intention of the trustee to condemn Mr. Ward’s easement, but it was not done because the park commissioners only had the power to start these proceedings. Now there will be no objection on the part of the commissioners, and we will begin at once. I think the statute which was passed in 1891 and amended in 1903 covers the point clearly and precisely.
There are instances on record where authorities of parks have started such proceedings and have been successful. I do not see where this will fail. I am disappointed in the Supreme court’s decision, but it is by no means the finish of the case.
Two courses were left open to us by this decision. Either we could ask for a rehearing or we could institute condemnation proceedings. It is now two years, two months and a half until the time set by the Field will for the selection of a site expires we deemed it almost too short a time to ask for a rehearing.
Expects Victory for People.
I can say the authorities of the museum known from the beginning Mr. Ward’s position, and would have commenced condemnation proceedings from the beginning if it had been entirely under their control.
Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1914
As soon as the few remaining obstacles are removed, one of the most stupendous pieces of construction work planned for Chicago—the erection of the new $5,000,000 Field Museum of Natural History—will be under way. This building, the foundations of which are to be started within the year, will take three years for completion and will furnish work for completion and will furnish work for an army of building laborers of all trades and crafts.
The imposing structure will be built on a terrace six feet high at the southern extremity of Grant Park, facing northward on Twelfth Street, extended across the Illinois Central tracks. The thoroughfare which will run in front of the structure will be joined with the proposed outer drive, connecting Grant and Jackson Parks, by means of a bridge.
Will Be Built of White Marble.
Plans for the building have been made by Graham, Burnham & Co., and it will add ti the monumental appearance of the city in compliance with the Chicago Plan. The exterior of the superstructure, which will rise about eighty feet above the terrace, will be entirely of Georgia marble. It will be treated with a monumental order of Greek ionic architecture, the principal fronts being divided into a large pedimented central pavilion and two long winds terminated at each end. This order rests upon a stylobate, with windows for the working floor.
- The building has been planned and designed to accomplish three purposes:
1. The most perfect exhibition rooms that could be arranged for display of the millions of dollars’ worth of scientific collections it wil house.
2. The adequate housing and equipment of the scientific working part which belong with such collections.
3. The erection of a building which would measure up to the highest standard of architecture worthy of a structure to be built as a lasting memorial and monument for the city and founder.
The front of the museum will be 700 feet long. It will be 350 feet deep. Its general arrangement provides for a great central hall or nave, rising the entire height of the building, flanked by transverse exhibition halls on both sides, these exhibition halls being again united by transverse halls at each end of the building. The building will be three stories high on each side of the central hall. There also will be a basement. The entire building, except the basement and third floors, will be used for exhibition purposes.
Field Museum construction site view of the south entrance with cranes lifting marble roofing tiles in place.
July 12, 1918.
Will Have Large Laboratories.
The equipment of the basements and third floors will include extensive laboratories, with all the facilities and devices of modern science; a large photographic section, a complete illustrating and printing division, studios for imitation and production, and suites of work rooms for artists, artisans and preparators. In all these particulars the museum has been greatly hampered in the past.
Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1927
THE NEWEST JEWEL IN CHICAGO’S CROWN, the $700,000 Buckingham fountain pictured from the air in its Grant parkmsetting against the monumental Michigan boulevard skyline. As it appears here the fountain is in the quieter mood of minor display; it attains sublimity in full play, with its jets soaring skyward to the peak mof 140 feet and rivaling the rainbow at night in vari-colored glow.