LINCOLN PARK, CHICAGO’S MOST POPULAR PLAYGROUND
A People’s Country Club Enjoyed by Millions
By Glenn A. Bishop, 1932
NAMED in honor of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Park, Chicago’s great north side playground, has a colorful history which dates back to the days of the martyred President, whose statue by Saint Gaudens at the south end of the park, is a shrine for thousands of pilgrims yearly. It was in 1865, at the close of the Civil War, that Lincoln Park came into being, supplanting an old burial ground, where a single tomb remains, a link between the present and the past.
Incredible changes have come since this strip of land on the lake front was reclaimed from a graveyard and dedicated to the health and happiness of the living.
Plat Maps from 1863 and 1870
Where once Victorias and broughams rolled over the graveled driveways, limousines and motor buses speed along over sweeping boulevards. Golf, which was unknown in America when Lincoln Park was young, now attracts armies of its devotees to the two courses available to the public there today.
An area of 300 acres, half a mile wide and a mile and a half long, has developed into a “People’s Country Club” of 800 acres stretching three and a half miles along the shores of Lake Michigan, and creeping northward day by day as miUions of cubic feet of sand, sucked from the shallow lake bottom off the Indiana shore are being added to the “made land” of the Park.
The cost of filhng in this land comes to $53,000 an acre, but the land thus formed is valued at $1,000,000 an acre. When plans now under way have been completed, some 1,050 acres will have been added to the present area, bringing the total area up to 1,850 acres with a shore line approximately eight miles in length.
Robinson Fire Map 1886
Volume 3, Plate 27
Under the efficient administration of Warren Wright, president of the Lincoln Park Commissioners, and his associates, the program of expansion and beautification has been further accelerated by recent court decisions permitting condemnation of private property for park purposes. After years of litigation, a precedent has been established providing for confiscation of riparian rights and restoring to the people the shore line of Lake Michigan.
One of the most recent improvements is the new Waveland golf course, one of the sportiest in the Chicago metropolitan area. A new 33-acre yacht harbor is being built north of the picturesque Belmont harbor.
One of the Park’s major attractions, of course, is the zoo, with its coblection of nearly 500 animals and 2,500 birds. The zoo has grown enormously within recent years with the addition of a new lion house, a new house for aquatic birds, an ultra-modern new monkey house, and the aquarium and fish hatchery. From the hatchery, 4,000,000 lake trout, silver salmon, and rainbow trout are transferred to Lake Michigan every year, and 14,000,000 wall-eyed pike go to the restocking of near-by inland lakes and streams.
Artesian Well Entrance to Lincoln Park at the foot of St. James Place.
The Sunday crowds during the summer average from 750,000 to 1,000,000. As many as 1,000 family picnics have been held in Lincoln Park in a single day. Not less than 500 larger groups hold their outings in the park in a single summer. It is nothing unusual for the crews to gather up sixty tons of rubbish—two carloads—on a Monday morning during the picnic season. Oak street beach on a Monday morning after a hot day will yield as much as fifteen tons of trash, and perhaps 1,200 empty milk bottles. The Sunday throngs will include visitors from nearly every State in the Union.
For its daily water supply, the Park’s private pumping station draws 15,000,000 gallons of water from the lake.
In addition to the zoo and aquarium buildings, the Park’s permanent buildings include the new colonial home of the Chicago Historical Society, the Laflin Memorial, housing the Chicago Academy of Sciences, the refectory, with its breesy pavilion, and the conservatory, where a marvelous collection of plant life is always on display. Among the exhibits under the glass dome is the $50,000 collection of orchids founded by the former Chicago merchant, H. G. Selfridge. The annual fall chrysanthemum shows are veritable carnivals of bloom, introducing scores of rare varieties of this gorgeous flower. The approach to the conservatory is through formal gardens, seen to best advantage perhaps, in early Spring, in tulip time, when they are a riot of color. Fountains and statuary enhance their beauty. Nearby is an old-fashioned “grandma’s” garden, where one may wander among the pinks, candy-tuft, and forget-me-nots. There is also a dreamy lily pool. A five-acre bird sanctuary, vocal vv^ith the flutings of its feathered inhabitants, is planted thick with berry bushes and carpeted with wild strawberry
Area and Boundaries of Lincoln Park
One may enjoy almost any kind of sport in Lincoln Park. In addition to the two golf courses there are seventy grass and clay tennis courts, thirty-three baseball diamonds, seven football gridirons, and twelve horseshoe courts. There are roquet courts for followers of that gentle sport. The equestrian will find the five and a half miles of bridle path greatly to his liking. In one of the sequestered lagoons the fly-caster may prove his skill. Ample lawns provide space for archery ranges. The Lincoln Park Trap Shooting Club has its headquarters on one of the new extensions on the lake front, and the traps are open to the public. The two main lagoons are merry with boating parties in the summer and with skaters in the winter. The sailing of toy yachts is a sport which has become increasingly popular among the younger set of late. The Lincoln Park Boat Club is provided with a fine course for its racing shells.
There are public beaches at Oak street and Diversey boulevard, and these are augmented by a children’s bathing beach. Belmont Harbor shelters a large fleet of yachts and motor boats. Hundreds of motor craft find additional anchorage in the slip at the south end of the Park.
The elephant “Deed-a-day”
But all this is only the beginning. On the north, the proposed extension will reach from Montrose avenue to Devon avenue, a distance of two and a half miles. It will consist first of a mainland peninsula of 396 acres, lying between Montrose and Foster avenues, which will contain the new Montrose yacht harbor, and a 39’acre bathing beach in line with Wilson
The next section will be a mainland strip 171 acres in extent, lying between Foster and Devon avenues, bordered by three islands with areas of 31, 37, and 467 acres respectively. On the latter, at Devon avenue, will be a 9’acre bathing beach. Between the second and third islands will be another yacht shelter of 238 acres, to be known as Edgewater Harbor.
A portion of the new park will be landscaped in a formal manner, while the larger part of the island areas will be devoted to picnic grounds and play fields, all easy of access yet removed from the main traffic ways. On the mainland peninsula will be built two large bath houses, two children’s playgrounds with shelters, fields for football and baseball, courts for basketball, handball, and quoits, a running track, and a ski jump.
Lincoln Park Gardens, With Conservatory in Background
Famous the World Round
“When the present expansion is completed,” says Mr. Wright, “the people of Chicago will have a playground which will rival anything of its kind in the world. It will give Chicago an uninterrupted highway bordering on the lake shore and extending almost the entire length of the city, and will be the realization of a civic hope and dream of many years.
“When asked for funds to carry out this stupendous program, the voters responded generously and without hesitation, knowing that the money derived from the bond issues would be expended honestly and efficiently and in their interests. The Lincoln Park Commissioners are doing all in their power to merit such confidence.”
The new Outer Drive link, to be carried over the main channel of the Chicago river at its mouth by a two-leaf trunnion bascule bridge, will connect the Lincoln Park and the South Park systems.
An Elevated Snoozer
Lincoln Park Zoo
The Bridge, Lincoln Park