Washington Park (Chicago park)

Washington Park (formerly Western Division of South Park, also Park No. 21) is a 372-acre (1.5 km2)[2] park between Cottage Grove Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive, (originally known as "Grand Boulevard") located at 5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr. in the Washington Park community area on the South Side of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. It was named for President George Washington in 1880.[3] Washington Park is the largest of four Chicago Park District parks named after persons surnamed Washington (the others are Dinah Washington Park, Harold Washington Park and Washington Square Park, Chicago). Located in the park is the DuSable Museum of African American History. This park was the proposed site of the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic swimming venue for Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Washington Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 20, 2004.

Washington Park
Washington Park (Chicago park) is located in Greater Chicago
Washington Park (Chicago park)
Location5531 S. King Dr.,
Chicago, Illinois
Coordinates41°47′45″N 87°36′40″W / 41.79583°N 87.61111°WCoordinates: 41°47′45″N 87°36′40″W / 41.79583°N 87.61111°W
Area380 acres (1.5 km2)
ArchitectOlmsted, Frederick Law; Burnham, Daniel H.
Architectural styleBeaux Arts, Art Deco
MPSChicago Park District MPS
NRHP reference #04000871[1]
Added to NRHPAugust 20, 2004


Washington Park OpenStreetMap
Map of Washington park in the South Side of Chicago
Washington Park Sheep
Southdown sheep grazing before they were disallowed circa 1920[4]
Lagoon in Washington Park
Washington Park Conservatory
Washington Park Conservatory
Washington Park Refectory
Washington Park Refectory

Washington Park was conceived by Paul Cornell, a Chicago real estate magnate who had founded the adjoining town of Hyde Park. Cornell had lobbied the Illinois General Assembly to establish the South Park Commission. After his efforts succeeded in 1869, the South Park Board of Commissioners identified more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) south of Chicago for a large park and boulevards that would connect it with downtown and the extant West Park System.[5] Originally called South Park, the property was composed of eastern and western divisions, now bearing the names Jackson and Washington Parks and the Midway Plaisance.[6] Cornell hired Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, to lay out the park in the 1870s. Their blueprints were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.[2]

When Olmsted first examined the property, he saw a field filled with bare trees and decided to maintain its character by creating a meadow surrounded by trees. His plan for the park called for sheep to graze as a means of keeping the grass short. Cornell convinced Olmsted to include sporting areas, although Olmsted wanted a more natural feel to the park, which included a 13-acre (53,000 m2) lake.[7] The Western division was renamed Washington Park in 1881.[6]

Rock garden in Washington Park

Olmsted designed the park to have two broad boulevards cutting through it, making it part of Chicago's boulevard system. From Washington Park, one can take the Midway east to Jackson Park, Garfield Boulevard west to Chicago Midway International Airport, or Drexel Boulevard north to the central city.

Horace William Shaler Cleveland executed the plans within the limitations of the financial setbacks from the fire (including the loss of tax rolls) and the 1873 depression.[2] Olmsted's vision for Washington Park was generally realized.[8] However, since spending for the park was diverted after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The loss of financial backing and difficulty in levying taxes after the fire meant that a water park could not be built on the property.[8] From 1897 until the 1930s the park housed an impressive conservatory and ornate sunken garden designed by D. H. Burnham & Co. at 56th Street and Cottage Grove.[9] The Washington Park Conservatory, like those of other city parks such as Humboldt and Douglas Parks, was torn down in the 1930s due to limited resources as a result of the Great Depression. This left Lincoln Park and Garfield Park as Chicago's main Conservatories.[10] One of the earliest improvements was the "South Open Green," a pastoral meadow with grazing sheep, also used as a ball field. Architect Daniel H. Burnham's firm designed the 1880 limestone round stables, the 1881 refectory, and the 1910 administrative headquarters for the South Park Commission. Other early attractions to the park included riding stables, cricket grounds, baseball fields, a toboggan slide, archery ranges, a golf course, Swimming pool, bicycle paths, row boats, horseshoe pits, greenhouses, a rose garden, a bandstand, a small zoo featuring six alligators, and a lily pond.[4] The lily pond (pictured left) was a particularly enticing attraction because few had seen such a site.[3] Today, the administrative building houses DuSable Museum of African American History.[6] The park has retained its environmental appeal with continuing visionary support of the Burnham Plan which supported the maintenance of a park system.[11]


Washington Park Lily Pond
Washington Park Lily Pond
Grant Tree1
General Grant's Tree

On December 6, 1879, former U.S. President Ulysses Grant took part in a tree planting ceremony in the park. A memorial boulder with a plaque (both of which have been removed from the park, along with the tree) commemorated the event.[12] In the 1920s black semiprofessional baseball teams played at Washington Park.[2] George Lott began playing tennis at the park.[13]

At the southeast corner of the park, at 61st and Cottage Grove, Washington Park Race Track operated between 1883 and 1905. It was one of the largest and grandest horse racetracks of its time. A nine-hole golf course was built in the infield and several of its buildings survive today as part of the Park District. This includes the stables used by Chicago Police at 58th and Cottage Grove. The racetrack closed after Illinois outlawed gambling, and the name was transferred to a second track in Homewood, Illinois. (See the Washington Park Race Track Wikipedia site for photos and references.)

The USA Cross Country Championships were held in the park in 1933, 1957, 1958, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1970 and 1972.[14]

Washington Park was a site of tension and conflict arising from the demographic changes resulting from the African American expansion into the neighborhood in the period following the First World War.[2] The park has since 1961 hosted the DuSable Museum of African American History, a leader in the promotion of the history, art and culture of African American heritage.[15]


The DuSable Museum
DuSable Museum - 2007Jan07

Washington Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a United States Registered Historic District. Its National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Submission consisted of 3,670 acres (14.9 km2) containing 15 contributing buildings, 28 contributing structures, and 8 contributing objects.[16] Interesting sights in the Park include the DuSable Museum of African American History and its sculpture garden, the Lorado Taft sculpture Fountain of Time, and an architecturally distinctive National Guard armory.[17] Washington Park is a social center of the South Side and hosts many festivals in the summer, including Chicago's best organized cricket league and the terminus of the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic. The largest 16" softball league in Chicago is played there on Sundays (called "Sunday's Best Softball League"). There are 34 teams who play on 13 diamonds. There is also a weekday evening league.

2016 Olympic bid

On September 21, 2006, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced that an Olympic Stadium was being proposed for Washington Park as part of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics (The International Olympic Committee requires cities have a dome with a seating capacity of at least 80,000 in order to be considered as summer Olympics hosts). The stadium would have seated 95,000 initially for the games, and would have been converted to a 10,000-seat below-ground arena for track-and-field and cultural events after the Olympics. The cost was estimated to be at least $300–400 million (USD).[18] The plan replaced the initial dual stadium opening ceremony facility.[19][20][21]

Additional details about the plan included new permanent hockey fields, use of Jones Armory, and new pedestrian juncture between the two halves of the park by tunneling part of Morgan Drive (55th).[22][23] A later December 2008 plan added the olympic swimming venue to the park.[24] The plan faced opposition from those holding the view that Washington Park's listing on the National Register of Historic Places could not have survived the execution of this Olympic plan. In addition to the opposition, the plan faced constraints because of the park's landmark status, which precluded federal money from being used to build a temporary stadium in the park.[22] The decision, in October 2009, to award the 2016 Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro halted these plans.[25]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bachin, Robin (2005). "Washington Park (Park)". The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved October 22, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Graf, John, Chicago's Parks Arcadia Publishing, 2000, p. 84., ISBN 0-7385-0716-4.
  4. ^ a b Graf, John, Chicago's Parks Arcadia Publishing, 2000, p. 86., ISBN 0-7385-0716-4.
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of Chicago Map
  6. ^ a b c Duo Consulting (2006). "Washington Park". Chicago Park District. Retrieved January 2, 2007.
  7. ^ Miller, Donald (1996). City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp. 288–289. ISBN 978-0-684-83138-1.
  8. ^ a b Bachrach, Julia Sniderman, Park Districts, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004 The Encyclopedia of Chicago, p. 601. The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
  9. ^ Bachrach, Julia Sniderman, Conservatories, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004 The Encyclopedia of Chicago, p. 199-200. The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
  10. ^ Graf, John, Chicago's Parks Arcadia Publishing, 2000, p. 87., ISBN 0-7385-0716-4.
  11. ^ Stradling, David, Environmentalism, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004 The Encyclopedia of Chicago, p. 278. The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
  12. ^ Graf, John, Chicago's Parks Arcadia Publishing, 2000, p. 85., ISBN 0-7385-0716-4.
  13. ^ Long, John H., Tennis, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004 The Encyclopedia of Chicago, p. 814. The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
  14. ^ "U.S. National Cross Country Champions" (PDF). therealxc.com. Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  15. ^ "Museum History". DuSable Museum of African American History. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  16. ^ "Illinois - Cook County - Historic Districts". National Register of Historic Places. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  17. ^ Bachrach, Julia Sniderman (July 2, 2004). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Washington Park" (PDF). United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  18. ^ Hinz, Greg (September 20, 2006). "Daley sets site for Olympic stadium". ChicagoBusiness.com. Retrieved December 27, 2006.
  19. ^ Benjy (September 21, 2006). "New Plan for Olympic Stadium". Chicagoist.com. Archived from the original on October 19, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2006.
  20. ^ Staff writer (September 20, 2006). "Daley Proposes Olympic Stadium To Be Built". CBS2Chicago.com. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved December 27, 2006.
  21. ^ Kamin, Blair (September 21, 2006). "Washington Park plan looks like a gold medal winner for the city". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved December 27, 2006.
  22. ^ a b "The proposal for Olympic 2016 facilities in Washington Park on Chicago's Mid-South Side and an historic Olmsted park with Community commentaries". hydepark.org. October 12, 2010.
  23. ^ For a photographic representation of the plan see Plan maps.
  24. ^ Spielman, Fran (December 12, 2008). "Taxpayers facing more Olympic risk: BIGGER GAMBLE". Chicago Sun-Times. Digital Chicago, Inc. Archived from the original on December 17, 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2008.
  25. ^ Macur, Juliet (October 2, 2009). "Rio Wins 2016 Olympics in a First for South America". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved January 24, 2010.

External links

Dinah Washington Park

Dinah Washington Park is a park located at 8215 S. Euclid Avenue in the South Chicago community area of Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was named for singer and Chicago resident Dinah Washington. It is one of four Chicago Park District parks named after persons surnamed Washington (the others being Washington Park, Harold Washington Park and Washington Square Park). It is one of 40 Chicago Park District parks named after influential African Americans.The Chicago Park District purchased the vacant lot in 1972 with the help of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

List of equestrian statues in the United States

This is a list of equestrian statues in the United States.

South Side, Chicago

The South Side is an area of the city of Chicago. It is the largest of the three Sides of the city that radiate from downtown—the others being the North Side and the West Side (while there is no East Side, because Lake Michigan runs along the city's eastern border, there is an East Side community area on the South Side, in the far southeastern section of the city). The South Side is sometimes referred to as South Chicago, although that name can also refer to a specific community area on the South Side.

Much of the South Side came from the city's annexation of townships such as Hyde Park. The city's "sides" have historically been divided by the Chicago River and its branches. The South Side of Chicago was originally defined as all of the city south of the main branch of the Chicago River, but it now excludes the Loop. The South Side has a varied ethnic composition. It has great disparity in income and other demographic measures. Although it has a reputation for high levels of crime, the reality is much more varied. The South Side ranges from affluent to middle class to poor, just like other sections of large cities.

South Side neighborhoods such as Armour Square, Back of the Yards, Bridgeport, and Pullman host more blue collar and middle-class residents, while Hyde Park, the Jackson Park Highlands District, Kenwood, Beverly, Mount Greenwood, and west Morgan Park feature affluent and upper-middle class residents.The South Side boasts a broad array of cultural and social offerings, such as professional sports teams, landmark buildings, museums, educational institutions, medical institutions, beaches, and major parts of Chicago's parks system. The South Side is served by numerous bus and 'L' trains via the Chicago Transit Authority and several Metra rail commuter lines. It has several interstate and national highways.

Washington Park, Chicago

Washington Park, Chicago may refer to:

Washington Park, Chicago (Community area), a City of Chicago community area

Washington Park (Chicago park), a Public City Park in the above community area

Washington Park Race Track, a historic horse racing track once located 1 block south of the above park

Washington Park Subdivision, a historic subdivision on the site of the former race track

Washington Park, Chicago (community area)

Washington Park is a community area on the South Side of Chicago which includes the 372 acre (1.5 km²) park of the same name, stretching east-west from Cottage Grove Avenue to the Dan Ryan Expressway, and north-south from 51st Street to 63rd. It is home to the DuSable Museum of African American History. The park was the proposed site of the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Aquatics Center in Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.It and surrounding neighborhoods have gone through notable and often turbulent racial transitions.

Washington Park Subdivision

The Washington Park Subdivision is the name of the historic 3-city block by 8-city block subdivision in the northwest corner of the Woodlawn community area, on the South Side of Chicago in Illinois that stands in the place of the original Washington Park Race Track. The area evolved as a redevelopment of the land previously occupied by the racetrack. It was originally an exclusively white neighborhood that included residential housing, amusement parks, and beer gardens.

During the late 1920s and 1930s, the area became the subject of discriminatory twenty-year covenants, which were determined to be invalid by the United States Supreme Court, when challenged in a seminal case brought by Carl Hansberry. The case is a vital part of legal studies and considered an important part of a broad class of histories. The play Raisin in the Sun is based on Lorraine Hansberry's struggles in this neighborhood.

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