Friday, February 26, 2010

Parks

The park system may be said to have been begun in 1869, and in 1870 aggregated 1887 acres. Chicago then acquired the name of “The Garden City,” which still clings to her. But many other cities have later passed her (until in 1904, though the second largest of the country, she ranked only thirty-second in her holdings of park area per capita among American cities of 100,000 population). In 1908 the acreage of the municipal parks was 3179 acres, and there were 61.4 m. of boulevards. After 1900 another period of ambitious development began. The improvement of old and the creation of new “internal” parks, i.e. within the cordon of those older parks and boulevards that once girdled the city but have been surrounded in its later growth; the creation of a huge metropolitan ring—similar to that of Boston but vaster (35,000 acres)—of lake bluffs, hills, meadows, forests and river valley; and a great increase of “neighbourhood parks” in the poor districts, are included in the new undertakings.

The neighbourhood park, usually located near a school, is almost all-inclusive in its provision for all comers, from babyhood to maturity, and is open all day. There are sand gardens and wading ponds and swings and day nurseries, gymnasiums, athletic fields, swimming pools and baths, reading-rooms—generally with branches of the city library—lunch counters, civic club rooms, frequent music, assembly halls for theatricals, lectures, concerts, or meetings, penny savings banks, and in the winter skating ponds. These social centres have practically all been created since about 1895. There are also municipal baths on the lake front and elsewhere. The older parks include several of great size and beauty. Lincoln Park (area 552 acres), on the lake shore of the North Side, has been much enlarged by an addition reclaimed from the lake. It has fine monuments, conservatories, the only zoological garden in the city, and the collections of the Academy of Sciences. A breakwater carriage drive connects with a boulevard to Fort Sheridan (27 m.) up the lake. Jackson Park (542 acres), on the lake shore of the South Side, was the main site of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and contains the Field Columbian Museum, occupying the art building of the exposition. It is joined with Washington Park (371 acres) by the Midway Plaisance, a wide boulevard, intended to be converted into a magnificent sunken water-course connecting the lagoons of the two parks with Lake Michigan. Along the Midway are the greystone buildings of the University of Chicago, and of its (Blaine) School of Education.

On the West Side are three fine parks—Douglas, Garfield (with a fine conservatory), and Humboldt, which has a remarkable rose garden (respectively 182, 187 and 206 acres), and in the extreme South Side several others, including Calumet (66 acres), by the lake side, and Marquette (322 acres), Jackson Boulevard, Western Avenue Boulevard and Marshall Boulevard join the South and the West Park systems. Neither New York nor Boston has preserved as has Chicago the beauty of its water front. The shore of the North Side is quite free, and beginning a short distance above the river is skirted for almost 30 m. by the Lake Shore Drive, Lincoln Park and the Sheridan Drive.

The shore of the South Side is occupied by railway tracks, but they have been sunk and the shore otherwise improved. In addition to Calumet and Jackson parks there was another just below the river, Lake Park, which has since been included in Grant Park, mostly reclaimed from the water. Here are the public library and the building of the Art Institute (opened in 1893); the park had also been proposed as the site of a new building for the Field Museum of Natural History. The park and boulevards along the lake in 1905 stretched 10.78 m., within the city limits, or almost half the total frontage.10 The inner “boulevards” are broad parked ways, 150 to 300 ft. wide, joining the parks; Chicago was the first American city to adopt this system.

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