Chicago Architecture Blog for Curious People
Bridgeport Neighborhood Tour Recap
August 20, 2014 by Amanda
This past Saturday we had our sold-out “detour” of the summer season. “Bridgeport History of Creative Production” brought together a group of mostly locals to explore the inner workings of art centers, factories and an artisan bakery in Chicago’s oldest neighborhood.
We had a beautiful day for our walking tour, starting at the Bridgeport Art Center, one of many buildings used by Spiegel before it closed up shop in Chicago in the early ’90s (and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2003). Mike of building management took us around, and first we got to ride in this massive freight elevator. A friend of mine had a wedding here last year, and the elevator made for a very interesting entrance.
We checked out their special events space on the top floor, which has the angled skylights you find in lots of older factories in Chicago. Then we toured through the art studios and exhibition space before looking at the very cool marble entrance in front.
Walking down the block we got a mix of the area’s industry. We past Schulze Biscuit Company, most known as makers of Toast ‘Ems, an old-school competitor of Pop Tarts. Then we passed another former Spiegel’s building now owned by Tripp-It. A reflection of a new era in manufacturing in Chicago, Tripp-It manufactures cables and the like for the IT industry.
We stopped into the Zhou B Art Center, another warehouse-turned-art-center founded by contemporary art duo the Zhou Brothers. One brother’s son Michael showed us around. Currently an exhibition of the Zhou Brothers was in their primary gallery space.
Then we walked down an alley as a short cut to our next stop at Decorators Supply Corporation, a 100+ year-old maker of hand-crafted architectural details. Our exclusive visit here was particularly the featured stop for our tour experience in Bridgeport.
Bill is third generation in his family working at Decorators Supply and he graciously came in on his day off to show us around. Here he talks about the technique of using a material called “composite” to craft architectural details like corbels, capitals, and all kinds of ornamentation.
If you look very closely in these images, you will likely find the White Sox in all of them! We were on the South Side of course.
Then we had a great walk down Morgan Street. Johnny O’s is a little slice, or casing, of hot dog history in Bridgeport. They are well-known for their “mother-in-law sandwich,” a South Side specialty of a beef tamale in a hot dog bun that’s covered in chili and peppers.
Though Morgan Street had its streetcars taken out in the 1950s, it still retains a lot of clues to its more retail past. We past an old theater, a former pharmacy with gold lettering still on the glass of its covered up windows, and ended up at Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Ed Marszewski told us the story of getting his space from a Chinese mafia slumlord and cleaning it up into a cultural center for Bridgeport. In addition to having art shows and concerts at Co-Prosperity Sphere, Ed published Lumpen Magazine, one of the few independent arts magazine in the city.
Thank you to all the above businesses for partnering with us for this special event of the creative side of history and the present in Bridgeport. Also thanks to Jeremy Parker for the photos, to Stephanie Jokich for having moved down there which initially inspired me to have a special tour in Bridgeport, and to the random trucker who patiently explained to me how flour is sucked through tubes out of giant trucks into the Schulze factory.
– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director
Chicagoland Architecture and History Events This Week
August 19, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Get outta town! This week we bring you our favorite events in Chicagoland architecture and history that get you out of the city, or kind of, before fall is upon us. Our events this week feature hanging out mentally escaping after dark at the Art Institute, an Illinois history road trip, and a tour of a mid-century home in Park Ridge.
1. After Dark at the Art Institute – SPECIAL EVENT
159 E. Monroe St., Modern Wing entrance – Friday, August 22nd, 9:00pm-12:00am
$30 adults; $20 members and students – reservations required
Although this event is still in the city, it will get your mind adventuring to new places. See one of Chicago’s best museums, the Art Institute of Chicago, in a rare setting after dark. The museum is open late night in the Modern Wing this Friday with special tours of the new exhibit Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938. In addition to the special and regular exhibits, guests can get their dance on with DJs and will enjoy performances by acclaimed theatrical ensemble Collaboraction. Nibble on the complimentary appetizers or enjoy an end of the week libation at the cash bar as you meander the museum.
2. Canal Caravan Weekend – ROAD TRIP EVENT
Various Locations – Saturday, August 23rd-Sunday, August 24th
Prices vary – reservations required
Go for a trip and still get some Chicago history along the way with the Canal Caravan Weekend. The Canal Corridor Association is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the nation’s first Heritage Area, the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, with a number of inexpensive and free events throughout Illinois. This weekend kicks off a year of celebration chock full of Chicago and Illinois history from a canal boat ride in LaSalle to a tour of the Prairie just next door in Will County. Both enjoy our local heritage as well as take a short vacation from urbanity.
3. Fabulous 60s Mid Mod Split-Level in Park Ridge – HOUSE TOUR
1832 Prairie Ave., Park Ridge, IL – Sunday, August 24th, 2:00pm-4:00pm
FREE for members – reservations required
Don’t want to take a whole weekend away from our great Windy City? Perhaps a mid-century-inspired day trip? The Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond is taking a limited size group to tour a historic mid-century modern home in Park Ridge, IL, just outside the city. The architect, Louis Huebner was a graduate of the Illinois School of architecture and designed a number of homes and commercial buildings in the North Shore area of Chicagoland. The well preserved 1960s home is currently up for sale and this tour offers a unique opportunity to geek out about mid-century modern architecture with like-minded individuals. And from the photos, viewed here, this home looks wonderfully, immaculately maintained.
Bridgeport Neighborhood Creative Production “Detour”
August 13, 2014 by Amanda
We are getting pretty excited for “Bridgeport History of Creative Production,” a one-off “Detour” on Saturday, August 16th that’s currently almost sold out. I’ve been wanting to do a tour of the Bridgeport neighborhood ever since I got the special opportunity to step inside the Decorator’s Supply factory a few years ago. Chicago’s oldest neighborhood has a great mix of historic warehouses, contemporary art galleries, and regular working class Chicago homes. For this special one-time-only tour, we will visit artist studios, a factory, a warehouse, a church, an artisanal bakery, and more. The overall idea of this walking tour is to explore how Chicago reflects the shift in cities as traditional industrial centers to being hubs of cultural production.
A highlight of the tour will be exclusive entrance into Decorator’s Supply, which manufactures ornate architectural details out of plaster and resin. They started business with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and stepping into their factory is like a step back in time. When I got the rare chance to tour Decorator’s Supply a few years ago, I went a little crazy with my camera. Afterwards I made a video of the images. I embedded the video in a holiday email to our subscribers, and the subject line was “Getting Plastered for the Holidays?” It had a very high open rate!
I initially became familiar with Bridgeport years ago through art shows and music performances at Ed Majerski’s Co-Prosperity Sphere gallery, and also his mom’s neighborhood taproom a couple blocks away. Then a good friend of mine moved to the Bridgeport neighborhood, and from our wanderings I got to know this South-Side neighborhood a bit better.
While I’m no expert on the neighborhood, I have dug into some interesting architectural details along our walk. Really the focus of this tour will be our stops, and the various people there who will share their stories. At Bridgeport Art Center the tour guests will explore hidden nooks and crannies of this former department store warehouse. Down the block at Zhou B Art Center, we will hear about how two brothers catapulted to the top of the contemporary art world and came to call Bridgeport home.
A highlight and significant portion of the tour will be at the factory of Decorator’s Supply, a virtual white wonderland of cornices, pilasters, corbels, capitals and mantles. Then we will take a walk and look closely at details in the industrial and residential architecture of Bridgeport to better understand this shift from a working-class neighborhood with industry to the hipper place of artistic creation that it has become. We’ll pop into a historic church, and at Co-Prosperity Sphere gallery owner Ed Marszewski will share his story as an artist, publisher and entrepreneur with many creative projects in the Bridgeport neighborhood.
Guests meet at the Bridgeport Art Center at 1200 W. 35th Street at 10:30am this Saturday and it works out great to come early for the farmer’s market that takes place out front. The $30 per person ticket includes tour guide commentary, exclusive entrance into historic buildings, and a savory pie and treat. Currently just six spots are left, and all past Detours one-off events have sold-out. Make your tour reservations here.
– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director
Architecture and History Chicago Events For Summer
August 12, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Looking for some Chicago events for summer with an architecture and history twist? Here’s our pick for the week featuring a special tour of an all-in-one campus skyscraper, and exclusive tour of Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, and a community place-making event.
1. Roosevelt University’s Vertical Campus – SPECIAL TOUR
425 S. Wabash Ave. – Thursday, August 14th, 4:30pm-6:30pm
FREE – reservations required
A new look for urban universities, the Student Life, Academic and Recreation Building at Roosevelt University is an all-in-one campus skyscraper. Hosted by AIAChicago, Joe Dietz and Al Migon of VOA will offer a short presentation before leading a tour of their recently completed building, which incorporates a 15-story academic, recreation and student life complex that is capped with a 18-story residence hall. The building houses everything from the college of business, general academic classrooms and science labs to a recreation center and student union; plus, there are over 600 student residences.
2. Bridgeport History of Creative Production – EXCLUSIVE TOUR
Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th – Saturday, August 16th, 10:30am-1:00pm
$30 – reservations required
Only from yours truly, this special one-off “Detour” of Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood you’ll explore artist studios, a factory, a warehouse, a church, and an artisanal bakery on a 2.5-hour-long tour that considers the shift in cities as traditional industrial centers to being hubs of cultural production. Tour stops include contemporary art galleries, such as Co-Prosperity Sphere, and an exclusive visit to Decorator’s Supply, a historic manufacturer of architectural details that started business with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and is a virtual white wonderland of intricate plaster and resin ornaments. Tickets include engaging tour guide commentary, exclusive entrance into historic buildings, and a savory pie and treat from Pleasant House Bakery. The tour is limited and capped at 20 guests.
3. Old Place, New Tricks Placemaking Challenge – COMMUNITY EVENT
Dorchester Community Garden, 6956 S. Dorchester Ave. – Saturday, August 16th, 10:0am-5:00pm
FREE – registration recommended
Be a part of Chicago’s history and get together with friends and neighbors this Saturday for the annual Metropolitan Planning Council‘s challenge to activate a public space in the community for one day. Hosted by the Rebuild Foundation, volunteers will be charged with the creation of place that is the vision of neighborhood members, young and old, by constructing a picnic table, garden sculpture and signage for the Dorchester Community Garden.
Things To Do In Chicago Architecture And History
August 5, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
We feature our favorite events each week of things to do in Chicago architecture and history. This week we highlight events that will get you enjoying Chicago out of doors including an overlooked historic house tour, a live jazz performance with picnic, and a unique bike tour of historic demonstrations.
1. Tuesday’s on the Terrace: Jason Stein Quartet – JAZZ PERFORMANCE
220 E. Chicago Ave., Museum of Contemporary Art – Tuesday, August 5th, 5:30pm-8:00pm
FREE – $25 for buffet option with table, reservations required at 312.397.4034
Every week during the summer months, the Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates the history of jazz in Chicago with a free jazz concert on their terrace. This week they bring in the Jason Stein Quartet who promise to bring torrid, bop-rooted synchronicity. Make the evening into a picnic with a blanket and munchies to enjoy on the garden. Or for a fun date idea in Chicago, enjoy the Wolfgang Puck catered dinner buffet for $25 that features fresh, locally grown produce from the MCA Farmers’ Market. Cocktails via a cash bar are served on the lower terrace as well.
2. Charnley-Persky House Museum – FREE TOUR
1365 N. Astor St. – Wednesdays, 12:00pm; Saturdays, 10:00am & 12:00pm
FREE Wednesdays – first come, first served; $10 Saturdays
Chicago has incredible architecture and legacy of architects. So when two of Chicago’s architecture greats combine forces, you get a pivotal piece of architecture known as the Charnley-Persky House. Louis Sullivan designed the house with the collaboration of his draftsman at the time, Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1892 and it is now part of the Astor Street Historic District in the Gold Coast neighborhood. Tours every Wednesday at noon are free as is a self-guided walk around the ornate neighborhood with historic homes dating from the 1880s.
3. Chicago in Revolt – SPECIAL BIKE TOUR
1601 N. Clark St., Chicago History Museum – Sunday, August 10th, 9:30am-12:30pm
$25 non-members/$20 members – reservations required
With so few months of nice weather in Chicago, a bike tour is a unique way to take advantage of above freezing temperatures. The Chicago History Museum is offering some special bike tours this summer and this Sunday will take you to sites of Chicago’s best-known demonstrations, from the Haymarket Affair of 1886 to the 1968 Democratic National Convention to the more recent Occupy Wall Street movement. This is for the more active Chicago enthusiast as it is an exhilarating 10 to 15 miles of biking.
Swimming in Chicago Part Two: History of Public Pools
July 24, 2014 by Elizabeth Tieri
When I want to go swimming in Chicago and I don’t have time for a trek to the lake, I head to the public pool. Chicago has 49 outdoor pools in its park system. These public pools are free and offer a respite from the sand and the sunbathers, as the vast majority of pool patrons are children eager to swim. In part one of this swimming in Chicago post, we explored the history of Chicago’s beaches, of which there are many. So if Chicago has such a vast lakefront, why are there also so many pools?
While Chicago offers 26 miles of beach, the rest of Chicago is 200 square miles that is not so literally on the lake. In the late 1800s, many of the western neighborhoods were densely populated by the working and poor classes in less than desirable conditions. The majority of Chicago homes did not have electricity or even indoor plumbing for many years. Though West Side Chicago neighborhoods lacked lakefront access, they did have parks.
Thanks to the park commissions established in the 1860s, large-scale parks had been carved out of city blocks and were increasingly connected by boulevards and commuter lines. The parks offered much in green spaces for healthy recreation. Free public swimming pools in Chicago would add the benefits of hygiene while combating the high temperatures of summer in industrial Chicago. A park commissioners report furthers this importance of the public pool by stating, “A clean body usually makes for a clean mind.” And goodness knows with our history of corruption and crime, Chicago was in need of cleanliness on both accounts.
Though the reformers make a great case for godliness, the wave of public pools in Chicago really gained momentum with Chicago’s German-American athletic community. Turnvereins, or turner clubs, focused on gymnastics with a twinge of morals and intellect. Their petitions for outdoor facilities resulted in the first of Chicago’s public pools at Douglas Park. The earliest reports of the natatorium–the building built to house the swimming tanks–rave about the crowds, averaging almost 3,000 swimmers a day! A Chicago Tribune article from the pool’s first months of being open discusses a man who drowned, explaining it took almost 20 minutes to find his body in the crowd of swimmers. Now I’ve seen some crowded pools in my day, but I can’t imagine losing a corpse among the live, swimming bodies.
At most swimming pools in Chicago at the time, pool schedules were regimented to segregate the sexes. Often a mere two days a week were reserved for women and girls; sometimes only mornings were set aside for them. These practices would continue for decades. Douglas Park, however, had two separate pools. In addition to having shorter times for swimming, women even had shorter pools as the women’s pool measured half as long.
Swimming at Douglas Park was allowed free of charge after a “shower bath” for which soap and towel were provided. Swimmers were admitted on the batch plan of a new group every hour to be kicked out for the entry of the next, which accounts for the high numbers reached each day and the lines pictured below. The original natatorium no longer stands, though there is still a swimming pool at Douglas Park. The current field house dates to 1928, when architects Michaelsen and Rognstad were sweeping across the West Park Commission constructing a dozen buildings.
My personal favorite of the public pools in Chicago is at Portage Park. This Olympic-sized outdoor pool also has a separate, extra deep part for diving. Few things make me feel as much like a child as standing atop the high dive: too scared to jump into the pool, too embarrassed to climb down the ladder. Then that rush of wind in descent before you crash into the water.
So whether you’re looking for a quick dip in the lake or a dramatic dive into a public pool, Chicago offers respite from the heat so many of us anticipated all winter long. And a great part about either option? Both the beach and the pool are free. Enjoy!
– Elizabeth Tieri, Tour Guide
Residential Architecture in Chicago’s Lincoln Park
July 16, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
From greystones and H.H. Richardson to bungalows and Frank Lloyd Wright, residential architecture in Chicago really runs the gamut. One Chicago neighborhood with a great variety of kinds of homes is Lincoln Park.
A long Georgian-revival style building stretches down the little neighborhood street of Arlington Place. It was originally designed as an “Eleanor Club,” which were female-only boarding houses in Chicago. A progressive philanthropist named Ina Robertson founded the Eleanor Women’s Foundation to aid working women in the city, and part of their program was to provide housing for Chicago women. This historic organization had residences in Chicago all the way until 2001 when the last Eleanor residence quietly closed its doors. Edwin H. Clark designed the boarding house and he is also known for other buildings in the Lincoln Park neighborhood such as the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Reptile House and the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. Today the building houses the Chicago Getaway Hostel, which gives a great chance to stay in a historic building in a happening neighborhood.
The hostel building is today part of the Arlington-Deming Historic District. Another interesting building in the neighborhood is at 546 W. Deming Place. It is another style of apartment building but from a more modern era. This piece of residential architecture is known as the infamous “four-plus-one.” Jerome Soltan invented this economic style of apartment building in the 1960s and 70s. It consists of a five-story building with the bottom floor as a parking lot and lobby and the other four floors above as apartments. While the four-plus-one sounds basic and familiar in many American cities, this style is uniquely Chicago as it is designed around the unique city zoning codes and lot regulations to essentially be the most bang for your buck. The parking lot and lobby level is designed to sit below grade and is only 7′ in height. This makes the level classifiable as a basement and allows the five-story building to be considered four-stories, useful for sneaking around city zoning areas. These buildings exist primarily along the lakeshore, a.k.a. prime sections of real estate. This particular four-plus-one in Lincoln Park has 24 apartments upon the site of what used to be just one single-family home.
Another unique piece of residential architecture and part of this Lincoln Park historic district are the Newman Brothers Houses at 2424, 2430 and 2434 N. Orchard St. Designed by the nephew of Chicago’s first architect, John Van Osdel II, these Châteauesque homes are an interpretation of a style popularized in the 1890s with S.S. Beman’s Kimball House on Chicago’s historic Prairie Avenue. The Newman Brothers Houses were completed in 1895 and include one of my favorite architectural features, a curved glass pane window, something which simply isn’t manufactured these days. The three homes are almost identical with the same exterior design and details. You will see, however, nuances with the different-colored stone of the facade.
From chateau-inspired mansions to efficient profit-making design, the Lincoln Park neighborhood has more than a handful of interesting examples of Chicago’s distinct residential buildings worth a jaunt down the pretty, tree-covered side streets.
–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide
July Chicago Events In Architecture And History
July 15, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Architecture and history of Chicago are the focus of our weekly events listings, and this week we share with you July Chicago events including a special event on forgotten movie theaters, an architectural bike ride, and a special tour of Prairie Avenue.
1. Movie Theater History Event – SPECIAL LECTURE
Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. – Tuesday, July 15th, 7:00pm
$5 suggested donation at door
The recently reopened historic Portage Theater hosts this Forgotten Chicago one-night-only event on the history and legacy of more than a century of movie theaters in Chicago. The 1920 movie theater originally sat 2,000 eager film goers and is now the perfect spot for a night of reminiscing in Chicago’s cinema house history. Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, hosts the evening which includes photographs and images from the Forgotten Chicago database not seen in decades while Bill Savage, acclaimed author, editor, and Northwestern University’s Distinguished Senior Lecturer, offers insight.
2. Guided Bicycle Tour of Oak Park – BIKE TOUR
105 S. Marion St., Oak Park – Friday, July 18th; Saturday, July 19th; Sunday, July 20th, 9:30am-11:30am
$30 members, $35 non-members – reservations recommended
This is an architecture tour for the more active enthusiast. During the summer months this year the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is offering this two-hour bike tour around the picturesque Oak Park every Friday, Saturday and Sunday where you’ll explore over 22 Wright-designed buildings. Sites featured include the Home and Studio, Unity Temple, Frank Thomas House, Heurtley House, Cheney House, Furbeck House and more. The Trust has partnered with Greenline Wheels, where the tour begins and ends, so you can either bring your own bike or use one of theirs at no extra charge.
3. Prairie Avenue Walking Tour - SPECIAL TOUR
1800 S. Prairie Ave. – Sunday, July 20th, 2:00pm-4:00pm
$12 members, $15 non-members – reservations recommended, call 312.326.1480
Executive Director of the Glessner House Museum and author of Chicago’s Historic Prairie Avenue, William Tyre, leads guests around none other than Chicago’s historic Prairie Avenue on this special tour. As the end all be all of the street’s history, Tyre is the ideal guide to share everything from Fort Dearborn to the neighborhood’s resurgence as a residential hot spot in Chicago. During the tour you’ll also see images of grand homes that have been lost, walk by the eleven remaining mansions, and step inside both the Wheeler Mansion and the 2nd Presbyterian Church.
Oriental Institute Museum at U of C: Foto Friday
July 11, 2014 by Amanda
One of my favorite museums of Chicago is the Oriental Institute Museum on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. This great free thing to do in Chicago holds treasures of antiquity from the Ancient Near East, which is roughly what we call today the “Middle East.” Though the Oriental Institute is a small museum in Chicago terms, its power to impress is quite big.
Visit the Oriental Institute Museum and you will marvel at incredibly intricate and precious ancient artifacts from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Israel. You’ll see colossal stone sculptures, games made of wood and gold, iridescent glass bottles, and Egyptian mummies. I’ve also noticed that when people come to the museum, it’s probably easy to overlook the very cool art deco architecture of it. However, it is not to be missed.
– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director of Chicago Detours
Swimming in Chicago Part One: Chicago Beach History
July 10, 2014 by Elizabeth Tieri
Summer is here, and with it comes the excitement of outdoor fun and swimming in Chicago. Often on our walking tours, I am asked, “What is your favorite thing about Chicago?”
“THE BEACH,” I respond without hesitation. Any free afternoon I get this summer, you’ll find me at a Chicago beach, swimming in the water and picnicking with a book. Today, Lake Michigan and its beaches provide obvious beauty as well as recreation, exercise, and nature to locals and tourists alike. Historically, Chicago’s lakefront was not always a desirable site, nor was it so accessible. I decided to dig deeper into the history of Chicago’s beaches.
I had always heard that Chicago beaches are built on the debris created by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Dumping debris in the lake seemed like an easy answer to the volume of destruction. With a little research, I found that land-filling in Lake Michigan solved an erosion problem as well as generating more city land, so it became quite popular quite quickly.
Thess first public beaches came out of work done by progressive women like Dr. Sarah Hackett Stevenson through the Municipal Order League, a women’s reform organization. She urged Chicago to make use of “nature’s tub” as relief of sanitary conditions within congested, workingman neighborhoods. Glamorous, right?
The very first public bathing beach of Chicago dates to 1895 at the shore between Fullerton Avenue and Diversey Parkway as a part of Lincoln Park. Until this point, it isn’t that there weren’t any beaches in Chicago; it was that beaches were private affairs belonging to clubs and hotels, which meant they cost money. Only the highest class of Chicagoans traveled north of the city or across the lake for bathing beaches.
The Lincoln Park beach was free if you wore your own suit or a nickel to rent one, if you can imagine, and it established that working class people could be bathers, too. A Chicago Tribune article of the same year about the perfect lakefront trail bike ride describes this Chicago beach, where you could have witnessed “the antics of the hundreds of little newsboys in swimming” for endless amusement. At this Chicago beach, bathers were separated by gender not only when they changed their clothes but also when entering the water. The Tribune article describes a rope that divided the swimming area to keep things proper and modest between the sexes.
There were also tough restrictions on what was considered proper attire to swim in Chicago, and breaking these dress codes was an arrestable offense. Consider the costumes necessary to swim in public shown here; bare knees would not be admissible for several years to come.
Remember the Chicago River at this point still flowed into Lake Michigan, bringing sewage into it. In 1900 the Sanitary and Ship Canal was completed to aid in the reversing of the flow of the river. The positive effects of this reversal on the cleanliness of the lake water took a few years to become evident. Desire to swim in Lake Michigan grew as the quality of its water improved. In 1909 the Chicago Council established a Committee on Bathing Beaches to better meet the growing demand for more public beaches. The same year, Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago was released, which called for the lakefront to be reserved as park space as well as several Chicago beaches as part of the urban design for the city.
From the Great Fire to the Burnham Plan, Chicago beaches are a hodge-podge of public and private efforts. The idea of a consolidated Chicago Park District doesn’t happen until 1934, as the city responds to the difficulties of the Great Depression and attempts to access New Deal assistance. This puts both the vast sands of the south and the street-end beaches of the far north under one administration and continues construction projects that had been on hold since the crash. The Chicago Park District continued to acquire private beach property into the 1950s. Today, Chicago has more than 26 miles of public beach, which afford endless opportunities of free swimming in Chicago’s Lake Michigan.
If Chicago beaches aren’t your scene, stay tuned for Part Two of Swimming in Chicago, where we’ll explore the history of Chicago’s public pools.
– Elizabeth Tieri, Chicago Detours Tour Guide