What happens when a Prairie Style landscape is reshaped as a
By Mary Kay Wilcox, ASLA
Photo by Mary Wilcox
The town of Fort Sheridan, an upscale community high on a bluff over Lake Michigan north of Chicago, is a transformed landscape.
Until recently it was simply Fort Sheridan-a 700acre army post that operated for over 100 years. Historians consider the decommissioned
fort an architectural masterpiece. Holabird and Roche, the legendary Chicago architecture firm, designed most of the fort's 91 original
buildings. The cream-colored masonry structures, mainly Richardsonian Romanesque in style, are clad in heavy arches and substantial columns
that give the fort an air of grace and permanence. The fort's landscape design by Ossian C. Simonds is considered one of the finest examples
of the Prairie Style's naturalistic approach. In 1984, the National Park Service upgraded Fort Sheridan's listing on the National Register
of Historic Places by designating 230 acres as a National Historic Landmark District.
Today, children ride their bicycles through the water tower's sally port, originally designed to accommodate a platoon of men marching
to the parade ground. Town residents live in converted horse stables, soldier's barracks, and even a former cannon storage building. Others
live in new single-family houses along residential streets and in two mid-rise condominiums that afford spectacular views of Lake
Upon entering the town of Fort Sheridan, one leaves behind the North Shore's high-speed arterials and enters an enclave of mature
trees and green open space. The community has the atmosphere of a resort: Golfers stroll the former parade ground, now a six-hole
course, while resident tennis players enjoy their games on the courts just across from a neighborhood of airy, handsome estate homes.
The community's landscape infrastructure, from its substantial entrance pillars to its new bridges and tower plaza, echoes the feel of other
North Shore neighborhoods.
But how readily does a historic military base lend itself to a contemporary, livable residential community? The army's closing
agreement in transferring the fort identified a host of government entities to oversee its redevelopmententities with sometimes
conflicting concerns, such as restoring the natural environment and preserving the historic buildings. Moreover, the three exclusive
neighboring communities of Highwood, Lake Forest, and Highland Parkwhich
had their unique concerns, such as preventing competition to their own new-home salesestablished a Joint Planning Commission
responsible for approving a final master plan.
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