At Play in the Windy City
On Chicago's South Side, a fountain brings play to a recovering
By Judith K. De Jong
In 1996, the future of the Jackson Park Pavilion, a public beach
house on the lakefront on Chicago's South Side, looked bleak. The
original uses of the facility were obsolete, the building was in
substantial disrepair, and the site had essentially been vacated
by the public. The site and building were also, however, of tremendous
historical importance and symbolism. The site was not only an important
waterfront piece of both the 1894 World's Columbian Exposition and
the subsequent Olmsted South Park plan, but it also remains a critical
piece of the continuous public lakefrontas envisioned by Burnham's
1909 Plan of Chicagotoward which the city of Chicago strives.
However, the pavilion's state of deterioration was also a symbol
to the community of what they considered to be a serious abrogation
of the city's duty to provide safe and clean public spaces for them
and their children. In the end, an innovative public/private partnership,
a strong commitment by the project team to an inclusive public process,
and a well-conceived design led to the provision of successful public
space for Jackson Park.
In 1853, lawyer Paul Cornell purchased 300 acres of land along
the swampy lakefront south of the city; substantial growth in the
community soon led to the establishment of the South Park Commission.
As its intention was to create "an extensive system of connected
parks and landscaped boulevards," according to the AIA Guide
to Chicago, the commission promptly hired Frederick Law Olmsted
and Calvert Vaux to design the vast new South Park, comprised of
Jackson Park, the Midway Plaisance, and Washington Park. Work initially
proceeded slowly, as funding allowed, until the city of Chicago
annexed Hyde Park to enhance its standing in the competition to
host the 1894 World's Columbian Exposition, for which Jackson Park
would be the primary fairground. Chicago was selected in April 1890
as the winner, and Olmsted was immediately rehired to design the
700-acre fairground. He was hired yet again in 1895 to do a comprehensive
plan of the entire South Park; it is this design, organized around
the major elements of the lakefront, fields, and lagoons, that established
the framework of the current Jackson Park.
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