Grant Park in Chicago

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Grant Park (originally Lake Park, established 1844) is a large urban park (319 acres or 1.29 km²) in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Located in Chicago's central business district, the park's most notable features are Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum Campus. Named for United States President and Civil War General, Ulysses S. Grant, Grant Park is frequently referred to as the city's front yard. It was developed as one of Chicago's first parks and expanded through land reclamation. The park was the focus of several disputes in the late 1800's and early 1900's over open space use. It is bordered on the north by Randolph Street, on the south by Roosevelt Road, on the west by Michigan Avenue and on the east by Lake Michigan. The park contains performance venues, gardens, art work, sporting, and harbor facilities. It hosts public gatherings, and several large annual events.


The original plans for the town of Chicago left the area east of Michigan Avenue unsubdivided and vacant, and purchasers of Michigan Avenue lots were promised that it would remain unoccupied. When the former Fort Dearborn became part of the townsite in 1839, the plan of the area east of Michigan Avenue south of Randolph was marked "Public ground. Forever to remain vacant of buildings."

The city officially designated the land as a park on April 29, 1844, naming it Lake Park. When the Illinois Central Railroad was built into Chicago in 1852, it was permitted to lay track along the lakefront on a causeway built offshore from the park. The resulting lagoon became stagnant, and was largely filled in 1871 with debris from the Great Chicago Fire. In 1896, the city began extending Grant Park out into the lake with landfill, beyond the rail lines. On October 9, 1901, it was renamed Grant Park in honor of Galena, Illinois resident, American Civil War commanding General and United States President Ulysses S. Grant.

The legal restrictions prohibiting any buildings in the park were ignored in the 19th century, as various civic buildings were sited there. Also, an early home field of the baseball club now known as the Chicago Cubs stood in the northwest corner of the park during the 1870s and 1880s. Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago proposed a cultural center, containing a library and two museums, as the centerpiece of the park. Chicago businessman Aaron Montgomery Ward ultimately fought four court battles, opposed by nearly every civic leader, to keep the park free of buildings. The one exception Ward consented to was for the Art Institute of Chicago, constructed in 1892. In the early 20th century, Grant Park was expanded with further landfill — much of it from the excavations of the Chicago Tunnel Company — and developed with a very formal landscape design by Edward Bennett. Until the Wingfoot Air Express Crash, early aviation into Chicago utilized the Grant Park airstrip. More landfill in the 1910s and 1920s provided sites for the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History, and Shedd Aquarium, which were linked together as the Museum Campus in 1998. In 2004, a section of northern Grant Park, previously occupied by Illinois Central railyards and parking lots, was covered and redeveloped as Millennium Park.


The Park is often called Chicago's front yard.


The park has been the site of many large civic events. In 1911, it hosted the major Chicago International Aviation Meet. It was the scene of clashes between Chicago Police and demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Pope John Paul II celebrated an outdoor mass to a large crowd here in 1979. Championship celebrations for the Chicago Bulls were staged here during the 1990s. The park was the location for President Barack Obama's Election Day victory speech on the night of November 4, 2008.

Annually, the park hosts some of Chicago's biggest festivals including The Taste of Chicago—a large food and music festival held for ten days around the Independence Day holiday; The Grant Park Music Festival; Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival. The park is also the site of the start and finish lines of the Chicago Marathon.

Since 2005, Lollapalooza, a popular series of rock concerts has taken place in the park. Lollapalooza is under contract to be staged at Grant Park through 2018.


Grant Park, with 319 acre between the downtown Chicago Loop and Lake Michigan, offers many different attractions in its large open space. The park is generally flat. It is also crossed by large boulevards and even a bed of sunken railroad tracks. While bridges are used to span the tracks, and also used to connect with Millennium Park, the rest of the park must be reached by pedestrians at traffic crossings, except for a spacious underpass connection to the Museum Campus. There are also several parking garages underneath the park, near Michigan Avenue.

When it was landscaped in the early 20th century in a formal beaux arts style, tall American Elms were planted in concentric patterns around the park. While hundreds of these trees still exist, reaching 60 feet tall, they were devastated in the late 1970s by Dutch Elm Disease. Hybrid elms have since been used to replace lost trees.

Millennium Park

The northwestern corner of the park was renovated between 1998 and 2004 to become Millennium Park, a contiguous area with a variety of artistic features by architects and artists. Millennium Park has free admission, and features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden and other attractions. The park is connected by the BP Pedestrian Bridge and the Nichols Bridgeway to other parts of Grant Park.

Daley Bicentennial Plaza

Across the BP Pedestrian Bridge from Millennium Park, the northeast corner of Grant Park hosts outdoor activities at Daley Bicentennial Plaza. Attractions here include a garden, summer and winter skating rinks, tennis courts, chess tables, and an activities building.

Art Institute of Chicago

Built in 1893, on the western edge of Grant Park is the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the premier art museums and art schools in the United States, known especially for the extensive collection of Impressionist and American art, such as A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and Grant Wood's American Gothic. The headquarters of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is also here.

Buckingham Fountain

The center piece of Grant Park is Buckingham Fountain, one of the world's largest fountains. The fountain, in a rococo wedding cake style, was dedicated in 1927 as a gift to the city from Kate Sturges Buckingham in memory of her brother Clarence. The fountain operates from April to October with water displays every 20 minutes and a light and water display from 9:00pm to 10:00pm.

Museum Campus

Chicago's Museum Campus is a 57 acre (230,850 m²) addition to Grant Park's southeastern end. The Museum Campus is the site of three of the city's most notable museums, all dedicated to the natural sciences: Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History, and Shedd Aquarium. A narrow isthmus along Solidarity Drive dominated by Neoclassical sculptures of Kościuszko, Havliček and Copernicus connects to Northerly Island where the planetarium is located to the rest of the Museum Campus situated on the mainland.

Petrillo Music Shell

The Petrillo Music Shell hosts music performances during the Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza. Located at 235 S. Columbus Drive, the music shell's area encompasses the entire block bounded by Lake Shore Drive to the east, Columbus Drive to the west, East Monroe Street to the north and East Jackson Street to the South. This places it a block east of the Art Institute of Chicago, a block north of Buckingham Fountain, a block south of Daley Bicentennial Plaza and just southeast of Millennium Park. The structure was relocated to this site in 1978 from the south end of the park. The amphitheater and paved surface for public seating is in the southwest corner.

Congress Plaza

Located in the center, on the west side of the park, is Congress Plaza. The two semicircular plazas, created by East Congress Plaza Drive, and bisected by East Congress Parkway, contain gardens, fountains, and artwork, including the large bronze warrior statues, The Bowman and the Spearman that are positioned like gatekeepers to the park.


There are several gardens and flower displays throughout the park. Millennium Park houses the Lurie Garden, known for its display of tall grass flowers, particularly lavender, and a decorative post-modern water stream. To the east, across the BP Pedestrian Bridge, Daley Plaza holds a formal garden. To the northeast of Daley Plaza, at 375 East Randolph Drive, is the Richard & Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Garden, marked by two huge doric columns from the demolished Chicago Federal Building and a wrought-iron pergola. The garden contains numerous walkways lined with planters and is one of several similar spaces created nationwide by R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation.

Flanking the original Art Institute of Chicago Building are gardens in the north and south McCormick Courtyards; in the south coutyard is the bronze sculpture Fountain of the Great Lakes. To the south of the art museum, along Michigan Avenue, are a succession of gardens. Two of these are adjacent to Orchestra Hall and honor former conductors of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Sir Georg Solti and Theodore Thomas).

To the east of the Art Institute, near the Court of Presidents, are demonstration gardens that flank Congress Parkway and surrounding Buckingham Fountain are a series of formal gardens, including the Tiffany Celebration Garden to the south.

Public Art

There is public art, much of it sculpture, in many areas in the park including in Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the several gardens, and Congress Plaza. Four individual large installations, in other areas of the park, include:

Abraham Lincoln Monument

' is a statue by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens set in a 150 foot wide exedra by architect Stanford White, honoring the Illinois resident and 16th President of the United States, who was nominated for that high office in Chicago. The statue was cast in 1908 and was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair, until being installed in the park in 1926. It is located in the Court of Presidents, north of Congress Parkway and west of Columbus Drive. It is frequently called Seated Lincoln to avoid confusion with Saint-Gaudens' 1887 sculpture ' in Lincoln Park.


Agora (from Greek, for urban meeting place) is an installation of over 100 headless, armless sculptures designed by the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz in southwestern Grant Park near Roosevelt Road. The piece was brought to the park in 2006. The figures are 9 ft tall and weigh approximately 1800 lb. Each is made from a hollow, seamless piece of iron that has been allowed to rust, creating a reddish appearance and a bark-like texture. The figures appear to be milling about in a crowd; some face each other, while others look away. Visitors are meant to walk through the sculptures and contemplate the work.

Columbus Monument

Christopher Columbus is a bronze statue on a monumental pedestal at the southern end of Grant Park. In 1933, Chicago celebrated its 100th anniversary with the Century of Progress World's Fair. In conjunction with the fair, Chicago's Italian-American community raised funds and donated the statute of the Genoese navigator and explorer, Christopher Columbus. It was located near the site of the fair, and is east of S. Columbus Drive and north of E. Roosevelt Road.

Logan Monument

At Michigan Avenue and Ninth Street is a large equestrian statue of John A. Logan. Logan was a United States Major General, who had resigned his congressional seat to serve in the army during the Civil War. He led troops in many battles throughout the west and south. After the war, he was elected to the United States Senate from Illinois. His statue, also by Saint-Gaudens (the sculptor of the Lincoln statue), was initially meant to mark his burial site but this did not happen.

Hutchinson Field

Much of the southern end of Grant Park is given over to Hutchinson Field, an open space for large events, with a dozen baseball or softball diamonds.

Chicago Lakefront Trail

The Chicago Lakefront Trail (abbreviated as LFT) is an 18-mile multi-use path in Chicago, Illinois along the coast of Lake Michigan. It is popular with cyclists and joggers. From north to south, it runs through Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Burnham Park and Jackson Park. (Chicago Park District Lakefront Trail Map)

Marinas and Harbors

There are two pleasure and leisure boat marinas on Lake Michigan, which are accessed from Grant Park. Monroe Harbor provides 1000 moring cans, tender service, and facilities in the expansive harbor east of the park. It is the home of the Chicago Yacht Club and the Columbia Yacht Club. Du Sable Harbor (formerly, Chicago Harbor) northeast of the park, offers 420 boat docks and a harbor store. Both Harbors may be accessed off Lake Shore Drive near Monroe Street.

Other facilities

Grant Park also features many shaded walking trails and several sculptures. In addition, there are 16 softball and baseball fields and 12 tennis courts, open to the general public; Daley Bicentennial Plaza offers fitness, yoga, and aerobics programs.


Reconfigured Bicentennial Plaza

Daley Bicentennial Plaza occupies the northern middle section of the park on Randolph Street. It is currently scheduled for closure and redesign from 2012 to 2015. Plans call reconfiguring the plaza, together with redevelopment of its field-house and underground parking facility.

Children's Museum

The Chicago Children's Museum announced plans in 2006 for a $100 million structure to replace the cramped facilities at Navy Pier it has called home since 1995. The museum hoped to construct an underground building on the site of Daley Bicentennial Plaza, a plan that Mayor Richard M. Daley and council members approved in 2008. Some council members and area residents opposed the project and vowed to continue fighting despite the approval. Since the initial announcement, fund raising has lagged and costs have escalated, decreasing the likelihood that the plan will be completed. In early 2011, the Chicago Park District awarded a contract to repair leaks in the parking garage that occupies a portion of the site under Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

See also

  • Millennium Park
  • Parks of Chicago



External links