Washington Park covers 372 acres in the Chicago Community Area of the same name. Located between Cottage Grove Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive, this South Side attraction houses the DuSable Museum of African American History. The park was the proposed site to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, which were instead held in Rio, Brazil. Today, it features a photography lab, two gymnasiums, a dance studio, fitness center and racquetball court. There are also such natural splendors as a Harvest Garden and arboretum.
Washington Park Features
Washington Park is considered one of Chicago’s most historically significant landscapes. Originally called South Park, it was designed in 1881 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The duo created an open meadow enjoyed by sheep and sporting lovers alike. Architects Burnham & Root also designed two late 19th-century buildings in the park: the stables and round house and the refectory.
The Fountain of Time sculpture was added in 1922 by sculptor Lorado Taft. Inspired by Henry Austin Dobson’s “The Paradox of Time” poem, Taft created a fountain with a cloaked father time and a procession of 100 figures across the water.
In the 1930s, the community’s growing African American population needed recreational facilities, so the district built two swimming pools near the refectory. The swimming area was transformed to a major aquatic center in the 1990s, and it is enjoyed by local Chicagoans today.
In recent years, the park district constructed a $700,000 playground—one of three in the park. Other recreational opportunities include a dance studio, racquetball court, photography lab and two gymnasiums. The field house also features several multipurpose rooms, which are available for rent.
A spray feature, cricket slab, baseball field, basketball court and the Washington Auditorium are all present here as well. There is also a fishing area, tennis court and the large Washington Pool.
The park is also home to a Harvest Garden, nature area and arboretum. The city was considering plans to build a dome with a seating capacity of 95,000 when it was in the running for the olympic bid. This, along with plans for new hockey fields and a pedestrian juncture, were halted when the 2016 summer games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro.
Washington Park is considered the main hub of African American culture in Chicago. It is only fitting, then, that the park is home to the DuSable Museum of African American history. Dedicated to the conservation of African American history, art and culture, the museum has been running since 1961. Today, it features more than 13,000 artifacts in its collection of books, photographs, memorabilia and artifacts. The museum also features a seasonal flower garden, out front.
Throughout the park, there is lots of public artwork including mosaics and sculptures. The Washington Unconditional Love sculpture is one notable example, crafted by Lameck Bonjisi in the mid 1990s. The opal stone sculpture depicts two figures in a loving caress, one face tucked under the chin of the other.
Washington Park Events
The park hosts many programs and events throughout the year. It hosts after-school programs as well as seasonal sports, fitness classes, Junior Bears Football and a teen club. It also hosts cultural events including music and dance. In the summer, Washington Park features Chicago’s popular six-week day camp.
The park is also the location for other fun events throughout the year, like the Adhaki Black History Month celebration. Many festivals are held here in the summer, like the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic. Chicago’s cricket league and softball leagues play here in the summer. The park’s 13 diamonds host 34 softball teams every Sunday in warmer months.