Garfield Park - Chicago Park District
100 N. Central Park Avenue, Chicago, IL 60624-1912
Price of admission: free
Website - 312-746-5092
Hours of Operations: dusk until dawn
In 1869, the Illinois state legislature established the West Park Commission, which was responsible for three large parks and interlinking boulevards. The centerpiece of the system, the 185-acre Central Park, was renamed to honor President James A. Garfield (1831- 1881) after his assassination in 1881. Plans for the entire ensemble of Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas Park had been completed ten years earlier, by William Le Baron Jenney, best known today as the father of the skyscraper. As ambitious plans could not be realized all at once, Garfield Park developed in stages, beginning with the east lagoon.
Jens Jensen, a Danish immigrant who had begun as a laborer for the West Park System in the 1880s, worked his way up to Superintendent of Humboldt Park a decade later. At that time, the West Park System was entrenched in political graft. In 1900, the commissioners fired Jensen because of his efforts to fight the corruption. Five years later, during major political reforms, new commissioners appointed him General Superintendent and Chief Landscape Architect. Deteriorating and unfinished sections of the parks allowed Jensen to experiment with his evolving Prairie style. For instance, when he took over, each of the three parks had a small, poorly maintained conservatory. Rather than repairing these structures, which each displayed similar collections, Jensen decided to replace them with a single centralized facility. Designed in conjuction with an engineering firm, Hitchings and Company, Jensen conceived the Garfield Park Conservatory as a work of landscape gardening under glass. Considered revolutionary when it opened to the public in 1908, the form of the building emulated a "great Midwestern haystack," while inside the rooms were wonderful compositions of water, rock, and plants.
In 1928, the West Park Commission contructed the "Gold Dome Building" in Garfield Park to provide a new administrative headquarters for the West Park Commission. a fieldhouse in Humboldt Park. The structure was designed by architects Michaelsen and Rognstad, who were also responsible for other notable buildings including the Humboldt, Douglas and LaFolette Park Fieldhouses, and the On Leong Chinese Merchant's Association Building in Chinatown. In 1934, Garfield Park became part of the Chicago Park District, when the city's 22 independent park commissions merged into a single citywide agency. At that time, the adminstrative offices were no longer needed and the "Gold Dome" building became Garfield Park's fieldhouse.
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