Burnham Park home. Burnham Park Framework Plan. Other Sections of Burnham Park. Burnham Natural Area. Harold Washington Park. Morgan Shoal rehabil. plan. Promontory Point home. Promontory Point Park page (has detailed history). More history in City of Chicago Department of Transportation's Lake Shore Drive site. The University of Chicago has a large information and reference page on the Burnham Plan- http://burnhamplan100.uchicago.edu.

Burnham Park Timeline

This page brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Parks Committee and HPKCC's website, www.hydepark.org. Join the Conference! Contact the Committee Chair.


Based initially on "Park History" in the 2000 Burnham Park Framework Plan, Chicago Park District and design consultants, by Julia Sniderman Bachrach and Timothy N. Wittman, 1999.


Cutting a new connection from the Chicago River to Lake Michigan (bypassing a sandbar) increases shoreline accretion and erosion of the south shoreline.

Chicago's pre-settlement shoreline was dominated by low sand dunes up to 20 feet above lake elevation (ridge-and-swale), covered, where the sands were not "traveling," with specialized grasses, vines, and other dune-adapted plants. Behind the older, stable dunes grew black oak savannas that thrive on sandy soils not far above water table. Seasonal wetlands existed in low spots between dunes, often with connections to the lake. Ecologically as well as structurally diverse, it met the needs of many animals including a host of birds, including millions of migratory birds.

Just to the west of the modern park, near Prairie and 18th, occurred in 1812 the tragic Fort Dearborn Massacre--despite help and warning from some native Americans, other groups egged on by their British sponsors killed the evacuating Ft. Dearborn garrison at the start of the War of 1812, which continued bloody frontier competition between the two competing nations and their Indian Allies. In the early 1830s the remaining Indian land in Chicago was obtained by treaty, with the last war, that called Black Hawk's, occurring in 1836.

In the 1830s, the oldest extant house was built in that same vicinity. There, Mr. Clarke, who lost his business in the crash of 1837, hunted in the dunes to support his family. Later, his widow and children were increasingly joined by neighbors until, by the end of the Civil War, the Prairie Avenue District became home to the richest families in Chicago, who built mansions there until other areas rose into fashion.


Illinois Central gets charter. City insists it meet the lake at about 50th and then parallel the shore, on which IC is required to build shoreline protection. This will define the western edge of Burnham park, and the protections, dumping, and natural wash-in will suggest expansion of the shore outward to create either parkland or residential and other development.

Much of the middle stretch west of the railroad, about the future mid-20 through upper 3000 block, along the west edge of what would become Burnham Park was estate and land holdings of Stephen Douglas, whose memorial, Illinois' smallest state park, can be easily seen from Lake Shore Drive and the trains. During the Civil War, the estate area became the notorious prison Camp Douglas. Much later, it became partly slum, partly streets of stately upper middle class mansions. Clearance in the 1940s for Lake Meadows and Prairie Shores set a ricochet of changes in motion that changed the whole near and mid south including Hyde Park forever.

In 1856, Paul Cornell incorporates Hyde Park Town Center, in the new Hyde Park Township (35th to 138th, State to the Lake), and made a deal with Illinois Central regarding its right of way and establishment of one of the first commuter railroad lines and stations in the country. Hyde Park Center is intended to be a resort and bedroom community, but Cornell's ambitions, like that of brother-in-law John Evans, is much larger.

In 1849 ________ Wright proposes a system of boulevards/parks surrounding and within the city and along the lakefront, the germ of the modern system.

1869 South Park Commission is formed, with strong backing from south-stretch landholder and developer Paul Cornell. The future land of Burnham Park is mostly under Lake Michigan or abutting Illinois Central right of way (trestled downtown, in 1892 raised on embankment along present west edge of park).

Paul Cornell donates and builds a park, East End Park, between 51st and 53rd. Although much of it washes away--re-enforcing a long-term understanding of the need for shoreline protection for the whole south lakefront--it is the start of East End Park, later incorporated into Burnham Park and renamed Harold Washington Park 1992.

In following decades, amenities for those near the southern edge of the park were built at the northeast corner of future Jackson Park, south end of Burnham, most notably a seawall and granite paved strolling beach (1884-88) and a fine Daniel Burnham-designed Shelter building (used, with an extension, as the Iowa pavilion during the Columbian Exposition).

Paul Cornell and others lobby for establishment of the South Parks and Boulevard System. the initial bond issue is rejected in 1867 as just to provide remote driving grounds for the rich and lure people to move outward for benefit of real estate speculators and developers. In 1869 the park bills are passed by the legislature and the bond issue approved.

South Parks including Jackson Park is formed and slowly developed by Olmsted and Vaux, suggesting doing something with the lakefront from downtown to Jackson Park. Jackson's, Midway's and Washington's design stress on lagoons and hoped-for complete paddling navigation from the Lake to near present King Dr. and 55th plus development of the Boulevard System suggests a water system and buggy paths along the lake north to downtown. The idea of the country driving park is also present. By the 1880s the boulevard-parks including Drexel and South Park (King) and the Kenwood and Bowen communities are being populated by the well to do. By the 90s regular neighborhoods are rising, sometimes overnight, and populated often by immigrant groups.

The city limits were expanded from 39th to 130th in 1889, absorbing virtually all of Hyde Park Town (35th to 138th).

1893-1909 Make no little plans...

The Columbian Exposition was held and closed in Jackson Park, leaving behind in Hyde Park lots of housing built for the Fair. Also the new University of Chicago--suggesting that times were ripe for development of the southeast quadrant of the recently-expanded city. Real estate developers did fine despite the severe depression of the mid 1890s.

With preparations and plans being made for Jackson Park's re-transformation, South Park Commission President, James E. Ellsworth asks Daniel Burnham to sketch an "Outer Park Boulevard" linking Jackson and Grant parks. An exclusive residential development was considered then ruled out; Burnham envisions "South Shore Development" as a grand stretch of green with harbors and lagoons, water scenery, boating-and ships plying to downtown using plenty of piers, and a scenic drive: a "playground for the people," like Thames or Seine embankments or Venice. Rustic bridges would cross lagoons and there would be plenty of beaches with pavilions and bathing houses.

1896 Burnham starts selling the plan to Marshall Field, Pullman, Philip Armour, civic clubs, business organizations.
1901 Chicago Commercial Club takes on promoting Burnham's ideas .
1909 Commercial Club publishes the Plan of Chicago by Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett, illustrated by Jules Guerin. It incorporates Burnham's plan for the south lakefront.
1906 The city acquires East End Park (now HWPP) as part of assemblage to remake the south shoreland. Jens Jensen calls it valuable but an eyesore- he procedes to design, approved the next year.
1907-1920 Legal battles for parkland (riparian rights to submerged land, 12th to 50th)
1907-11 Legislature passes bill with language favorable to railroad, but courts toss it out.
The city landscapes and installs walks and benches to East End Park. There are no funds for shore protection.
1911 South Park Commission (SPC) concludes negotiations with Illinois Central granting riparian rights and future site of the Field Museum in exchange for 160 acres to the railroad. Several other lawsuits, including Potawatomie, remained outstanding and many government bodies had to sign off on any plans including the Cook County Circuit Court (with jurisdiction over South Park Commission and to which the Commission reported), the General Assembly, Chicago Plan Commission (founded 1912), and the U.S. Secretary of War. And the City insisted on using the arrangement to leverage electrification of the railroad to halt pollution of the air and lake.
1912 Burnham dies; a new Chicago Plan Commission is created to realize his vision and principles. Note that both planned and actual development of the lakefront would eliminate many of its original natural features, ecology and habitat thereby lessening its visual variety and biodiversity.
A severe storm washes away the breakwater "protecting" East End Park.
1917 In preparation for developing the south lakeshore and the railroad, the city transfers East End and much of Burnham to the South Park Commission. In the next few years permanent shoreline protection reaches East end and beyond.

Landfill starts at north end of the park. Field Museum, site changed 1916? from present Buckingham Fountain site as proposed by Burnham to south of 12th Street, is well under construction-- and almost becomes a veteran's hospital.

A five-day race riot is triggered at unofficial beach at 25th/29th St. by stoning/drowning of a black youth. (Chicago's South Side African American population had mushroomed while there were no recognized and only 4 unofficial beaches in the area. People crossed the tracks at 26th and could only use the north end of the de-facto beach. Note that beaches themselves were new to the lakefront--before the Sanitary and Ship Canal breached the mid-Continent divide, it was just too unsafe to bathe or swim in the lake.)


February, voters in SPC area approve a $20 million bond issue pushed by the Commercial Club as part of its Burnham Plan initiative, of which 85% is for new lands to complete Grant Park and create the "South Shore Development."
Legal issues to land title are cleared April 21, including electrification of the IC (passenger done in 1926, freight rendered moot first by Depression then conversion to diesel locomotives).

1920-1929 Creating the park: landfill and Soldier Field
1920 Field Museum is completed and opened--exhibits moved from Jackson Park via IC tracks into the basement; museum linked to the downtown tunnel system. Surrounding area still barren.
By 1925, new landforms including Northerly Island complete as far as 23rd St.
1922 Public passes $2.5 million bond issue for a stadium envisioned by Burnham. It is named Soldier Field for the army veterans of World War I. Holabird and Roche. Cost overruns required a second bond issue in 1926.
1924 By this time the breakwater wall for landfill stretched from 14th to 55th.
1926 Soldier field, east parking lot and first part of Lake Shore Drive are finished and opened. Soldier Field will hold events topping 100,000 in attendance.
Landfill continues 23rd to 56th but not yet the full extent of Promontory Point. (Note, the John McDermott, Jr. Victoria Ranney pamphlet says the Point footprint had largely been filled in with sand and garbage, citing complaints in the Hyde Park Herald about the garbage and blowing sand and odors. More details on Promontory in Promontory Point Park.)
1927-30 January 14, 1927, the whole south development is named for Daniel Burnham.
Support starts for a world's fair in Burnham Park
Construction is completed on Lake Shore Drive, a 4-lane meandering pleasure boulevard close to the shore, with the picnic areas and playing fields west of the Drive. Northbound lanes are named for Leif Erikson, south for Christopher Columbus. The drive necessitates the Chicago Beach Hotel surrendering its riparian rights, which also opens the way to create on the landfill for the Drive new luxury apartments, incl. the Powhatan and Narraganset.
East End Park is part of Burnham Park in 1927.
1929 Work starts on the park at Promontory Point (at 55th, not 52nd, and round, not hooked, as envisioned by Burnham), including grass and, west of the (old) Drive, trees. The Depression will delay work (a temporary shoreline is created) and foreclose construction of nearshore islands.
Burnham Park is chosen for site of the Century of Progress world's fair.
The Model Yacht Basin is built south of 51st Street.
1933-34 Century of Progress World's Fair

Mayor Thompson opposed a fair, but General/U.S. VP Charles Dawes heads a committee and secures a state charter in 1928 creating the World's Fair Organization and suggests entirely private financing--extremely successful. Bennett lays it out and Burnham's son directs works. In 1930 the landfill and construction started.

1930 Adler Planetarium, an architectural jewell by John Grunswald, opens, first permanent one in the western hemisphere...
Amenities added to East End Park: wading pool, model yacht basin, tennis courts.
1931 The model yacht basin opens by E. Hyde Park Blvd. west of Lake Shore Drive. Lots of clubs use it including for racing up into the 1970s.

Fair opens, is extended through 1934. [Shedd Aquarium date?]
49th Street comfort station opens.

1934 South Park Commission is consolidated with 21 other park boards into the new Chicago Park District.
Fair draws 38 million visitors before closing and is financially successful, leaving funds for those wanting to preserve parts, including Ft. Dearborn replica and the Lama Temple.
1934-35 The 'Permanent Fair' and start of controversy leading the park down two roads
1934 Mayor Kelly creates a Recreation Commission to look into a 'continuing fair'. The commission balks and declares the park should be free to the people for recreation and repose and should not be commercialized in any respect, with only such museums as are of a general educational, artistic, and recreational value without any other ulterior commercial motive. Mayor Kelly disagrees and asks Leonard Hick's World's Fair Committee to come up with a different plan.
1935 Hicks' Committee in March calls for an amusement park with fair remains, a casino and playground on Northerly Island and a convention center on the opposite mainland. Despite press and public uproar, the legislature in April creates a Metropolitan Fair and Exposition Authority with sweeping power over up to 5% (Hicks wanted 10%) of the park's land for up to 25 (vs 70) years and creation of an airport on Northerly Island. Counterstroke was the first Lakefront Protection Organization, Committee on Lake Front and Park Defense.
1935-41 Exposition Authority years and new amenities

Park designers from 1935-37 plan realization of Burnham's ideas through WPA funds and labor. Fair remains were cleared.
Tennis courts and playgrounds were created at 53rd ("East End")
31st Street Beach house is built.
Three passarelle's are built over the Drive south of Oakwood.
Landfill is completed at Promontory Point and local hotels stopped from using it as a parking lot. Promontory was designated a WPA project and Alfred Caldwell appointed to head up design.

1936 Promontory Point: Caldwell builds up the meadow and hill for the shelter, builds underpass and lays the pipes. His landscaping plan of Sept. 1 draws on native plants and groupings with groves around a meadow and lake/skyline viewing areas north and south. Construction starts on E.V. Buchsbaum's castle-like Shelter of Lannon Wisconsin limestone, competed 1937.

Fair and Exposition Authority holds Carnival of the Lakes in Burnham Harbor. Although then restrained by Depression and War, The Authority's vision of a "permanent" fair will dominate Burnham Park development into the 1990's.
Promontory Point: Caldwell's landscape being installed.

1938 Promontory Point benches, finishing touches, some landscaping still in progress in October.
1939 Promontory Point- Caldwell's boulders in place; park district dedicates David Wallach Memorial fawn sculpture-fountain by Elizabeth Haseltine Hibbard and Frederick Cleveland Hibbard from funds given in 1894.
1937-41 31st Street beach complete; play fields, meadows, walkways, basketball and tennis courts and revetment completed in its "mature" state throughout park.
1945-86 Post-war intrusions and developments
1945 $30 million bond issue passed.
1946 50-year lease for an airport on Northerly Island.
1947-48 Railroad Fair showcase sponsored by the Authority features diesel and streamliner technology.
Meigs Field is built on the southern 2/3 of Northerly Island. Tower 1952, terminal 1961.
1952 Another $30 million bond is passed; $6 goes for remake of Lake Shore Drive essentially as configured until 2000 (except see 1965). This divided roadway was relocated west of the old drive, cutting through the playing fields and landscapes so making much of the park useless (as well as hard of access) except as highway buffer even after most the old road was gradually removed c. 1955. The park will largely be viewed as a nice amenity of this extension of the defense and interstate highway system and--as it surely was--an impressive introduction to the lake and skyline for those entering from the south.
1953 In accord with the Authority Act, the legislature authorizes $5.7 million for a convention hall on the lake.
The U.S. Army leases 7+ acres on Promontory Point and 7+acres at 26th Street for Nike missiles, radar installations, and barracks. That at 26th was on the site of the 1933 Ft. Dearborn replica, which burned in 1040.
1954 Nike bases are built and activated the next year.

A large proportion of the park is now essentially a transportation and parking corridor, including 23rd to 31st. By 1960, the I-55 Stevenson tie-in will take more land as will paving for McCormick Place staging and parking for Soldier Field and McCormick place between the two. This doubled paving between SF and McCormick Place in 1955 was partly for 'Powerama'-- The Exposition Authority contracted with General Motors to hold this national car and truck demonstration. With the Drive also dividing around this lot and Field Museum, the museums were now isolated from each other and the rest of the park and city except for an eyesore overpass. See next year...

Nike bases are activated; parts of community object and Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Parks Committee seeks concessions. From Annual Report: "...initiated and coordinated efforts to retain the Promontory for recreational use only (succeeded only in getting the fence lines moved to allow more space for civilians and in securing promises from the Army to restore a sidewalk around the outer rim of the Promontory)"

1956 May 23, to speed traffic Park District proposes to straighten the outer drive at 51st to 53rd, eliminating the model yacht basin and the tennis courts respectively. Dropped.
1957 January 2, Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference asks the Park district to create two new promontories at 37th and 47th Streets. (Note PD proposal in previous year--any connection?)
1958 The first McCormick Place is under construction, pushed by the Tribune, the mayor and major interests. Shaw, Metz, Assocs. Lawsuits against the "Mistake by the Lake" were dismissed that year.

McCormick Place opens and starts a tradition of popular public shows--flower, auto, and more.

1960 City Traffic Dept. proposes to close northbound LSD access to 53rd (done) and build an overpass at 56th-57th.
1961 Hyde Parkers, Herald, ask police to stop chasing swimmers of Promontory Point (However, a swimmer had been struck and killed by a speedboat May 3 off 55th, prompting the city's speedboat law.)
1962 Missile bases start to be dismantled. Few traces will remain. In 2002, the Army Corps checked for remaining leaky tanks at Promontory.
At some point in the 60s, a protective concrete seawall with wave-deflecting "coffins" is lain at the eastern end of Promontory Point revetment.

First McCormick Place burns down. Despite efforts to have it rebuilt elsewhere, time and savings of using the old foundations lead to rebuilding in place, this time on 19 acres, 1969-71. A marvel of construction by____(Skidmore?). More buildings will be added in 1986 and 1996.

July 4th raid on bongo drummers at Point. July 12, 6 bongo players (allegedly harassing folks and noise bothering high rise dwellers) are arrested on the Point; drummers go on an allegedly racial rampage smashing windows along 55th Street. July 19 the Park District did set aside a place for drummers on the east end of the Point.

1970 June 10, Police raid Point bongo drummers violently (Herald says)

February 10, radar and missiles are removed from Promontory Point. Final removals by October 13 as Hyde Park Herald trumpets "We Won Our Point NIKES Gone."
2nd McCormick Place opens.

Chicago Bears move to Soldier Field, requiring the first in a series of changes.

November 24. Poisonous balls left apparently to hurt dogs on Promontory Point.

Model boat racing clubs at E. Hyde Park Blvd. complain of lack of parking, deteriorating conditions, and change of neighborhood. Eventually the use stops with some use (and paddle boats) moving to behing the Museum of Science and Industry.

1975 October, the HPKCC Environmental Committee learns that the Park District "hid" $268,709.68 from the Army Corps for post-NIKE base restoration in Promontory and Jackson parks.
1980 21-year-old Joy Graham saves two men from drowning off the Point.

Vandals steal David Wallach memorial fountain's bronze Sleeping Fawn east of the 55th Street Promontory Point. A week later it is found by a Hyde Parker at Salvage One.

1983? Consent Decree in federal court requires park district to redress imbalance of facilities and upkeep for the South Side. Although the carving up, paving over, and deterioration of Burnham Park (and its narrowness vs Lincoln Park) provide part of the documentation, there is little impact from the decree in Burnham Park for a long time. Neighbors of Promontory Point formed the only one of the park advisory council for Burnham Park.

In January the Army Corps of Engineers announces it is studying shoreline erosion in light of high lake levels that threaten Lake Shore Drive (and the park). February 11 the Drive has to be closed due to high waters.

After dr owings, the Park District resumes Promontory Point swimmer arrests. A "swim-in" is held.

1989-99 Change or meme choses? What is the right active-passive balance, and how can the park be revitalized?

May, federal Animal Damage Control backs off eliminating monk parakeets in Harold Washington (then East End) Park after suit by a committee led by Doug Anderson.

In August, a developer proposes an amusement park at 47th and the lakefront. Local groups shoot it down.

September 28, Olympic swimmer Ted Erikson is arrested for swimming at the Point. First of many over time, but the swimming continues.


Metropolitan Fair and Exposition Authority is reorganized and focuses the 'permanent fair' concept out of Burnham Park into a new Navy Pier where Mayor Kelly's vision is finally realized.

Alfred Caldwell's landscape at Promontory Point is restored under Caldwell's supervision. June 7, Alfred Caldwell, Point designer, speaks at the Point in celebration of the reconstruction.

Proposal is made for 5 sculptures in the Yacht Basin at 51st in honor of former Mayor Harold Washington. The Herald suggests instead renaming East End Park, which is done. Later, new play equipment and a garden named for Washington are provided with funds from the community added. It is dedicated in 1992.


In this time frame or later Park Superintendent Walter Netsch proposes downsizing Lake Shore Drive and putting in massive planters the whole length. It is derided and he goes, but in reduced scale the planter ideas will be implemented as concluding phase of Lake Shore Drive work (along with nicer, historical ref. barriers etc. in 2004. A group will continue to advocate for "plowing under" all the freeways, especially on the lakefront.

A fish cleaning station and concession is built on Burnham Harbor at 19th.


October 10, Army Corps preliminary report calls for step-stone revetment where reconstruction is necessary, following a storm from the Park District, Friends of the Parks, HPKCC, and park councils over original idea of rubble-mound islands or fill. Plans will be presented to Congress in 1991.

1991 The Promontory Point Pavilion is restored, but not usefulness of the basement, and there is litigation over the parquet floor.
In the early 90s In East End, the wading pool is replaced by a spray pool; the model yacht basin becomes deteriorated adn with little use.

July 22, 13-acre Harold Washington Park, created 1n 1989 out of Burnham Park East End Section, bounded by 51st, 53rd, Hyde Park, and the Drive, is dedicated along with Harold Washington Playground, built, partly with donations raised by a community group that was a de facto council. Hyde Park Old Glory Marching Society leads parade from Hyde Park Shopping Center.

The equipment is non-standard fancy; repair and replacement will become difficult. The Hyde Park Garden Fair creates Harold's Garden, but a satisfactory arrangement is not reached with the Park District. Tennis remains a major activity, but courts will deteriorate.

October 7, a monument to Harold is installed at the entrance to the playlot.

In November, never giving up and in response to more accidents and fatalities, the Park District proposes widening and installation of a median in the Drive south of 53rd St. Park groups oppose. See "temporary" solution below.


World Cup Soccer in 1994 required the most extensive renovation of Soldier Field between the Bears takeover in 1971 and the Bears "makeover" in 2003. The Soccer Games were a major civic event.

June 2, Army Corps unveils its $187 million, 12-year. step-stone revetment reconstruction

1994 After a long battle over the shape of shoreline protection, with local watchdogs and the park district insisting on step stone revetments (when thought about at all just assumed to mean limestone), a multi-government, multi-agency memorandum of agreement is signed to rebuild "in kind" and in accord with the Department of Interior's standards for preservation.

Northbound LSD is relocated 12th to 20th in creation of a reunited Museum Campus, creating 57 acres of green space.

July 26, city/park district compromise on Lake Shore Drive safety, installing "temporary" Jersey barricades in the median or along the edges from 53d to 66th. About this time, CDOT commissions a preliminary study of the Lake Shore Drive-Stony Island Corridor that will lead to the complete reconstruction of the Drive.

November 1, there is a fuss when a Teen Mural Workshop mural is painted over in the 55th St. Promontory Point underpass.


Meigs Field lease expires, battles lead to a 1997 5-year compromise extension by the legislature.

Congress finally passes the Shoreline Protection bill, but funding for $110 million.

1997 31st Beach House is demolished and the new one completed in 1998. A new beach will follow; some later think it too small for the redeveloping neighborhoods.

Butterfly Garden is created north of (and incorporating part of) 47th St. parking lot. This will evolve into a multi-faceted Burnham Natural Area including woods, prairie, and emergent-seasonal-wetland with boardwalk. Over the next 4/5 years, more natural areas and sanctuaries will be created, including south of McCormick Place and by 31st. More are under consideration between 39th and 51st.

As the Lakefront Protection Project is funded and starts near Adler Planetarium and between 26th and 35th, neighbors become aware that revetment reconstruction will be in concrete and will severely restrict access to the shore and water and limit views. Resistance appears at public meetings and from an ad hoc outgrowth of the Promontory Council. Overall, the Project promises new parkland, including beaches and natural areas, principally between 37th and 51st.

A communities-focus Lake Shore Drive Rehabilitation Study Group is thoroughly studying and will significantly impact plans for Lake Shore Drive. These changes are in tandem with changing views about environmentally-friendly park drainage et al, habitat/wildlife friendly parkscaping, and historic sensitivity. Also involved is an ongoing review and implementation of new lakefront access over the tracks and Drive and better lakefront paths and amenities.

Burnham Park becomes increasingly a destination for joggers, bikers, etc. in addition to its long appeal to sports fishermen.

Partly in response to a stinging series of articles on the squandering of our lakefront heritage and parks, by Blair Kamin in the Tribune, the Park District announces a series of Framework Planning processes in the various lakefront and historic Olmsted parks. That for Burnham involves several public workshops with consultants and PD staff over the next two years. Many felt it created an opportunity to recreate at least part of the lost environment and features. Some disagreements between visions for the park's character and use emerged and will have to be worked out. The main concept of the plan is to have some active areas and facilities, with shore expanded into the lake at the ends of the major arterials, and more passive or natural areas between. The plan is a guideline, not etched in stone and major changes have already been made de facto (confirmed at public meetings) such as moving the proposed 39th beach to 41st and changing its direction and a totally new plan for expanded parkland at the shallower Morgan Shoals (45-51st). Other facilities were plunked down because commercial money was available, such as the roller blade rink at 31st.


The 31st Street beach is completed--a tripling of space that some will grumble is still too small. The 31st St. Pier is extended and a new pier built north of the beach.

A roller blading rink is built--some feel too close to the Drive. Some protest that the rink is a facility not vetted in the framework process or with community input and used mostly by teens living at a distance, also exposing differences between those who want Burnham to serve its communities and those who want it to be a regional draw or citywide park like Lincoln.

Feelings rose more in 2001-2 when a fitness club wanted to put in and run at high fees a climbing wall near the rink. After strong protest the plan was withdrawn.

South of McCormick Place a Firefighters Memorial Park and a bird sanctuary are created. A support group is formed serving as a council and brings needs before budget hearings.

After expiration of the 5-year extension on Meigs Field, the Mayor closes the field an later destroys the runways. Under construction by late 2003, is a new kind of ADA accessible recreation and natural area.

By the end of 2003, work on the roadway is long done and innovative landscaping started. A replacement accessible overpass is to be built at 47th in late 2004 and more are under consideration. What parking and drop offs to allow east of the drive is a matter of debate. 31st Street access proved particularly vexing during Lake Shore Drive planning due to lack of space and new standards, but a CTA stop was built.

Shoreline reconstruction continued, some of it appalling to neighbors. Some stretches are being planned jointly with the public and/or focus groups and will involve new features and land, especially between 37th and 51st. 45th-51st draws out more differences in park desires between dwellers in adjacent high rises vs. families in infilling areas a bit further away, as well as the old split between busy and passive/natural uses.

A Task Force is formed by Promontory Point neighbors and communities when the city will not budge from its concrete design. Money is moved to work on other sections. Eventually, the TF is able to commission engineers to counter-design. Negotiations began in fall, 2003 but aborted. State preservation agency is reviewing more advanced plans. Result uncertain.

Neighbors form an advisory council for Harold Washington Park and adjoining portions of Burnham. (It's actually a revitalization of what was a couple active individuals left from the Harold Washington Playlot naming and fundraising effort. The new council gains PD attention to have repairs made and park planning begun.

By late 2003, the following upgrades to the park were effected or in planning:

  • Firefighters Memorial Park south of McCormick Place
  • Bird sanctuary near the above
  • Revetments from McCormick to north of 31st, sections south of 31st, south of 41st (esp. 43-45), 51st to 54th done
  • 31st expanded beach and beachhouse, extended land, skateboard rink
  • 37th-41st new parkland and playlot, new beach
  • 45-51st in planning- huge expansion changing face of lakefront
  • 47th Natural Area. Lot restoration in planning
  • 47th passarelle in 2004, others being planned
  • Harold Washington fix up and planning for upgrades
  • Promontory Point (stalled)
  • 57th Beachhouse

Lake Shore Drive work wound down with landscaping continuing. A grand opening ceremony was held May 29.

Shoreline: Final agreement was reached on the new park for 47th-51st (Morgan Shoals) out into the Lake, with natural areas, water access, and lawns-fields, to start in spring, 2005. But it was moved to later. Work was proceeding on the 37th-42nd stretch. Promontory was still in limbo.

Complaints were made that there is no funding for a beachhouse at 48th.

Complaints continued about the condition of access overpasses. A design competition was held for a new overpass at 43rd; overpass replacement was scheduled to start on 47th, and replacement was under consideration for 35th and a new one in planning for 41st/43rd.

Harold Washington council started framework planning, targeting upgraded facilities in the active section north of 53rd (including chess benches being installed in the southwest) and new passive facilities esp. for seniors in the underdeveloped 51st area. The process seeks better articulation of the park. The council and park district worked on problems of deterioration, lighting, paths, people-problems.


Harold Washington Park Council continued to work with CPD on framework plan; some were dissatisfied. Skidmore donated work.

A dog friendly area was sought and process begun for near the 50th overpass. Later dropped as involving too many hurdles.

Bruce Clinton donated a piece by Virginio Ferrari for placement at the end of 51st St.

Resurfacing tennis courts was budgeted by the Park District.Done at Harold Washington in 2006.


Harold Washington's framework plan was completed.

Mid year, all the parties signed on to 3rd party review of promontory Point and preservation-centered design under Horace Foxall and the Buffalo district of the Army Corps, once funding can be found for a design concept charrette.

Later in the year, a multiparty funding (incl. CPD and aldermanic) was arranged largely though Ald. Preckwinkle to refurbish the Model Yacht Basin and place the Ferrari sculpture in the middle. Work to be finished in 2007.


47th overpass was completed and (by 2010) funding was secured for 43rd overpass to be done in 2011-2012.

Revetment work was done on either side of the new 31st and 41st beaches, but stretches in between and to the south of 43rd remained in abeyance.

September 29, 2007, The renovated Model Yacht Basin at E. Hyde Park Blvd. and an important sculptureby Virgilio Ferrari in the center donated by Bruce Clinton were dedicated by Mayor Daley and the community. Ald. Preckwinkle and state agencies also contributed. However, racing and general public use did not return to the basin.

2008? the Firefighters Memorial Garden was opened south of McCormick Place.

In 2009, the new beach at 41st St. and the greatly expanded beach at 41st St. were opened.

New prairie meadow and nature sanctuary stretches (Burnham Prairie) from McCormick Place to 47th in full bloom and underwent their first controlled burns in 2010.

In 2010 the 41st St.(Oakwood) beachhouse was opened (July 17) and landscaping around it and to the end of 39th St. (Oakwood) was completed.

Work was in progress on the large 31st St. Harbor and on a stretch of revetment from 44th to 47th. Controversial plans developed with public input for the Morgan Shoal stretch remained unrealized. The sunken boat Lady Elgin on the reef would soon be studied.

New attention is called to the Silver Spray wreck at Morgan Shoal, especially as waters approach historic lows c 2011-13.

In 2014 the park district began to revisit plans for the shoreline inteh Moragn Shoal stretch, 45th to 52nd.

In 2014 the Harold's Playground is replaced state-of-the-art and replacement is slated for that across from the Shoreland.