Visit Directory of Parks in Hyde Park and Kenwood and Park Councils, Recreation Directory

News from Other Area Parks and of Open Spaces

HPKCC and its parks committee works to establish and support park PACs in the Hyde Park/Kenwood area.

We once had an Honor Roll of Hyde Park Garden and Open Space.

In their own pages (homepages in this site, with links to their websites and facebook pages):
Burnham, Burnham Natural Area. To Harold Washington Park and Lake Shore Prot/ new Burn. pklnd. ,
also Morgan Shoals/51st St plans, Final Morgan plan, Burnham Timeline, Burnham Framework Plan
Harold Washington
Kenwood Community
South Shore


Bessie Coleman
Harris YWCA/CPD fieldhouse
Kenwood Community Park and fieldhouse. To Kenwood page and pictures.
Ma Houston
In 2004, Huckleberry (62nd Kimbark) was refurbished; park at 62nd Drexel is being named for Lorraine Hansberry.

Open spaces: Boulevard System and "berms", Metra embankments ( To LILAC) and Cornell Oasis,
University of Chicago
Neighborhood gardens page (nav. from there), and the Garden Fair page.
Honor Roll of Hyde Park Green and Garden spaces.
Green News, Directory, Calendar. Don't miss the Art Gardens in the Parks- Washington Park's 2 open June 22.




Burnham is of course a big park, going all the way from the Point (56th Street) north to 12th Street, with some parts renamed in recent years (recently: Firefighters Memorial Park south of McCormick Place). Many new facilities are going in or are envisioned in its Framework Plan. (See updates...37th-47th.) Amenities, including open bathrooms, adequate lighting, safety, and good concessions are perennial problems. Construction has also caused inconveniences and path detours. For more about Burnham Park and its history, visit the City of Chicago's Lake Shore Drive History site.

More in the Burnham Park Page, Burnham Timeline, and Burnham Framework Plan.

To Harold Washington Park, which has a newly formed council.


Butternut. Just south of 53rd on the west side of Woodlawn Avenue (it's counterpart is Elm on the east side of Woodlawn just north of 53rd/Kimbark Plaza), Butternut is a small park, and has sometimes been troubled, including with teens and 20s hanging around, especially during the low end of demographic cycles when a batch of kids have grown up and moved away. Still it is often busy and is revitalized from time to time by the park district.

Butternut started neither as a CPD neighborhood park nor an effort to make urban renewal space usable. Whether it ever had structures this source hasn't learned, but according to a University of Chicago student study (Stephanie Dock '06 in the student academic journal Chicago Studies, was related to an urban movement in the 1920s-'50s to replace play space-- streets and alleys-- lost by kids to the automobile. Indeed lots of kids lives were lost to traffic while playing in streets, so organizations including the Chicago Motor Club held an annual contest from 1934 to 1958 for best lots converted by parents and neighbors into playlots. And most of the public neighborhood parks created in the first half of the century were in the poor and congested neighborhoods, one of the first started by Jane Addams. Upper and middle class social movements and publications urged families to take the matter in their own hands by setting up swings and sandboxes, or for neighbors to band together to create playlots.

In 1948, a time of crisis in the neighborhood but before Urban Renewal, neighbors reclaimed the lots later known as Butternut. (It would be interesting to know if its supporters later became one of the block clubs of HPKCC. By 1950 there were 80 kids using it, charged a small fee and wearing badges. In 1058, as Urban Renewal WAS lurching into full gear, Butternut was bought by the park district (at whose urging is not known here), just a few years before Elm. It is not known how much community planning went into Butternut, but none into the planning for Elm, vs Nichols and Spruce just a bit later.

To Harris Recreational Center


Open space is more than parks, and not all our parks are owned/administered by the Chicago Park District...

Chicago's Historic Boulevard system, is administered by the city's streets and forestry departments. A century and a half old, the boulevard system forms a bulbous root ball at its southern east terminus in Hyde Park and Kenwood. It arrives from Garfield Boulevard (5500) into the giant system of the South Parks: from Washington Park's southeast corner at Cottage Grove it heads east a mile and disgorges into Jackson Park's roadways at the Perennial Garden. That stretch, Midway Plaisance, at a full block wide is the broadest piece of boulevard in the system. See more in Midway. The boulevards emerge from the north end of Jackson Park to circle back as Hyde Park Boulevard to the northeast corner of Washington Park at 5100, although only as it nears the latter does it have the classic boulevard look of a landscaped island between roadways. Here is Drexel Square, where the city's oldest extant fountain, Drexel Fountain, was just a few years back restored and put in working order by the Chicago Building Commission, the University of Chicago and others. The area block club keeps up the gardens. Drexel Boulevard spreads and stretches two miles north from there. Many wealthy merchants built their chateaux along the boulevards; Drexel especially was no exception. The boulevards were also a popular choice for churches and synagogues, perhaps partly to entice the wealthy driving by in their carriages. It is also no accident that in the boulevard heyday Washington Park hosted major facilities for the horse set.

Other streets in the neighborhood host broad swaths of open land. Probably the most well-known is the mounded and landscaped "berm" along 55th Street, a product of Urban Renewal and the determination of the University to clear the bars and blues establishments away from its student body and build a moat around its faculty. The University, in part to remedy the resultant sense of desertedness there, recently reshaped and re landscaped the berm and opened a couple of the blocked cross streets. It's beautiful--click here to see pictures. For years before the remake, the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee of HPKCC decorated the berm, although the thin soil made this difficult. Madison Park and East View Park are long-standing examples of private mini-communities within or surrounding their own parks, a trend again popular in developments and "smart growth" urban planning.

The railroad embankments cutting through the east side of the community have been the province of LILAC for the past 13 years. (Visit the LILAC page and Lake Park Corridor.) Landscaping Initiative for the Lake Park Avenue Corridor was formed to stop mindless railroad scorching and to clean up and landscape the embankments, including collapsing retaining walls. Stalled by delayed plans for then the reality of station reconstruction, and now in city design process for streetscape in the area, LILAC hopes to get back to business in the next year. Already under a state grant some of the walls in the north end are being replaced by slopes planted with trees. (There was concern about loss of trees.) Contact Richard Pardo. LILAC, like the Garden Fair Committee and Nichols Park Council, is an affiliate of the Conference.

The Cornell Oasis east of Metra Electric c. 4900 is another open area, arduously reclaimed by community gardeners and hard to keep from developers and thoughtless youth. It's in its second incarnation and still can't get a reliable water supply from nearby residents, the city or the park district. Hats off to those who continue to tend it.

Open Space can be atop buildings, too: Regent's Park, The Clinton Company, 5020 South Lake Shore Drive, just won the Mayor's Best Chicago Garden award for the second time in four years. It was designed in 1982 by Paul Shipley, designer of the estates of the great stars of the past. It has one and a quarter acres, four fountains, 30, 000 plants, arbors, and 200 rock creations by a Hollywood set design firm. Regent's Park's awards, background in Green page.

The University of Chicago

The campus is now designated a Botanic Garden and much has been altered. You are as likely now to see prairie plantings as you are sprays of flowers, The University takes its responsibility over trees very seriously (some, as in the Classics Quad predate the university).

The Winter and Reader's Garden on the Midway is spectacular and detracts not a whit from Olmsted's grand design. The south winter garden on the Midway is being designed by Bergman with Ernest Wong of Site Design Group. See Midway Winter Garden and South Campus Plan pages.

The University has graded the 55th berm with huge plantings at intersections and cul de sacs, reestablished gardens at the Shoreland, and the Allison Davis viewing garden in Washington Park east of the Fountain of Time. South Campus redevelopment creates new opportunities.

Botany Pond is being restore to the original concept of John Coulter, first Botany Chairman, for a marsh-like setting intended to serve as an outdoor classroom and laboratory. The University has embarked on a two-year, $180,000 renovation of the pond by the Hull Court Gate. The major part was done by fall, 2004. However, the template was neither that of c. 1900 Thomas Coles, who as teacher and founder of the field of ecology had a small demonstration project there, nor native.

The flower scheme has been changed on the main quad, especially the Kramer beds. Richard Bumsted, University Planner for Facilities Services, told the Chronicle: ...we shifted gears thin year...we opted out of the continued planting of annuals every year so that these beds, along with the circle garden, can look lush for the Reunion/Convocation weekends. Work there and at redesigned Rockefeller Chapel beds, was done by Craig Bergman Landscape Design of Wilmette.

Bergman said the theme has been using perennials that will have something in the beds all year. 90 percent are now perennial. Brilliant colors come from hybrid cone flowers, geraniums, salvias and climbing clematis-- now on temporary bamboo pole tripods but to have iron towers later. "The idea is that we want to have a structure that will be visually intersecting all year-round," he told the Chronicle.

The design at Rockefeller is more formal. 20-foot beds now mirror patterns in the window stained glass."This spring the ornamental artichokes bloomed, surrounded by the annual lantana. The perennial in that pattern are Artemisia."

Details: Top


Gardening has changed over the years. In HPK you can see everything from postage stamp to huge private creation or extension of open space and from floral to shade to low-maintenance and highly formalized to wild, almost prairie restorations. See garden examples. Other Gardens of Hyde Park. Varieties in Nichols Park (navigate there) . Osaka Japanese Garden. Park garden photo galleries index in Park News home. Hyde Park Garden Fair.

The Hyde Park Garden Fair* Committee (an affiliate of the Conference) and the Gardening Alliance ("Have Trowel Will Travel") tend many small gardens in the area, including the north side of 53rd between old and new Lake Park Avenue, Harold's Garden c 51/5200 and Lake Shore Drive, Spruce Park along 54th Place, and at times many other spots including Metra embankments especially south of 47th. The Gardening Alliance is designed to help institutions, schools, et al landscape through reciprocal sweat equity. (*Includes link to the Garden Fair's website.)

Don't miss the Hyde Park Garden Fair. 2004 May 14-14, September 18. Hyde Park Shopping Center Courtyard. HPGF Committee page.

Many schools have designed and gardened their open space. Ray School is a prime example. Dozens of Hyde Park and Kenwood residents have won Mayor Daley's Horticultural awards for their gardens. And the University of Chicago has been designated a botanic garden and is gradually enhancing the park-like aspect of its campuses while leading design and landscape efforts in Midway and Washington Parks.

Be sure to sign up for the Hyde Park-Kenwood House and Garden Tour last Sunday of September, 2007. From the HP Neighborhood Club to benefit HPNC

Blackstone Library Gardening Classes 4th Thursdays in 2004, March 25-June. 4904 S. Lake Park Ave.

See some more gardens.


We're starting an Honor Roll of Hyde Park Green and Garden Space. Contact us to add your favorites.

The large areas of remaining open space are in the neighborhoods surrounding Hyde Park and Kenwood. There the Park District continues to acquire land for parks and neighbors reclaim vacant lots. The demonstration garden at The Resource Center, 61st and Blackstone, was recently featured in a large traveling exhibition on people reclaiming and making their spaces in challenged communities. The American Community Gardening Association is one resource; more are in Parks/Other Links