top of page


Grant Park History & Timeline from 1804 to 2014

1804 - Fort Dearborn opens as a military post.


1835  - Federal government gave its reservation on land south of Chicago River and east toward Lake Michigan to Illinois and Michigan Canal commissioners.


1836 - Illinois and Michigan Canal Commissioners platted lots to sell. The Commissioners wrote "public ground forever to remain vacant of buildings."  This is the origination of famous statement, "Open, Clear and Free".  This platted land was part of the land from Fort Dearborn.


1837 - Chicago was incorporated and park area was left alone because it needed to be open for the public. 


1847 - Downtown lakefront open space was named Lake Park.


1852 - IC Railroad began filling in more area for railroad and agreed to build a stone breakwater for Lake Park at Lake Michigan in exchange for offshore trestle.


1861 - State legislature passes law requiring adjacent property owner's consent for any encroachment on public ground.


1863 - Legislation passed for public grounds east of Michigan Avenue similar to 1861 law but added submerged land east of IC railroad tracks right of way to City for public use.


1869 - State passed act giving IC right of way for tracks between Chicago River and 11th Street and east to lake.


1871 - Great Chicago Fire debris used as landfill for Lake Park.


1873 - Inter-State Industrial Exposition Building built between Monroe and Jackson east of Michigan Avenue in Lake Park modeled after London's Crystal Palace with iron and glass.


1875 - Chicago Yacht Club formed.


1881 - Federal government built two armories in Lake Park. 


1890 - Mayor DeWitt Cregier announced civic building for Lake Park, which became the Art Institute of Chicago.  Also thought Lake Park would be site of World's Columbia Exposition but this did not happen.


1890 - Montgomery Ward approved the World's Congresses Building (the now Art Institute building).


1890 - First Montgomery Ward suit and city ordered all Lake Park buildings removed except federal armories.


1892 - 11th Street terminal begun.  U.S. Supreme Court rules State did not have power to give right of way to IC as in 1869.


1893 - Central Station opens near 11th Street north of Roosevelt Road.


1892/93 - Allerton Building of Art Institute built - designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge.


1894 - Bronze Lions installed at entrance to Art Institute - Edward Kemeys, sculptor.


1895 - Daniel Burnham and Charles Atwood made a plan for Lake Park with neo-classical museum in the center.


1896 -Jackson to 11th Street transferred by the City to South Park Commission which was in charge of Jackson and Washington Parks on the south side.


1897 - Ward wins first suit stating that all buildings in Lake Park be demolished except the Art Institute.


1897 - Burnham address South Park Commission telling them that his plans would "make Chicago so beautiful that it will outrival Paris." 


1897 - Cultural Center built designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge ( architects of the Art Institute).


1899 - Montgomery Ward headquarters building built at Madison and Michigan across from Grant Park - Richard Schmidt designed it.


1901 - South Park Commission officially renamed Lake Park as Grant Park.


1902 - Planning for Field Museum in Grant Park began.


1902 - Chicago Yacht Club clubhouse built at Monroe and Lake Michigan.


1903 - Field Museum site selected in Grant Park and State legislation allows it.  Ward sues Field Museum to keep it out of Grant Park. Crerar Library also planned for Grant Park.


1903 - City transferred balance of Grant Park south of Randolph and north of Jackson to South Park Commission.


1903 - Olmsted Brothers, sons and successor firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, were commissioned for planning Grant Park.  Burnham was also designing Field Museum and Olmsted Brothers included it as Grant Park's centerpiece between Jackson and Balbo.


1907 - Olmsted Brothers Versailles-inspired plan for Grant Park published.


1909 - Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett's Plan of Chicago leads to more Beaux Arts treatment for Grant Park.  Also, Northerly Island was the northern most of the five islands planned to stretch from 12th St. to Jackson Park as planned in 1909 Plan of Chicago. 


1910 - Plan of Chicago officially adopted. Grant Park plans unimplemented because of building controversies in Grant Park.


1911 - Ward wins fourth and final lawsuit - Ward's final victory.  Public opinion was against him because the development of Grant Park was held up but he won.


1911 - Burnham designed the Field Museum


1911 - International Aviation Meet held in Grant Park and attended by over 3 million people.


1911/1912 - IC Railroad gives up rights to submerged land south of 12th Street for Field Museum (its current site today) for right of way extension south.


1912 - Daniel H. Burnham dies.


1913 - Montgomery Ward dies.


1915-20 Field Museum under construction.


1915 - Edward Bennett hired to design Grant Park and Grant Park finally began construction, as we know the historic Beaux Arts look today.


1917 - Randolph and Michigan Peristyle built (planned symmetrical one for southern end near Roosevelt Road never built).


1919 - IC Railroad depressed tracks below street level and electrified trains to prevent pollution as part of right of way compromises.


1920 - Field Museum finished.


1922-1926 - Soldier Field Built - Holabird & Roche.


1923 - Eliel Saarinen proposed underground garage for Grant Park.


1924 - A more comprehensive plan for Grant Park is adopted by the South Park Commission.


1924 - McKinlock Jr. Court added to Art Institute near railroad tracks.


1925/26 - Kenneth Sawyer Goodman Theater added to Art Institute near railroad tracks.


1927 - Lakefront Esplanade built along Grant Park.


1927 - Lakefront American Elms planted.


1927 - Buckingham Fountain built to honor Kate Buckingham's late brother, Clarence.  Edward Bennett, Jacques Lambert and Marcel Francois Loyau designed it.


1927-29 - Balance of rostral columns built.


1928 - Indians, the Bowman and the Spearman installed at Congress Plaza.


1929 - John G. Shedd aquarium built - Graham Anderson Probst and White designed it.


1930 - Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum built on Northerly Island - designed by Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr.


1933 - Band shell modeled after the Hollywood Bowl constructed in Grant Park.


1934 - South Park Commission becomes Chicago Park District consolidating 22 park systems.  WPA funds used for Grant Park.


1935 - New Chicago Yacht Club building began at Monroe and the Lake in Grant Park.


1939 - Chicago Park District headquarters building built at 425 E. McFetridge Drive - designed by Holabird & Root.


1939 - "Queen's Landing" and stairs built (but not named Queen's Landing until 1959).


1952 - Air traffic control tower built at Northerly Island.


1953 - Grant Park North Underground Garage built - elms relocated to Northerly Island. Historic Peristyle torn down at Randolph Street as result of garage.


1955 - Congress Parkway widened and extended through the park destroying the grand plaza and staircase.


1958 - B.F. Ferguson Memorial Building added to Art Institute.


1959 - Queen Elizabeth II Royal Yacht Britannia landed at Buckingham Fountain - named Queen's Landing as the place she stepped onto the shore across from Buckingham Fountain.


1959/60 - McCormick Place opens.


1961 - Terminal Building built at Northerly Island.


1961 - South Underground Garage built in Grant Park south of Jackson Blvd. on Michigan Avenue.


1962 - Morton Wing added to Art Institute.


1962 - Stanley McCormick Memorial Court South - Art Institute's South Garden designed by Dan Kiley.


1963/64 - Additions made to Chicago Yacht Club at Monroe and the Lake as the Club looks today.


1967 - New McCormick Place burns down.


1973 - City of Chicago adopted the Lake Michigan and Lakefront Protection Ordinance.  Any physical change or disposition of property is to be reviewed by the Chicago Plan Commission.


1974 - Central Station demolished.


1976 - Daley Bicentennial Plaza built - designed by C.F. Murphy and Associates.


1978 - 1933 band shell taken down and Petrillo Band Shell built.


1979 – Pope John Paul II celebrates mass before a crowd of over 100,000 in Grant Park.


1986 - "S-curve" removed and Lake Shore Drive realigned north of Monroe and new esplanade added north of Monroe Street to Chicago River.


1988 - Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building addition to Art Institute.


1989  - Grant Park Advisory Council is formed.


1990's - New Dutch-elm-disease-resistant elms introduced into Grant Park.


1991 - Oceanarium addition to Shedd Aquarium built - Lohan Associates designed it.


1991-93, 1996-98 – Six Chicago Bulls championship rallies were held in Grant Park


1992 - Grant Park Design Guidelines completed by Chicago Park District's Research and Planning


1992 - 50-feet canopy of American Elms is new height limit for structures in Grant Park according to Guidelines.  Now canopy is at 60 feet and Chicago Park District did not officially adopt Guidelines.


1995/1996-1998 - 57 acre - Museum Campus built with relocation of Lake Shore Drive to the west of Soldier Field and the Field Museum.  Congress Plaza rebuilt.


1995/96 – Richard and Annette Bloch (H&R Block Company) Cancer Survivors Garden opens.  Includes large wrought iron structure and beautiful gardens where Lake Shore Drive used to go through to the old “S Curve”.


1997- Four Buckingham Fountain Pavilions are opened at the Fountain Table - designed by David Woodhouse.


1999 - Sky Pavilion addition to Adler Planetarium opened - designed by Lohan Associates.


2000 – Grant Park Advisory Council, Friends of Lincoln Park, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago host and sponsor a Central Park Conservancy symposium with officials from New York’s Central Park Conservancy and moderated by WTTW’s Geoffrey Baer and Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin.


2001 - McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink opened at Millennium Park.


2001/2002 – Compromise reached with South Loop community and Chicago Park District in Framework Plan to build larger more practical field house in Ping Tom Park II instead of south end of Grant Park due to building restrictions and space limitations.


2002 – Grant Park Conservancy is formed.


2002 - Grant Park Framework Plan adopted by Park District Board of Commissioners.


2002 - Peristyle and Wrigley Square opened at Millennium Park.


2002 – Grant Park Conservancy begins a complete, multi-year reforestation plan with Chicago Park District for Grant Park.


2003 - Newly renovated Soldier Field opened with acres of new parkland - North Burnham Park Redevelopment opens to public.


2003 - Meigs Field is closed.


2003 - Harris Theater opened at Millennium Park.


2003 - 11th Street Pedestrian Bridge and Columbus Drive Underpass Project opens.


2004 - Northerly Island opened to the public.


2004 - Millennium Park officially opened as a whole entity. This includes the structures and sculpture:  Pritzker Music Pavilion and Theater, Harris Theater, Peristyle, Park Grill, Crown Fountain, Exelon Pavilions, Cloud Gate and Bike Station.


2005 – Four acres south of Roosevelt Road and east of Central Station could be added to Grant Park by decking over railroad tracks.  Central Station will transfer air rights to Chicago Park District.


2005 – Lollapalooza begins in Grant Park.


2006 – Grant Park Conservancy begins reforestation program with Lollapalooza to plant hundreds of new trees in Grant Park.


2006 – Grant Park Dog Park opened – collaboration of Chicago Park District, South Loop Dog PAC, Grant Park Conservancy and Advisory Council.


2006 – Grant Park Skate Plaza opened – collaboration of Grant Park Conservancy and Advisory Council and Chicago Park District.


2005/2006 - Addition to Art Institute designed by Renzo Piano begins construction.


2006/2007 - Begin construction of new 12th Street Metra Station.


2006 – Chicago Park District and Grant Park Conservancy/Advisory Council begin planning for what will eventually be named Maggie Daley Park.


2007 – Chicago Park District, Grant Park Conservancy and Advisory Council and Lollapalooza work together for a complete restoration of Hutchinson Field with thousands of new lilac, crab apple, hackberry trees planted. The first time in many decades the trees were replaced.


2008 – Chicago Children’s Museum approved by Chicago City Council and Chicago Park Board.


2008 – Grant Park Conservancy’s plan begun with Chicago Park District and EDAW and Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture for SW corner of Grant Park at railroad beds.


2008 – President Obama gives his victory speech in Grant Park’s Hutchinson Field.


2008 – RFQ issued for North Grant Park Renovation Project.


2009 – North Grant Park Renovation Project responses to RFQ received and planning process begun - includes new Chicago Children’s Museum.


2009 – New Modern Wing of Art Institute of Chicago opens - designed by Renzo Piano.


2009 – Sir Georg Solti Garden opens in Grant Park just south of the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue. This is a Chicago Park District/Grant Park Conservancy project.


2012 – Construction of Maggie Daley Park began and will be 20 acres of lush landscaping with a world-class children’s play area, 1000 new, diverse trees, meadows, an ice skating ribbon, pine trees, an irrigation system, and a climbing wall.


2012- GPC/GPAC and the Chopin Foundation announced the creation of the Chopin Monument at 11th Street and Michigan Avenue. This will also be a performance area for music and dance.


2013 – Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship rally draws over 2 million to Grant Park and downtown.


2013 – Grant Park Conservancy/Grant Park Advisory Council and the Chopin Foundation the creation of a new, 3-acre, world-class skate park for the south end of Grant Park. GPC/GPAC forms a committee of skateboarders and BMX riders to help design the skate elements.


2013- Roosevelt Road plans are announced to create a pedestrian and bike-friendly street between Columbus Dr. and State Street along Grant Park. This will be a two- way bike lane separated by trees along Grant Park as well as wider sidewalks and other landscaping to make the area more attractive to pedestrians and bike riders.


2013 – The GPC/GPAC, Chicago Park District, Bloomberg Foundation and Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir install Borders sculptures in Solti Garden along Michigan Avenue at Jackson.


2013 – GPC/GPAC announces plans to make Agora (106, nine-foot tall, metal sculptures) and the very SW corner of Grant Park more accessible and pedestrian friendly with new sidewalks and pathways leading to the Metra Station.


2013 – Second and final phase of Maggie Daley Park commences.


2014 - Chicago Park District Board approves the Grant Park skate/wheels and construction to begin in spring, 2014.


Prepared by Bob O’Neill

President, Grant Park Conservancy.

330 South Michigan #1505

Chicago, IL 60604


bottom of page