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An online and photo-panel exhibit created by the Newberry Library for the cnetennial of the Plan of Chicago

Nurturing Open Space

"Chicago South Park Commission Plan...," Olmsted, Vaux & Co.'s Report Accompanying Plan for Laying Out the South Park (Chicago, 1871). The Newberry Library

Cultivating a Green Tradition

In championing parks, Burnham and Bennett followed the lead of legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1869 Illinois established three commissions to plan a system of parks and boulevards for Chicago. The South Park Commission hired Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux to lay out Jackson Park, Washington Park, and the Midway Plaisance; for the West Side Commission, William Le Baron Jenney conceived Douglas, Garfield, and Humboldt parks; and to the north, Swain Nelson and Olaf Benson expanded Lincoln Park.

Wading Pool at Mark White Square, Plan of Chicago, plate LXV. Chicago History Museum

At the turn of the century, residents of crowded districts and social reformers appealed for more neighborhood green spaces. Burnham joined forces with the firm led by Olmsted's sons to design innovative neighborhood parks on Chicago's south side. The Plan of Chicago lauded these parks and their field houses as healthful places for the city's poor to gather, play, and learn.