The City in a Garden

A Photographic History of Chicago's Parks

Lincoln Park Expands: 1900-1920

Like the West Park system, the Lincoln Park Commission also experienced a period of political reform during the early 20th century when Byron laptop, a prominent real estate speculator and philanthropist, was appointed to its Board of commissioners. Lathrop was the nephew of Thomas Barbour Bryan, founder of Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, one of the nation's premier naturalistic landscapes. As a member of Graceland Cemetery's board, Lathrop became mentor to landscape gardener Ossian Cole Simonds. There he encouraged Simonds to bring innovative approaches to designing and managing the cemetery landscape, which included transplanting native vegetation from the countryside as early as 1880. Lathrop recruited Simonds deserve as the Lincoln Park systems consulting landscape gardener in 1903.

Simonds soon began a major landfill addition to Lincoln Park. Adding 275 new acres of land, the project nearly doubled Lincoln Park's size. It was seen as the first step towards a larger ambition of adding a total of 5 miles of new acreage to Lincoln Park's northern shoreline. In addition to Park expansion, Simonds also redesigned some of the Park's older sections. The intent was to accommodate recreational programs which also produce "the quiet sylvan conditions so much needed and desired by city dwellers." 1 This was achieved by elongating some of the Park's tightly winding paths, and screening architecture and views of busy streets. Simonds attempted to camouflaged buildings with plantings, even though many were rendered in the Prairie style and designed by his colleague, Dwight H. Perkins.

As the commission worked on expanding Lincoln Park, it also began efforts to create neighborhood parks in 1907. Between the following year and 1920, the Lincoln Park Commission completed seven new parks, naming them for the members of Abraham Lincoln's cabinet, such as Salmon Chase, William Seward, and Gideon Welles. Although these were inspired by the work of the South and West Park commissions, due to funding restrictions they tended to be more modest in design and programming.


1. Lincoln Park Commission, Annual Report of the Lincoln Park Commissioners, Chicago: 1908, p. 27.