Located in the Austin community, LaFollette Park totals 17.35 acres and features a large field house with an indoor pool, a gymnasium, fitness center, auditorium and 2 kitchens. Outside, the park offers basketball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts, athletic field for football or soccer, a pavilion, 2 playgrounds and an interactive water spray feature.
Many of these spaces are available for rental. The LaFollette Park Junior Bears Football team holds an impressive record in the community. Park-goers can play seasonal sports, go swimming or just enjoy the green space at the facility. After school programs are offered throughout the school year, and in the summer youth attend the Park District’s popular six-week day camp
In addition to programs, LaFollette Park hosts fun special events throughout the year for the whole family, such as Holiday events and pumpkin patches.
In 1918, renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen envisioned a new type of neighborhood center for Chicago's west side.He imagined public schools surrounded by naturalistic landscapes with recreational and cultural features for people of all ages. Jensen created a plan to integrate new parkland with Lloyd School in the Austin neighborhood. Recommending the demolition of the existing school and acquisition of adjacent land, Jensen conceived adjoining school and gymnasium buildings in a beautiful setting with children's gardens, a bird garden, a naturalistic swimming lagoon, prairie-like playfields, and an outdoor theater. The West Park Commission acquired the proposed site, and began negotiating with the Board of Education. Shifting political tides, however, caused Jensen to sever his relationship with the park commission and the plan was never realized.
The site remained unimproved for many years. In 1925, the commissioners received a letter from the West Town Chamber of Commerce stressing the need for park improvements. The following year, the site was officially named La Follette Park after a delegation submitted petitions signed by 100,000 citizens requesting this tribute. Robert M. La Follette (1855-1925), a U.S. Representative, Senator, and three term Wisconsin governor, was nationally known for Progressive reform efforts to better the lives of children, women, farmers, and workers. Nicknamed "Fighting Bob," La Follette was recognized as an exceptional orator who battled against corruption.
In 1927, voters approved a $10 million bond issue allowing the West Park Commission to construct a number of new park buildings and landscape improvements.The initiative included $600,000 for a fieldhouse in La Follette Park. Designed by architects Michaelsen and Rognstad, the impressive Italian Renaissance Revival-style building, with its large auditorium, two gymnasiums, indoor swimming pool, lobbies, promenade, and gallery, was considered a fitting memorial to the revered La Follette.
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