Shortly after the Chicago Fire of 1871, Chicago's Fuller Park community began developing as a railroad and industrial area and housing for laborers soon followed. Population increased gradually until the 1950s, when construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway cut through the heart of the community, with devastating results. Fuller Park's population dropped precipitously between 1950 and 1970. About 1970, representatives of the Firman Neighborhood House, a community service organization, urged the Chicago Park District to purchase property for playlot development in the neighborhood. Using funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the park district acquired land in 1974, improving it with playground equipment, a sand box, permanent game tables, and plantings. In the late 1980s, the playground was rehabilitated and the landscape replanted. Officially named Malus Park in 1974, the park was one of a number of properties named for trees and plants at the time. The Latin term malus refers to the genus of trees that includes apples, crabapples, and pears, though pears are sometimes categorized as a separate genus, pyrus. All are ornamental or fruit-bearing trees that produce an abundance of white to pink flowers. Crabapples, in particular, add beauty to many Chicago parks, including this one, where both malus hopa and malus radiant grow.
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