Located in the West Town Community Area, Pulaski Park totals 3.8 acres and features an auditorium, two gymnasiums, a kitchen and meeting rooms. The third floor tower room is used as an office for Free Street Theater, a non-profit organization that provides programming through the Chicago Park District’s Arts Partners in Residence Program. Outside, the park offers a softball diamond, interactive water spray feature and a swimming pool.
Many of these spaces are available for rental. Park-goers can play baseball or go swimming 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, Pulaski Park hosts fun special events throughout the year for the whole family, such as holiday celebrations, Movies in the Park and other Night Out in the Parks events.
The West Park Commissioners created Pulaski Park in 1912, as part of an effort to expand neighborhood parks throughout the congested west side. Several years earlier, Dvorak, Eckhart and Stanford Parks opened, providing tenement districts with breathing spaces and social services including public bathing, branch libraries, children's playgrounds, athletics and inexpensive hot meals.
Sites were soon identified for new parks, including a 3.8-acre parcel in West Town — a crowded, predominantly Polish neighborhood of factories and workers' housing. To make way for the park, the West Park Commission had to displace 1,200 people, demolishing some buildings, and moving others to nearby locations in the neighborhood.
After filling the low site, the contractors began improvements following the plans of renowned landscape designer Jens Jensen. A large field house and outdoor swimming facility were constructed in 1914. Incorporating elements such as tile roofs, half-timbering, a tower, dormers and verandahs, architect William Carbys Zimmerman designed the three-story brick field house to emulate Eastern European architecture familiar to the immigrant community.
In 1919, Jensen met with officials at the Art Institute of Chicago to discuss the idea of a competition for art students to paint a mural on the semi-circular proscenium above the stage in the Pulaski Park field house. The park commissioners provided the prizes of $100, $50 and $25, and instructors at the School of the Art Institute selected the winners. The first prize went to James G. Gilbert, who received $200 for materials as well as the $100 prize. In 1920, Gilbert painted his mural composed of a dramatic series of allegorical figures. A second mural, hidden in the upper tower room, portrays Polish themes. A Chicago Park District arts and crafts class created this painting in the late 1930s.
The park pays tribute to Casimir Pulaski (c. 1748-1779) a Polish war hero who fought for the American cause in the Revolutionary War. After distinguishing himself in the Battle of Brandywine, Pulaski was appointed by Congress as Brigadier-General. Pulaski died in action at the Battle of Savannah.
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