Located in the North Lawndale community and parts of Pilsen neighborhood, Douglass (Anna and Frederick) Park totals 161.85 acres.
Douglass Park is a historic regional park that offers many recreational and cultural opportunities for park patrons. The fieldhouse features include two gymnasiums, an auditorium, a computer lab, a fitness center, a kitchen, a grand ballroom and meeting rooms.
Outdoors, the park offers tennis courts, a game day football stadium, an outdoor pool, water spray features, basketball courts, an artificial turf soccer field, a pavilion, baseball fields and a small golf putting range.
Douglass Park also offers three newly renovated playgrounds. In summer 2016, a playground on the west end of the park was renovated and renamed Sunshine Daydream Playground, in honor of a Grateful Dead song. This new playground offers an interactive water fountain and music-themed play equipment that is accessible for children of all ages and ability levels.
Douglass Park has partnered with many community partners to add additional amenities for patrons. Through a collaboration with the Chicago Bulls Basketball organization, the park offers a computer learning lab to serve the children of the community. In partnership with Ravinia, the park hosts a series of summer concerts and the annual Junta Hispana festival in July.
Young park-goers can play seasonal sports at park facilities or take part in cultural programs, including dance, art, performing arts and theater. In the summer, youth attend day camp and specialty arts camps. Adults participate in a range of activities at Douglas Park, including working out at the fitness center or engaging in aerobics and conditioning classes. Families also participate in the monthly “Bring the Family to the Table” nutritional meal, a free program offered in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
In addition to programs, Douglass Park hosts fun special events throughout the year for the whole family, such as dance and theater performances, Movies in the Park screenings and other Night Out in the Parks events.
In 1869, the Illinois state legislature established the West Park Commission, which was responsible for three large parks and interlinking boulevards. Later that year, the commissioners named the southernmost park in honor of Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861). Best remembered for his pre-Civil War presidential defeat by Abraham Lincoln despite superb oratorical skills, Douglas was a United States Senator who helped bring the Illinois Central Railroad to Chicago. In 2020, the community requested that the park be renamed to honor historical abolitionists, Anna and Frederick Douglass.
In 1871, designer William Le Baron Jenney completed plans for the entire West Park System which included Douglas, Garfield, and Humboldt parks. Jenney's engineering expertise was especially helpful for transforming Douglas Park's poor natural site into parkland. He had sand and manure from the Chicago Stock Yards added to the marshy site.
In the center of the landscape, Jenney created a picturesque lake. A small section of the park was formally opened in 1879. In 1895, members of several German turners' clubs petitioned for an outdoor gymnasium in Douglas Park. The following year, this resulted in the construction of one of Chicago's first public facilities with an outdoor gymnasium, swimming pool, and natatorium.
By the turn of the century, the West Park Commission was riddled with political graft, and the three parks became dilapidated. As part of a reform effort in 1905, Jens Jensen was appointed as General Superintendent and Chief Landscape Architect for the entire West Park System. Jensen, now recognized as Dean of the Prairie style of landscape architecture, improved deteriorating sections of the parks and added new features.
Among Jensen's improvements were a semi-circular entryway at Marshall Blvd., and a formal garden at the corner of Ogden Ave. and Sacramento Dr. By the time Jensen designed the garden, Ogden Avenue, a diagonal roadway with a major streetcar thoroughfare, had already been constructed. The road divided the park into two separate landscapes, creating a busy intersection at the juncture of Ogden and Sacramento Avenues. Jensen's solution was a long axial garden on the southeast side of the intersection, providing a buffer between Ogden Ave. and playfields to the south.
At the entrance to the garden, the area closest to the busy roadway intersection, Jensen placed a monumental garden shelter, known as Flower Hall, and a formal reflecting pool. The designer of the structure is unknown, however, it was possibly Jensen himself, or his friend, Prairie School architect Hugh Garden. East of the building, the garden becomes more naturalistic. Jensen included perennial beds, a lily pool, and unique Prairie-style benches.
In 1928, the West Park Commission constructed a fieldhouse in Douglas Park. The structure was designed by architects Michaelsen and Rognstad, who were also responsible for other notable buildings including the Garfield Park Gold Dome Building, the Humboldt and LaFollette Park Fieldhouses, and the On Leong Chinese Merchant's Association Building in Chinatown.
In 1934, Douglas Park became part of the Chicago Park District, when the city's 22 independent park commissions merged into a single citywide agency.
On September 9, 2020, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners voted to officially remove the name of Stephen Douglas from the park. On November 18, 2020, in response to a community request, the Board voted to officially name the park in honor of Anna and Frederick Douglass.
In 1818, Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, of mixed race, into slavery on the eastern shore of Maryland. After Douglass taught himself to read and write, he found work at the docks in Baltimore. It was there he met a free black woman named Anna Murray. She had been born free, to parents who were former slaves. Ms. Murray worked as a laundress and a housekeeper, gaining independent financial security for herself. She provided funds to Frederick, which he used to disguise himself as a sailor and escape slavery. Ms. Murray followed Frederick to New York, where they married and established a household. When they later settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and in an effort to hide his identity, he dropped his middle name and they changed their last name to Douglass. Throughout their 44-year marriage, Anna provided the support system for Frederick’s growing work as an orator and abolitionist, maintaining their household and raising their five children.
Douglass began reading The Liberator, an abolitionist publication, and began attending abolitionist meetings. Thereafter, the Anti-Slavery Society hired Douglass as a paid lecturer. This was his beginning as an orator; he would become one of the most famous orators of his time. He focused on the abolishment of slavery, the promoting of the moral and intellectual improvement of people of color, and women’s rights. Frederick Douglass also published three autobiographies.
Douglass knew that the Emancipation Proclamation was a revolutionary document. In 1865, Douglass attended Lincoln’s second Inaugural Speech, and often quoted from the speech. Upon hearing of Lincoln’s death, Douglass was said to feel the death as both a personal and national calamity.
2nd Tuesday of every month at 6pm