In 1898, the City of Chicago purchased nearly an acre-and-a-half of property in the Lincoln Square community for use by the Department of Sewers. Fifty years later, the Bureau of Parks and Recreation established a park at the site. Initially known as Washtenaw Playlot and later Lawrence Playlot for the adjacent streets, the park was well-equipped with playground equipment, a spray pool, a sand box, a small brick recreation building, and a playfield that could be flooded for ice skating in winter. In 1952, the city council renamed the site in honor of Theodore A. Gross, who developed this park and countless others during his 44 years as the city's Superintendent of Playgrounds. The Chicago Park District began leasing Gross Park from the city in 1959. After making improvements in the late 1970s, the park district rehabilitated Gross Park in 1990, and updated the recreation building the following year.