Located in the Washington Park/Woodlawn neighborhood, Washington Park totals 366.84 acres and features two gymnasiums, a photography lab, dance studio, racquetball court, fitness center,game room, and multi-purpose rooms. Green features of the park include a nature area, a Harvest Garden and an arboretum. Outside, the park offers a lagoon, aquatic center, three playgrounds, basketball/ tennis courts, baseball, football, soccer, cricket, and softball fields. Many of these spaces are available for rental including our gymnasiums, fields, and multi-purpose rooms. Additionally, Washington Park features the renowed Fountain of Time sculpture by Lorado Taft.
Park-goers can participate in the Park Kids after school program, seasonal sports, fitness, Teen Club, Junior Bears Football. On the cultural side, the park offers music and movement and dance. During the summer, youth can participate in the Chicago Park District’s popular six-week day camp.
In addition to programs, Washington Park hosts fun special events throughout the year for the entire family, such as Ashaki Black History Month Celebration and other holiday-themed events.
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted & Calvert Vaux, Washington Park is one of Chicago’s most significant historic landscapes. Originally considered the “western division”—a 367-acre portion of the enormous 1055-acre South Park—it was connected to the park’s “eastern division” via a grand boulevard called the Midway Plaisance. In 1881, the South Park Commissioners named the western division in honor of George Washington (1732–1799) first president of the United States. At the same time, they named the eastern division Jackson Park.
Olmsted and Vaux completed an ambitious plan for South Park in 1871. The plan included a magnificent South Open Green- an open meadow on which cows and sheep would roam to enhance the pastoral experience and keep the lawn trim. The meadow was not only enjoyed by flocks of Southdown sheep, but also park patrons who gathered for baseball, drills, and other athletics. Renowned architects Burnham & Root designed two late nineteenth century buildings in the park—the stables and round house and the refectory which originally housed the offices for the South park Commissioners. In 1910 Burnham’s firm designed a larger administrative headquarters which houses the Du Sable Museum of African American History.
In 1922 Lorado Taft (1860–1936), Chicago’s pre-eminent sculptor, created the Fountain of Time on the southeastern edge of Washington Park. Inspired by ”The Paradox of Time,” a poem by Henry Austin Dobson, Taft’s fountain is composed of an ominous cloaked Father-Time figure gazing at a wave-like procession of one hundred human figures across the water.
By the mid-1930s, the growing African-American community around Washington Park was in dire need of additional recreational facilities. The park district responded by building two competition-size swimming pools near the refectory. In the early 1990s, the park district rehabilitated the refectory and transformed the swimming area into a major aquatic center. Recent projects include lagoon improvements, the construction of a $700 thousand playground, the creation of an arboretum, and a $2 million restoration of the Fountain of Time. Lagoon improvements were made in the early 2000s.
For directions using public transportation visit www.transitchicago.com.
3rd Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m.