Formerly the site of an old infirmary, Mary Bartelme Park is a 1.4-acre park in the West Loop community that features elements combining a sense of history with modern, innovative design. Three strong, diagonal paths intersect in this one-block park to create distinct, programmed zones. These zones include a fountain plaza, a children’s play area, a sunken dog park, an open lawn area, a viewing hill and enclosed seating area.
At the fountain plaza, park patrons are greeted with five stainless steel gates at the northwest entry acting as a gateway to the park. Using only three gallons a minute, each of the gates emit a fine mist of vaporized water on hot Chicago days, cooling off families while immersing the area in a cloud.
The children’s play area offers ADA accessibility that allows for inventive, non-linear play without traditional play equipment. Meanwhile, dogs can enjoy their uniquely sunken dog park that is complete with a continuously filling, over-sized dog bowl, ramps, ledges, steps, and artificial canine grass to provide an exercise area.
The viewing hill is up to six feet high and provides a stunning view of the entire park with a backdrop of the Chicago skyline. The enclosed seating area is surrounded with native landscaping that provides a contemplative space for the community, alongside the park’s largest planter beds raised up by weathering steel walls. Embedded within the linear seat walls are architectural terracotta artifacts salvaged from the original building, referencing the history of the site. The park has been designed to capture its stormwater by the main permeable paver paths and this water is stored on site.
While there is no structured programming taking place at this location, we invite you to check out our great programs offered at nearby Union Park.
The Chicago Park District officially named this new park in honor of Mary Bartelme (1866 – 1954), the first woman judge in Illinois, who devoted her life to reforming the treatment of children and women in the court system. Born near Fulton and Halsted Streets, Bartelme was a Chicago Public School teacher who decided to become one of the city’s first women lawyers.
Admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1894, Bartelme was appointed as Public Guardian of Cook County three years later, and helped establish America’s first juvenile court in 1899. Sixteen years later, she was chosen to assist the presiding judge, allowing girls in the juvenile court system the opportunity to appear before a female judge for this first time. She went on to be elected as a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1923.
Bartelme donated her own house in Chicago to establish a “Mary’s Club,” a group home where girls could be safe and learn important life skills. In all, she established three “Mary’s Club” homes, including one for African-American girls. Nicknamed “Suitcase Mary,” she formed a program to provide suitcases filled with proper clothing and toiletries to young women coming out of the court system to help them establish as respectable life.
Once a month