Located in the Roseland Community Area, Block Park is a 2.96 acre park location used for passive recreation. Park patrons can relax in this open green space on benches while enjoying the beauty of nature.
When the City of Chicago purchased property for a pumping station in the Roseland Community Area in 1912, it donated the excess land to the Special Park Commission for the creation of a park and natatorium. Mayor Carter H. Harrison established the Special Park Commission in 1899 at the urging of members of the Municipal Science Club. The year before, reformer Jacob Riis, speaking before the club, had made an impassioned plea for playground development in crowded immigrant neighborhoods. Harrison created the commission to study the City’s needs for small parks and playgrounds. The commission soon began working with civic groups to promote park creation, and even accepted donations of land for playground development. By 1915, the commission had jurisdiction over more than 100 properties, with 46 additional playgrounds under construction. At three of these properties, including the Roseland site, the commission was building natatoriums with swimming and changing room facilities. All three adjoined pumping stations to take advantage of surplus steam generated there. Mayor Carter H. Harrison II suggested that the Roseland natatorium be named for 25th Ward Alderman Robert Griffith (1848-1900), an active promoter of the Special Park Commission and its first chairman. The new natatorium opened to the public the following year, equipped to serve 1,500 swimming patrons per day. A gymnasium was added sometime during the following decade.
By 1930, the Department of Parks and Recreation, successor to the Special Park Commission, considered the lawns surrounding the natatorium as a separate site, Roseland Park. Around 1940, the city renamed the small park for Eugene H. Block (1865-1938), alderman for the 33rd and 9th wards between 1910 and 1917. Block also served as chairman of the Special Park Commission and later became the first chairman of the City Council Committee on Parks, Playgrounds, and Recreation. In 1957, the Chicago Park District began leasing Block Park and Griffith Natatorium from the City of Chicago Water Fund. The two properties were later consolidated into a single site known as Block Park. The outmoded 1915 natatorium building was demolished in 1998, and its site converted to greenspace. The Chicago Park District continues to lease this park from the City of Chicago’s Department of Water Management.