The beach is open from 6 am to 11 pm, but swimming is only permitted when lifeguards are on duty, from 11 am to 7 pm daily.
Often referred to 31st Street Beach, Margaret T. Burroughs Beach offers visitors incredible views of the Chicago skyline from the south. Beach goers can find concessions and restrooms at the beach house.
Burroughs Beach sits next 31st Street Harbor, a new facility that offers 1,000 floating slips for 35-70-foot-long boats and space for boats up to 200 feet. Adjacent to the harbor, patrons can find an ADA-accessible playground, along with a “green roof” picnic area above an indoor parking garage that also functions as a winter boat storage area. A public fishing dock, community room, harbor store and offices are all available at this location.
In 2015, a large coalition of public officials led a movement to name the 31st Street Beach and adjacent green space in honor of Margaret T. Burroughs. Thousands of citizens signed petitions in favor of this proposal. On August 12, 2015, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners officially renamed at 29.75-acre part of Burnham Park as Margaret T. Burroughs Beach and Park.
Margaret T. Burroughs (1917-2010) was an accomplished artist, art advocate, poet, teacher, civic leader, historian, and founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History. Born in Louisiana, she moved to Chicago with her family during early years of the Great Migration. She attended Englewood High School, received a teaching certificate from the Chicago Teachers College. She went on to receive degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an honorary doctorate from Lewis University.
In the late 1930s, Margaret spearheaded the creation of the South Side Community Art Center, which was formally dedicated by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941. For decades, Margaret played a prominent role in Chicago’s African American art scene. Her art was featured in prominent museums and galleries throughout the nation, and she led various cultural initiatives such as serving as art director for the Negro Hall of Fame.
In the early 1960s, Margaret and her husband Charles Burroughs founded one of the nation’s first museums of African American history out of their own home in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The institution continued to grow, and in 1973 it moved into the historic Administration Building in Washington Park.
In 1986, Mayor Harold Washington appointed Margaret to serve on the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners. She made many contributions to Chicago’s parks, spearheading such initiatives such as creating cultural centers and naming parks for significant Chicago women.
Margaret T. Burroughs Beach and Park is considered a feature within Burnham Park. First envisioned by renowned architect Daniel Burnham in his seminal 1909 Plan of Chicago, Burnham Park is a 609-acre lakefront green space located Grant and Jackson Parks.
In the early 20th century, Chicago only had four municipal beaches. These beaches were far from the south side, so residents began using a sandy strip of land between 25th and 29th Streets as a bathing beach. In 1920, voters approved $20 million to build the extensive lakefront park. The site was completely made of landfill.
The South Park Commission named the park in honor of Daniel H. Burnham in 1927. Burnham Park served as the site for Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress, which took place for two seasons in 1933 and 1934. After the fair, the newly consolidated Chicago Park District made additional plans for the park echoing Burnham’s original vision for the space.
With federal funding through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the park district began improvements in the mid-1930s, including additional landfill, playfields, walkways, tennis courts, basketball courts, and the 31st Street Beach and the old beach house. Over the years, the area needed improvements. At turn of the 21st century, the Army Corps of Engineers began to reconstruct the shoreline revetments in Burnham Park from 26th Street to 56th Street, allowing for the expansion lakefront green space and creation of the new harbor to the south.