In the late 1990s, the Chicago Park District worked with numerous community members and organizations to prepare a Framework Plan for Burnham Park to guide future improvements to the park and strengthen the open spaces along Chicago’s south lakefront.
At the same time, the Chicago Park District and City of Chicago partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers on plans to rebuild the revetments (sloped structures on the shore) that protect the edge of Lake Michigan from erosion.
Community members suggested the creation of a new bathing beach in Burnham Park in place of the proposed concrete revetments. The original scheme called for the new beach just north of Oakwood Boulevard. As plans progressed, however, it was determined that a much larger beach could be created at 41st Street.
The Army Corps of Engineers built piers and a stone-submerged breakwater (an offshore structure that calms wave action) as part of the project to protect the beach from erosion.
The beach, which was constructed with new sand from a Wisconsin quarry, stretches 1,300 feet along Lake Michigan, totaling approximately seven acres.
The project included environmentally sustainable components such as a bio-retention area that was built to treat run-off from the parking lot and keep the run-off from both the storm sewer and lake.
Environmental guidelines were also closely followed for the development of the new 41st Street Beach House. Designed by Muller and Muller architects, the 2010 building is LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.) Among its environmentally friendly features is an innovative water harvesting system that uses rainwater to supply the toilets.
Similar in design to the Osterman Beach House in Lincoln Park, the handsome red brick building has a hipped roof and an open loggia (an open-air gallery) on the façade fronting Lake Michigan.
The two buildings received the ACEC-Illinois Special Achievement Award of 2010 and the 41st Street Beach House also received Mayor Daley’s 2010 Chicago Greenworks Award.