In 2005, the City of Chicago and Chicago Park District jointly received a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for recreational improvements to Palmer Square Park. The project involved designing a new playground for two to five year-old children that would blend into the landscape without detracting from the historic character of the neighborhood.
Historic Preservation Consultants Susan Benjamin and Gwen Sommers Yant developed a set of guidelines for the project and suggested The Velveteen Rabbit as the inspiration for the design. Written by Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic children’s story that was published in 1922. The concept was selected because the story dates to a significant period of the community's history, deals with the universal theme of what it means to be loved, and provides rich imagery and a great source of inspiration to an innovative playground design.
The Chicago Public Art Group held workshops with community children to develop the design concepts. Artists Roman Villarreal, Phil Schuster, and Jennifer Gutowski created the artworks. The installation includes a stage-like platform with bas relief designs of toys, leaf benches and tree-stump seats, carved rabbits and other animals, and sculptural stepping stones with leaves, footprints, and paw prints.