Previously referred to as Park No. 532, Williams-Davis Park is a vibrant new park located in the Oakland neighborhood. The park was created in the late 1990s, as part of the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation, which involved razing deteriorated public housing units known as the Lake Park Homes.
The site was redeveloped into a mixed income community known as Lake Park Crescent, which includes a 2.89-acre park. Landscape designers Bauer Latoza Studio worked with the Chicago Park District to create an exciting public space with a playground and passive areas.
The gateway to the park features Milton Mizenburg Jr.’s first bronze sculpture, which he fittingly named Restoration. The Chicago Park District officially acquired the park in 2006.
This is an unstaffed location. For organized programs and after school events, visit nearby Mandrake Park.
Williams – Davis Park. In 2006, the Chicago Park District acquired a 2.85 acre park from the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) in the Oakland community. The park was created as part of the CHA’s Plan for Transformation which included razing the severely deteriorated public housing units known as Lake Park Homes and replacing them with a mixed income community. Designed by Bauer Latoza Studio, the park includes a playground, passive landscape areas, and a bronze sculpture entitled Restoration that symbolically represents the transformation of the Oakland neighborhood.
In 2012, community members suggested two significant women for whom the park should be named, Hattie Kay Williams and Izora Davis. Since both women lived near the park site and devoted their lives to improving the surrounding community, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners decided to name the site in honor of both of them.
Hattie Kay Williams
Hattie Kay Williams (1922 - 1990) was a social worker and community activist who had an important impact on the city and the nation. As a mother of six small children and married to a postal worker, in the 1950s, Williams heard about the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education case became committed to integrating and improving Oakenwald School in her own neighborhood. At the time, there were only twenty black families living in the area and the school was segregated, with white and minority students divided into morning and afternoon shifts. She became the first African American president of Oakenwald School’s P.T.A., organized fundraisers and programs to better the lives of minority children and within a short time she became president of the Southeast Council PTA, which covered more than 40 schools.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Superintendent Benjamin Willis refused to integrate the Chicago Public Schools, installing sub-standard “Willis Wagons,” rather than renovating and enlarging rundown school buildings. Ms. Williams organized protest rallies and pickets at Willis Wagon locations. She befriended the nationally syndicated columnist Ann Landers who helped garner media attention for the cause of improved facilities and school integration. (This campaign led to Willis’s resignation in 1966). Williams was also responsible for helping to establish a study center that became a Head Start pilot site, a food pantry, rape prevention programs, community services teen mothers, and programs to address domestic and gang violence.
Ms. Williams worked professionally for the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago and wrote columns for the Sun-Times. She served on several boards and received many honors including the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Foundation Award, the State of Illinois Governor’s Citation, Alberta Hall Memorial and Humanitarian Award, Operation PUSH’s Giant Parent of Excellence Award, Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority Community Award, and One of the Most Caring People in American Award presented by the Caring Institute in Washington D.C.
Izora Davis (1952- 2006) began living in public housing in Chicago in 1983 with her two young children. She studied martial arts and began teaching karate to kids in the projects on Lake Park, often in her apartment or in the schoolyard of Jackie Robinson Elementary school.
After living in one of the three horseshoe buildings on Lake Park for less than a year, CHA announced a major plan for closing the buildings, with promises to rehab and reoccupy them. Ms. Davis became a vocal public housing activist. She was instrumental in getting a Memorandum of Accord that gave displaced tenants the right to return to the community they called home should they desire to do so. Her fight became the blueprint for future agreements involving displaced and relocated public housing residents in Chicago.
Ms. Davis’s efforts were featured in articles in many newspapers. She served on the board of the Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization. Mary Patillo, author of Black on The Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City included her story in the book. Such attention from key institutions and people as these indicate the notoriety of a woman who did not believe in the notion of giving up on what she held true to her heart. In August of 2006, three weeks prior to Ms. Davis’ death there was a massive blackout that struck the Kenwood area, and the people who lived in Lake Park Place had to be relocated out of the buildings until the electricity could be restored. She fought to make sure people were not ignored and were given cool sanctuary until it was safe to return home, while she herself stayed behind to look out for those who chose not to leave.
Out of an abundance of caution Park Advisory Council Meetings will be held virtually for the near future. Please contact the Williams Davis PAC for details.