3 ACRES ON THE LAKE: DuSable Park Proposal Project

photo credit: Chih-Hsuan Lee

HISTORICAL TIMELINE

since mid 1600's:
Potawatomi tribe living in area that becomes Chicago

1772
Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, Haitian-French settler, established first non-native permanent settlement at what was then the mouth of the Chicago River; married a Potawatomi woman named Catherine, and eventually built: "a bakehouse, a smokehouse, a poultry house, a dairy, a workshop, a barn and two stables" (Chicago Public Library Municipal Reference Collection)

early 1800's - 1850
new land east of Michigan Ave deposited itself by action of lake currents after lighthouse jetty was built; land was created where before there was only lake, and the "mouth" of the Chicago river moved east into the lake (the land that is now DuSable Park was thus deposited, not having existed prior to this era)

1836
State of Illinois sold unsettled areas near lake to pay for a new shipping canal, but initially refused to sell lakefront itself

1857
ownership of 40 acres at (new) mouth of Chicago river granted to Chicago Dock and Canal (a real estate investment trust) to help fund the construction of the waterfront

later 1800's
Ogden Slip dug by Chicago Dock and Canal to connect cargo boats with railroads at North Pier, resulting in the creation of the point between slip and river

1928
birth of the DuSable League, organized around the commemoration of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable and the specific recognition of the contribution of the African diasporic to the founding of the City of Chicago

1948
Chicago Plan Commission passed resolution opposing in principle any use of Chicago's lakefront for other than recreational purposes ("except such uses as may be requisite for harbor or terminal facilities of passenger and freight vessels between Grand Avenue and Randolph Street..." - the apparent loophole through which Lake Point Tower emerged)

1964
Chicago Dock and Canal leased land to developers of Lake Point Tower (between Grand Ave and Randolph St); later, sold land south of Lake Point Tower to Centex homes, along with option to build two more hi-rise towers on point that is now DuSable Park

1972
Lakefront Protection Ordinance enacted under Mayor Daley #1 administration, forbidding private development of lands east of Lake Shore Drive; Centex took city to court, and won (city bought land from Centex), but Centex dropped option on DuSable Park; Chicago Dock and Canal kept it, agreed not to build there

1986
commencement of North Pier development (Plan #368), including plans for DuSable Park

1987
3 acre parcel on point dedicated as DuSable Park under the Harold Washington administration

1997
MCL, a private development corporation, absorbed real estate holdings of Chicago Dock and Canal Trust, including DuSable Park; MCL gave DP lot to Chicago Park District (again), and agreed to pay $600,000 towards its development as a park; MCL willing to complete path to connect DuSable park to "mainland" via river walk, though final completion of river path remains tied to MCL's development schedule

late 1990's
B.F. Ferguson Fund of Art Institute of Chicago commissions Martin Puryear to create a sculpture for DuSable Park, commemorating Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, but commission dependent on Park's completion (Puryear's sculpture is non-representational, "a cube with a feather on it." Members of the DuSable league call for a representational sculpture that is recognizable as a Black man.)

July, 1999
preliminary plans for DuSable Park completed, rumored to include pedestrian walkways from Navy Pier to DuSable Park and from there to DuSable Marina on south bank of river (but plans not made available to public, initially); revetment repair called for

July, 2000
Chicago Park District announces plans to lease DuSable Park to Arnes Petrakis' development company to create a parking lot on site, with 2 year sunset clause; lot would be "temporary," with berms and pavements and landscaping to minimize runoff from gas and anti-freeze, and to camouflage the cars, all of which would be dug up after two short years; this temporary lease would contribute funds towards eventual construction of the park

August, 2000
Grant Park Advisory Committee with Friends of DuSable Park, the DuSable League, and other groups hold public hearings critiquing and protesting the parking lot idea

September, 2000
the parking lot plan indefinitely postponed

November, 2000
coalition of groups meets with Friends of the Parks to strategize how to push development of DuSable Park in 2000

December, 2000
radioactive thorium contamination discovered on site -- extent of danger yet to be determined

Feb/March, 2001
Park District promises development plan once costs of revetment repair and thorium cleanup are determined

 

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