Marquette Park

Marquette Park, the largest park on the southwest side of Chicago, Illinois at 323 acres (1.31 km2), is located in the city's Chicago Lawn neighborhood. The park is named for Father Jacques Marquette (1637–1675).


Planning and development

Marquette Park is part of a system of 14 parks designed in 1903 by the Olmsted Brothers. At 323 acres (1.31 km2) in size, it is the largest of the revolutionary neighborhood parks created by the South Park Commission in the early 20th century. The Superintendent at the time, J. Frank Foster, envisioned the "new parks as beautifully landscaped 'breathing spaces' that would provide educational and social services to the city's congested immigrant neighborhoods."[1]"Social reformers launched a playground movement for the creation of additional parks."[2] In 1899 and 1903 the state legislature authorized the three park commissions: Lincoln Park Commission; West Park Commission; and the South Park Commission; to acquire property for new parks. "The South Park Commission opened a system of 10 innovative neighborhood parks in 1905, which soon inspired similar parks in the West and Lincoln Park systems and in other cities across the United States."[1]

The original plans for Marquette Park called for "a golf course on two islands surrounded by naturalistic lagoons; indoor and outdoor gymnasiums; swimming and wading pools; a children's playground; formal gardens; and a concert grove."[1] Due to its size, construction of the park went more slowly than most of the others in the system, and several features of the original plan were dropped due to difficulties with the landscape. Still, in 1913, the 18-hole golf course opened and "by 1917, the park included playing fields, a children's playground, tennis courts, propagating houses for the nursery, and a large, classically-designed golf shelter."[1][3]

In the early 1930s, the Great Depression caused the bankruptcy of the individual park districts. In 1934, the 22 independent agencies were consolidated into the Chicago Park District.[2] After the consolidation of Chicago's park commissions into the Chicago Park District in 1934, park workers redesigned the golf shelter, built comfort stations, and expanded the walking paths in the park to include the islands.

The incident at Marquette Park was part of the protests led by the Chicago Freedom Movement, of which King was co-chairman. It was a year-long campaign for open housing. It started in January 1966 when King and his wife Coretta moved into a North Lawndale slum (on the west side of Chicago). King, the SCLC, and the movement wanted to make Chicago a racially open city. They wanted it to be a place where everyone could buy homes or rent apartments without fear of racial attacks. The march was not as successful as King and the SCLC had hoped. A rather vague agreement was created with Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, containing unkept promises of open housing legislation and improving living conditions. This march was part of a series of marches coordinated by the Chicago Freedom Movement--the marriage of King's SCLC and the CCCO (Coordinating Council of Chicago Organizations), led by King's co-leader in Chicago, Al Raby.[8]


Tarkington Elementary School

The Tarkington Elementary School, located at 3330 W. 71st Street on the south side of the park and serving pre-K through the 8th grade, was completed in 2005 and classes began on Tuesday, October 4 of that year. Tarkington is the first in the Chicago Public Schools system to have the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. With a building area approximately 134,000 square feet (12,400 m2), the school sits on a 9.82-acre (39,700 m2) site. The school was built to relieve overcrowding on the Southwest Side and will serve up to 1,000 elementary school students.

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