Legion Park

From HistoryWiki

Legion Park Soundex Code P620

3100 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue

This 50-acre, oblong park straddles three neighborhoods: West Ridge, Lincoln Square, and North Park. This large park features two junior baseball fields, two playslabs with basketball standards, two tennis courts, four playgrounds, a roller hockey area, a nature area, and a bicycle path. The ornamental fountain and oversized flower beds provides a great backdrop for wedding photos.

The park’s northern border starts at Peterson Avenue, the southern border ends at Foster Avenue, and its west side abuts Kedzie / Jersey Avenues. If you are interested in renting one of the athletic fields or other amenities, please contact River Park.

History

Legion Park was created by the River Park District, one of 22 independent park systems consolidated into the Chicago Park District in 1934. Residents of northwest Chicago established the Ridge Avenue Park District in 1917 specifically to promote recreational opportunities along the North Shore Channel and the nearby North Branch of the Chicago River. Therefore, when the board of the Sanitary District of Chicago offered to lease a 330-foot, 18-acre stretch of the channel's east bank in 1930, the River Park District readily accepted. The park district named the site Legion Park to honor veterans who served in the World War I U.S. Expeditionary Forces, and promptly began improvements, installing a playground, a volleyball court, a softball field, and an outdoor gymnasium. In 1933, the Garden Club of the Peterson Woods Improvement Association planted a flower garden in the park. The following year, in the depths of the Depression, the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission erected a rustic bridge across the channel at Ardmore Avenue. All 22 of the city's independent park boards were consolidated into the Chicago Park District in 1934. In 1962, the park district began to lease additional property on both sides of the channel. Seven years later, the park district leased still more land, bringing total park acreage to 48.35 acres. Over time, the park district has installed and improved concrete walkways, bike paths, and playgrounds along the length of Legion Park. In 1999, the park district purchased 0.4 acres of land at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Peterson Avenue from the Public Building Commission, and removed a neighborhood eyesore, a dilapidated motel. This property, with its new ornamental fountain, will serve as a gateway to the park.

2014 Annual House Tour Booklet, pages 14-15, Peterson Woods neighborhood, Sunday, September 14, 2014

A factor that makes life in Peterson Woods so delightful is its proximity to the green space of Legion Park. Backyards on the west side of Virginia Avenue overlook the park and a number of side streets become footpaths leading into the park and allowing public access.

Located along the North Shore Channel between Foster Avenue on the south and Peterson Avenue on the north, it offers a unique history, made possible by the channeling of the North Branch of the Chicago River, the growth of Chicago to the north and west of its original center, and the determination of civic groups.

The current park is a recreational center with two junior baseball fields, two playslabs with basketball standards, two tennis courts, four playgrounds, a roller hockey area, a bird and butterfly sanctuary, and a bicycle and walking path that connects with parks north and south. However, for our purposes, it is the history of Legion Park which interests us. This story is often repeated in Chicago: of a city developing its park resources with the efforts of many groups, public and private, and of the fight to keep land along Chicago's waterways public.

The Sanitary District of Chicago (now called the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District or MRWD, was created in 1889 to handle the reclamation and treatment of wast water. One of its great achievements was reversing the flow of the Chicago River in 1900 so sewage would travel away from Lake Michigan. The North Shore Channel, built between 1907 and 1910 augmented that effort. Flowing from Lake Michigan to the North Branch of the Chicago River and intersecting with the North Branch just south of Lawrence Avenue, it was meant to dilute the river water and help carry pollution downstream.

In the early 20th Century the neighborhood of Forest Glen developed as a largely residential area, and the people there eagerly sought a park. Likewise, in 1917, one civic group, the River Park District]], noted with dismay the lack of a neighborhood "small park" and playground facilities and also sought to prevent the encroachment of commercial enterprises along the Chicago River and the North Shore Channel. The policy of the Sanitary District was to cooperate with the River Park District to create right-of-way improvements. All these factors proved very helpful in the establishment of a cluster of three parks along the Channel: River Park, located between Foster Avenue and Argyle Avenue on the east and west banks (established 1920-22); Legion Park, named for World War I veterans (established 1930; and Ronan Park, located between Argyle Avenue and Lawrence Avenue and named for George Ronan; who died at Fort Dearborn.

Legion Park has seen a flurry of development since its founding. In 1933, the Peterson Woods Improvement Association planted a flower garden. During 1962 to 1969 additional land was purchased from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, bringing the total area to 48.35 acres.

In 1999 the former Riverside Motel was purchased, adding 0.04 acre along Lincoln Avenue and Peterson Avenues. This is now the site of the spectacular Legion Park Fountain and its beautifully landscaped surroundings. Designed by DeStefano and Partners and Wolff Landscape Architecture, it has become known as the "Gateway to the Park," inviting the public and providing the park's grand entrance.