Leone Beach Park
Chicago, IL 60626
Leone Beach Park dates to 1919, when the City of Chicago's Bureau of Parks and Recreation acquired the park site from the Department of Water. The city had purchased the property and its pumping station from the Rogers Park Water Company in 1907. Shortly after obtaining the lakeshore property, the Bureau of Parks and Recreation remodeled the pumping station, built in 1900, for use as a fieldhouse. The park's Touhy Avenue Beach included diving boards and rafts that drew neighborhood children in droves. By 1937, the park comprised 250 feet of beach frontage, including street-end beaches at Chase, Greenleaf, and Farwell Avenues.
In 1959, the Chicago Park District began leasing the park, then known as Rogers Park and Beach, from the city. In 1966, the Park District renamed the site Leone Park after beloved park district employee Sam Leone (1900-1965). Leone joined the Bureau of Parks and Recreation as a lifeguard after serving in the Navy during World War I. Initially, he worked at the old Clarendon Park Beach, but was moved north to Rogers Park in 1927. When Leone became a Park District employee in 1959, he was named Supervisor of Lifeguards for the entire north side. Leone was still living above the Rogers Park beach house and supervising lifeguards and safeguarding swimmers at the time of his death at age 65.
Letter from Joe Moore about Leone Park, 10/13/2014
The Leone Park Fieldhouse has a long history in our community. Built in 1900 as a water pumping station for the Rogers Park Water Company, it was purchased by the City of Chicago in 1907 and leased to the City's Bureau of Parks and Recreation in 1919. From 1919 until the construction of the Loyola Park Fieldhouse in 1950, the Leone Fieldhouse was the primary park building on the Rogers Park lakefront.
Leone Beach Park is located at Touhy Avenue and the lakefront. It includes a beach, a playground close to Sheridan Road, and a 114-year-old building that has been used as a park fieldhouse for most of its existence. It is also the northern gateway in Chicago for the Lake Michigan Water Trail.
The building became best known as the home of the Junior Lifeguard Program, which was led for 40 years by Park Supervisor Sam Leone, for whom the beach and park were named. Over the last few decades the building has fallen into a state of disrepair and is now used primarily as lifeguard boat storage during the off season.
A number of ideas for redeveloping the Leone facility have been offered over the years. This current conversation began last year as part of a proposal brought up during my Participatory Budgeting (PB) process. While the proposal didn't fit into PB at the time, interested community members kept the conversation going.
Park District Superintendent Mike Kelly is very supportive of exploring a redevelopment plan for the fieldhouse and surrounding area and has committed members of his planning staff to developing a plan with my community.
Planning a revitalized Leone Beach and Park and identifying a funding source to implement it will take a great deal of work and community effort.