Chicago’s Washington Park dates back to 1869, when the Illinois State Legislature set aside a thousand acres of land just to the south of Chicago for a park and boulevards. It was originally called South Park, and the landscape design was done by Frederick Law Olmsted, the “Father of American landscape architecture”. Although Olmsted included sporting areas in his design, his overall plan was to maintain a natural look for the park. He created ponds and lagoons, and brought in sheep whose grazing would keep the grass from growing too long. In 1880 South Park was re-named in honor of George Washington. The sheep remained until about 1920.
Today Washington Park is made up of 372 acres between Martin Luther King Drive and Cottage Grove Avenue. It is listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Chicago residents and tourists go there not only to enjoy quiet surroundings of trees and water, but also for some interesting sites. The Museum of African-American History is housed in what was formerly the park administration building, constructed in 1910. Also of interest are the sculpture Fountain of Time by Lorado Taft, the Washington Park Conservatory, the Refectory, and General Grant’s Tree. Washington Park hosts many festivals and athletic tournaments. It has been proposed as a possible site for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
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