Midway Plaisance

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Chicago, IL
United States
Midway Plaisance

This 90-acre linear park includes a mile-long boulevard that links Washington and Jackson Parks. Designed in 1870 by Olmsted and Vaux, the park was meant to feature a pleasure drive and an intricate canal system that would provide a water approach from Lake Michigan to the Washington Park mere, but this design was never realized.

In 1893, the Midway Plaisance was selected as the entertainment section of the World’s Columbian Exposition. Amusements such as the world’s first Ferris wheel were located here, as were exhibitions, foreign pavilions, and other attractions. After the exhibition closed, the site was redesigned by Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot to include drives lined with elm trees, walks, bridle paths, and an axial canal down the center (never built). A dry fosse currently marks where the canal would have been.

The Midway Plaisance cuts through the University of Chicago campus and has been improved over the last century. In 1922, Fountain of Time was added, designed by Lorado Taft with concrete consultation by John Joseph Earley. Chicago Park District landscape architect May E. McAdams designed a sunken perennial garden at the east end in the 1930s. In 1999, Olin Partnership and Wolff Landscape Architecture worked with the Chicago Park District, the University of Chicago, and local community members to develop a master plan for Midway Plaisance, resulting in designs for the Allison Davis Garden, a Winter Garden, Reader’s Garden, and an ice rink.