Stretching diagonally across three city blocks in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, this eight-acre linear park comprises sinuous paths tracing the edge of an irregularly shaped lagoon. Laid out in 1872 on land that was formerly owned by Chicago’s first mayor, William Ogden, the surrounding neighborhood developed through the 1890s. Although it was a naturally marshy area that drained into the Calumet River to the south, developers reclaimed the swamp as they platted the neighborhood. Real estate speculation accelerated with the arrival of streetcar lines, attracting homeowners who sought respite from the congestion of downtown. Developers transformed a remnant of the marsh into a landscaped lagoon. Although privately owned, the lagoon was treated as a public park, and by 1890 it was being maintained by the City of Chicago. Between 1911 and 1913, the Auburn Park Improvement Association acquired and transferred the lagoon to the City, with restrictions designating the space as a permanent public park. The Chicago Park District assumed responsibility for the parcel in 1959 and the Department of Transportation restored two historic bridges crossing the lagoon in the 1990s.
Today, iron fencing delineates the park’s irregular boundaries while the lagoon is edged with hand-hewn rock retaining walls. In the water, two islands are planted with formal arrangements of perennials, ornamental grasses, flowering shrubs, and small trees. Two roads traverse the lagoon and its islands via Beaux-Arts-style stone bridges with carved balustrades. Serpentine pathways meander across expanses of lawn dotted with canopy trees, providing views of fountain jets that animate the water.