Washington Square Park - IL

WashingtonSquarePark_IL_feature_CourtneySpearman_2011.jpg
Chicago, IL
United States
Washington Square Park - IL

Landscape Information

Bughouse Square

The three acres for this public park were donated in 1842 by the American Land Company, with the intent to create a fine residential neighborhood around it. By 1869 the space featured a lawn with trees, intersecting diagonal walks, and limestone coping, all enclosed by a picket fence. In 1892 the Newberry Library, designed by Henry Ives Cobb, was erected on its northern border; at the same time, a fountain was placed in the center of the park. Within a decade the park became dilapidated, which led to Jens Jensen’s appointment to improve the grounds in 1906. Jensen’s plan respected the character of the earlier plan and included a central fountain which replaced the original. By the 1910s the square was famous as an open-air forum for orators, and was better known by city residents as “Bughouse” Square, referring to the questionable sanity of the speakers and entertainers who themselves served as tourist attractions through the 1960s. In the 1990s the park was renovated with period lighting, decorative iron railings, a reconstructed historic fountain, new planting, and benches. The park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and is a contributing part of a National Historic Landmark District.