As we come upon a day of thanks, we often look back to the Native Americans and their role in American history. We likely would not expect Chicago to have much physical evidence of its pre-European history left, and it doesn't. But West Ridge on the far North Side, has a small park called Indian Boundary Park. And a cluster of interesting buildings with hyper-Hollywood architecture encircle Indian Boundary Park, too.
This small park, now part of the Chicago Park District, is a site on the National Register of Historic Places as it was a territorial boundary for close to 20 years between the Pottawatomie Indians and the federal government. You may have been hoping for the story of a gruesome battle, or a spiritual enclave, but actually it's just that the boundary was here where the park is today, simple as that. And it looks nothing like it would have in the early 1800s.
When this area was annexed to the city in 1896, talk began to include parks. The local park district gathered up land and landscape architect Richard F. Gloede designed Indian Boundary Park. It is much smaller in size than Chicago's monumental parks, such as Jackson Park on the South Side.
When the park was complete, it had a small zoo and a few years later they added the fieldhouse, which is open to the public. Architect Clarence Hatzfeld fittingly designed the field house with some Native American embellishments, such as an arrowhead weather vane and a keystone at the entrance shows an Indian chief with a grand feather headdress.
Unfittingly, however, the fieldhouse is English Tudor style with half-timbering elements on the outside. Half-timbering is often the darkly colored, plank-like pieces of wood that bisect walls of usually stucco. If you were to visit here, you may be struck by how new the walls and floors are. The building had a major fire a couple years ago. This Tudor element extends into the interior, but there are also lighting fixtures structured with tom-tom figures surrounding the main room.
So why with English Tudor meets Native American? Well this is the 1920s, and architectural ornamentation was often a hodgepodge of styles from faraway lands. Around Indian Boundary Park is more Hollywood-meets-Exotic-Locale architecture of apartment buildings that were built with the development.
The Park Gables (above) is a now condo building bordering the park takes on the Tudor Style again, and it has gabled roofs with slate shingles, also in English style. Since the trendiest sport of the ‘20s was swimming, the building includes an indoor pool surrounded by ornate columns and arches supposedly in Moroccan style because of the tented ceiling. Park Gables was an early co-op building, meaning it operates kind of like a condo association except that people rented. Today, most of the 1920s buildings around Indian Boundary Park are filled with condos.
Park Castle (above) across the way was designed by landscape architect Jens E. Jensen. He brought his love of parks into this buildings with its lavish courtyards, which originally even included a swan-filled "moat" with a romantic bridge. The towers of the Park Castle are complete with crenellations on all sides of the building. And again, the swimming pool was the highlight of our visit. It's an oasis of a curvy bean-shaped pool adorned with ornate tiles in the shape of delicate trees.
One can be whisked away to other times and places in the fascinating jumble of styles one finds around Indian Boundary Park.