Known as "Chicago's Front Yard," Grant Park attracts millions of visitors every year. Stretching almost the entire length of the loop, Grant Park is one of the most recognized green spaces in Chicago. Even with its global popularity, there are many things about Grant Park you may not know, so without further ado, here's an insider's guide to ten lesser known facts about our city's front yard.
1.) Grant Park was originally called Lake Park. From the time the first buildings were being built in the mid 1800s, Grant Park was named Lake Park. It wasn't until 1901 that they renamed it in honor of American Civil War Commanding General Ulysses S. Grant.
2.) The Art Institute was almost banned from being built in Grant Park. Aaron Montgomery Ward's fought against any buildings in Grant Park. For this court battle, Grant Park was defined with the boundaries of Randolph, Michigan Ave, 12th St/Roosevelt Rd and Lake Michigan. Ward did aquiesce to the Art Institute. As such, The Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium, , which were all built after Ward had died, were not included in that legal battle.
3.) Grant Park was once home of the Chicago White Stockings. Grant Park, or Lake Park as it was called in the 1800's, was the home of the Chicago White Stockings baseball team. Back when the equivalent of Major League Baseball was called The National Association, baseball was played right in Grant Park. The field was called Union Base-Ball Grounds. The White Stockings Played at Grant Park from 1871 to 1884.
4.) During the War of 1812, current day Grant Park was also home to Fort Dearborn. During the war, the British advanced with brute speed on the fort, and the Americans were ordered to flee the fort and run for their lives. As they fled, the retreating Americans were attacked by the Potawatomi Indians who were loyal to the British. In all, 148 people were tragically killed in the hand to hand combat. Today, take a look down at Michigan and Wells: there you can see plaques that outline where the fort once stood.
5.) President Abraham Lincoln Funeral Procession briefly took place in Grant Park (or Lake Park as it was referred to then). Grant Park served as a staging ground to lie to rest our 16th President. Shortly after Lincoln was assassinated, his body was taken by train from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, making stops to many cities along the way, including Chicago in Grant. Lincoln's funeral train staged out on a railroad tressel that ran along the lakefront at that time. When the processional began, it went briefly through Lake Park, and then went North up Michigan Ave, on its way to the old Court House-City Hall. As the train passed through, the city sang hymns and paid their final respects to Honest Abe.
6.) Housing what most refer to as The "Bean" in its vacinity, did you know Chicago's beloved bean is in actuality called Cloud Gate? Designed by British artist Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate was Kapoor's first public outdoor work installed in the United States and since its 2006 debut has become a staple in any Chicago visit.
7.) Millennium Park's Free Concert Series is a result of the Great Depression. In the 1920's a hollowed out music band-shell was constructed to host large bands. During the 1930's Mayor Anton Cermak suggested that the concerts in the band-shell should be free to lift the spirits of Chicagoans during The Great Depression. Hence, why we have free concerts today at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and thank goodness we do.
8.) Lollapalooza is booked through 2018. Hold onto your neon tanks and camelbacks. Lollapalooza, which has been held by Grant Park since 2005, has been booked through 2018 to welcome bands and concert goers from all around the world.
9.) Where Are All The Trees? Although there are hundreds of trees on Grant Park, there used to be hundreds more. When originally landscaped in the early 1900s, the city planted hundreds of tall American Elms. In the late 1970's, the Grant Park tree population took a huge hit with wide spread Dutch Elms Disease. In order to combat the spreading of Dutch Elms Disease, the city started planting hybrid elms that do not get affected by Dutch Elms.
10.) Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather was punched in the stomach in Grant Park. Let's just say, the 1968 Democratic National Convention (held in Chicago) got a little out of hand when an altercation between anti-war protestors and CPD broke out. Dan Rather happened to be caught in the middle of it. As Walter Cronkite switched over to Dan for some live reporting, several security guards mistook him for a rioter, and began punching him in the stomach, which lead Walter Cronkite to say that famous line in media history: "I think we've got a bunch of thugs here, Dan." The riot then carried into Grant Park and the DNC of 1968 has become one of those days in Chicago history.
Grant Park has seen quite a bit over the years - what do you think it'll see in it's next 200 years?