History of Grant Park 1931 to 1970

By 1931, Chicago was deep in the Great Depression and the South Park Commissioners were unable to build on the scale of the 1920s. According to the Historical Register of the Twenty-two Superseded Park Districts a band shell was constructed at 9th and Columbus in the early 1930s, starting a long tradition of free concerts in Grant Park. Although aboveground buildings are banned in that area, the structure was considered “temporary,” even though it played to massive crowds for decades.

 

The South Park Commissioners concentrated on finishing Burnham Park for the 1933/34 Century of Progress Exposition. In 1934, Chicago’s 22 park districts consolidated into the new Chicago Park District.
The Park District still had responsibly for the streets known as Drives and Boulevards. In the Grant Park area, the major effort was building the new the Outer Drive (Lakeshore Drive) Bridge over the Chicago River. The bridge opened in 1937 and connected the northern and southern sections of the series of drives known collectively as the Outer Drive.

The planners followed the 1909 Plan of Chicago for horse-drawn vehicles and the ornamental entrance at the north end of Grant Park became Lakeshore Drive’s infamous “S Curve” where multiple lanes of traffic slowed to a crawl while going around two 90 degree turns.
After World War Two, the Naval Reserve replaced the USS Wilmette with the USS Silversides, a submarine made immobile for training purposes.
Little other development happened until the 1950s. In 1954, the Grant Park North Garage opened. The garage has 1,850 parking spaces or 830,000 square feet of parking spread over three underground levels.
In 1959, the City and the Park District traded responsibilities. The city got park police, boulevards and streets in parks. The Park District got the city’s playlots and bathing beaches. The Park District was no longer responsible for Lakeshore Drive, but still owned all of the parking.
The Grant Park South Garage opened in 1965. It is 520,800 square feet or 1,350 parking spaces and also has three underground levels.

Next: Grant Park 1971-1990

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