History of Grant Park, 1971 to 1990

Previous: History of Grant Park, 1931 to 1970

The largest of Grant Park’s garages, the 3800-space Monroe Street Garage, opened in stages in 1976 and 1977. It replaced the 2700-space parking lot built on the old military reservation. It also cut across a corner of the Illinois Central freight yard.

Above it were built landscaped gardens, tennis courts, and the Daley Bicentennial Plaza. The Plaza had an outdoor ice skating rink. There was also a large fieldhouse under an artificial hill that reached up to the third level of the Randolph Street viaduct.

Like most underground structures in Grant Park, the fieldhouse is not so much “underground” as covered by concrete and earth. Topographic maps of the area are unreliable. Sometimes they show the elevations of the raised structures, sometimes they show the elevation without the structure.

In 1978, the “demountable” Petrillo Music Shell was built at the southwest corner of Jackson Boulevard and Columbus Drive where it still stands. Being “temporary” and “demountable,” it wasn’t considered an above-ground structure. The restrooms were built underground. The old “temporary” bandshell was torn down after 47 years of use.

The Chicago Tribune noted that there had been several unsuccessful attempts to get the consent of the property owners fronting Michigan Avenue to a new “above ground” bandshell. The consent of all adjoining property owners to new structures was the standard reached in the Montgomery Ward lawsuits.

By this time, the Illinois Central railroad yards were almost completely unused. Ships now docked in Calumet Harbor. Industry had moved away from the Loop and almost nobody used coal anymore.

After I moved to Chicago in the early 1980s I would bicycle through the area occasionally. The tracks were gone and there was a forest of tall skinny trees hiding the skyline from sight. In the center were hobos cooking over campfires.

A civic organization floated a proposal in 1978 to use the Illinois Central yards as “Lakeside Performing Gardens.” A similar proposal twenty years later resulted in Millennium Park.

The Columbus Drive Bridge was completed in 1982 and the two- and three-level Columbus Drive extended through the old Illinois Central Yards. Lake Shore Drive was moved in 1986, eliminating the “S Curve” and the Naval Reserve Armory.

Next: History of Grant Park, 1990-2014

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