Skip to main content

Sleeping and Bathing in Douglas Park


Young Bathers in Douglas Park. Postcard published by Acmegraph Co. of Chicago.

Trying to sleep on hot and humid summer nights in the 1920s and 1930s was unbearable at times for my grandfather and his eight siblings who resided in a tenement house in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood. While some nights the family would sleep on the floor to cool down, other nights they would head to Douglas Park to sleep under the stars. 

This wasn’t an uncommon practice at the time, as many other people would gather in the park on hot nights. It also offered an opportunity to have a little fun and play games outdoors before going to sleep. 

My grandfather would also talk about a bathhouse at the park. At the time, I really didn’t understand what a bathhouse was, nor was I interested in learning more about it. I did, however, recently find some beautiful postcards of a Roman-style bathing area in the park. The first postcard here shows the bath and people bathing in the water. 


The Exterior of the Douglas Park Boat House.


The 161-acre park near Ogden Avenue and Sacramento Drive was established in 1879. It was named after Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who also ran against Abraham Lincoln for U.S. president. The park’s designer, William Le Baron Jenny, used sand and manure from the Chicago Stockyards to add to the marshy land there, according to the Chicago Park District. 

At the turn of the century, the park had many amenities, such as an outdoor gymnasium and a swimming pool. It was about 1905 when the park district’s General Superintendent and Chief Landscape Architect Jen Jensen focused on creating a Prairie-style landscape at the site. He designed one garden with a monumental garden shelter and a reflecting lily pool. A conservatory building was built but razed soon after so that the park district could focus on constructing a larger and grander conservatory at the nearby Garfield Park. The beautiful field house at Douglas Park was constructed in 1928. 

 The park today includes a miniature golf course, five playgrounds, an outdoor swimming pool, soccer fields, basketball courts and a running track. The park has been the home of the Riot Fest music festival since 2015. All postcards except for the first one were lent to me for educational purposes from the Chicago History in Postcards website at https://chicagopc.info/.


A playground and outdoor fitness area at Douglas Park.


The pavilion and boat house at Douglas Park.


A monumental garden shelter at the pergola and lily pond at Douglas Park



The Douglas Park Conservatory was razed a few years after the turn of the 20th century.

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Going to Graceland

Graceland Cemetery is also known for its beautiful landscape and magnificent trees. Postcard printed by V.O. Hammon of Chicago. Situated at Irving Park Rd. and Clark St. near Wrigley Field is Graceland Cemetery, a scenic 119-acre burial ground and arboretum where many of Chicago’s elite have been laid to rest. The cemetery was established in 1860 by lawyer Thomas Bryan and designed by landscape architects H.W.S. Cleveland, Ossian Simonds, and William Le Baron Jenney, who is also known for designing the first skyscraper. Graceland became famous as the “Cemetery of Architects.” Along with its three designers, other prominent architects who are buried in Graceland include Louis Sullivan, who designed the Carson Pirie Scott building; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed Chicago’s Federal Center; and Fazlur Khan, who designed the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center. The grave of architect Daniel Burnham, who was chief of construction for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, lies on a small, wo

Lost Souls on Chicago's Forgotten Suicide Bridge

On this postcard, the bridge is called Suicide Bridge instead of its official name High Bridge. Postcard publication is unknown.  A tall pedestrian bridge that was built over the Lincoln Park Lagoon in 1894 was later dubbed “Suicide Bridge” after the structure became a popular place for people to take their own lives . It is believed that about 100 people jumped off of the bridge during its 25 years. Located south of Fullerton and east of Lincoln Park Zoo near Webster Avenue (originally called Asylum Place), High Bridge allowed pedestrians to cross from Lincoln Park to the lakefront. At 75 feet--or four stories--tall, the bridge was built high enough to allow sailboats to pass underneath. It was so high that people standing on the bridge on a clear day could see as far as the stockyards, Jackson Park, and the steel mills.   High Bridge was featured in a chase scene in the 1916 film Cousin Jim . The stuntman hired to jump off the bridge refused to do it because he thought

The Most Haunted Hotel in Chicago

  The Congress Hotel at 520 S. Michigan is "one of the most beautiful hotels in the middle west," according to this postcard. Published by the Aero Distributing Co., Chicago. The Congress Plaza Hotel at 520 S. Michigan Avenue is one of Chicago’s oldest and largest hotels. It was also one of the tallest buildings in Chicago for a time. With over 800 hotel rooms and so many people coming and going over the years, the Congress Plaza has seen its share of accidents, drug overdoses, murders, and suicides, earning it the distinction of being the most haunted hotel in the city. The Congress Plaza Hotel was built in 1893 to house visitors to the World’s Columbian Exhibition. In the 1920s, mobster Al Capone was known to play cards on Friday nights in a meeting room at the hotel. According to the Choose Chicago website, Capone also had a private suite on the hotel’s eighth floor. Some say that ghosts of the victims of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, which was believed to be or