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

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.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Marshall Field's at Christmas

  The aisle on the first floor of the State Street store is 358 feet long. Postcard publisher is unknown.  Many Chicagoans continue to miss visiting Marshall Field’s during the holiday season. Just talking about the famed Christmas windows and holiday decorations brings about memories of the department store’s glory days. Many of us can recall the strong smell of perfume that would greet visitors upon entering the flagship State Street store, along with the huge white Romanesque columns decorated with Christmas fare on the first floor. The real fun, however, was taking the elevator to the 7 th floor to get a glimpse of the giant Christmas tree inside the Walnut Room restaurant. The best place to view the tree was one floor up on a balcony area. Christmas decorations on the first floor. Postcard publisher is unknown.  Frango mint chocolates were piled high in various areas throughout the store, and many visitors couldn’t resist buying a box. Frango chocolates were once made in a kitc

Burlesque Dancer Sally Rand Took the Chicago World's Fair by Storm

Sally Rand danced at the Streets of Paris exhibit. Postcard printed by Curt Teich & Co, Chicago. Sally Rand was never supposed to perform her iconic “fan dance” at the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. The dancer’s requests to perform inside the Streets of Paris exhibit had been turned down several times. But Rand decided to take matters into her own hands by riding into a pre-opening party on the fairgrounds, uninvited, on a white horse wearing nothing but a velvet cape. The crowd loved it. Rand was arrested but released the next day, when she promptly accepted an offer to perform as the headliner in the CafĂ© de la Paix’s floor show for $90 per week. While her dancing broke boundaries and city decency ordinances at the time, her legacy was born and Rand made her cultural mark on the world. According to The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair by Cheryl Ganz, 29-year-old Sally Rand had previously worked as an acrobatic circus performer and film stuntwoman. She had also alread