“Somewhere, Daniel Burnham weeps.
“In 1909, the 19th-century architect first floated the idea of a manmade park off the coast of Chicago, stretching seven miles between Grant Park and Jackson Park. The island was to be a reprieve from the bustling city nearby — a lush oasis on Lake Michigan for rest and relaxation.
“Today, more than a century later, Burnham’s dream has taken the form of a ratty island stuck in development purgatory. Tall prairie grass and rare birds thrive at its southern end, where the rising waters of Lake Michigan threaten to swallow the landmass completely. Walking the parkway, it feels almost inevitable that nature will reclaim the 91 acres of land.
“Welcome to Northerly Island, Chicago’s most cursed public park.
“Most modern accounts inaccurately recall Burham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, which outlined what would later become Northerly Island, as advocating for a series of barrier islands along the entire lakefront. But the blueprint actually only designated barrier islands on the North Side. For the south shore, Burnham proposed a channel-like lagoon running parallel to the coast. He called the outer strip of land Shore Park.
“Burnham envisioned Shore Park as a “supremely beautiful” outdoor playground. “When this parkway shall be created, our people will stay here, and others will come to dwell among us — the people who now spend large amounts of money in Paris, Vienna, and on the Riviera,” he wrote in the plan.
“But, in the early 1920s, the South Park Commissioners downsized the Shore Park plan in favor of a series of five islands along the south lakefront. Ultimately, they only built one — Northerly Island — in 1925.
“In the 95 years since, Northerly Island has seen a series of controversies and what-ifs. The one constant has been Adler Planetarium, which opened in 1930. For two years, Northerly Island hosted Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.” (Smith, 7/9/20)
Read the full story at Chicago Magazine
What’s Next for Northerly Island? Chicago planned to turn the 91-acre peninsula into an oasis on Lake Michigan. A decade later, it’s a noble failure. Ryan Smith, Chicago Magazine, 7/9/20