“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Chicago in Cook County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

The Boulevard System

The Boulevard System Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, November 22, 2017
1. The Boulevard System Marker
Inscription. Chicago’s Boulevards are one of the city’s most overlooked treasures, and one of the largest and oldest boulevard systems in the nation. The 28-mile system contains 540 acres of green space, and provides a link between seven inland parks and Lake Michigan.

Although originally built on Chicago's outskirts, the boulevards today encircle the heart of the city and are within three blocks of the homes of one out of every six Chicago residents. The longest boulevard segment is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (4.5 miles), while the shortest is Central Park (less than one mile). The widest is the Midway Plaisance (750 feet); the narrowest, Diversey Parkway (66 feet).

A Brief History
In 1837, when Chicago selected its motto Urbs in Horto ("City in a Garden"), there were very few parks here. This was not uncommon: New York City did not start building Central Park until the 1850s, and construction of Boston's "emerald necklace" did not begin until 30 years after that.

So, when Chicago developer John S Wright proposed a vast network of parks and boulevards with the hopes of encouraging development, he was suggesting something new:

Of these parks I have a vision. They are all improved and connected with a wide avenue extending to and along the Lake shore on the north and south,
The Boulevard System Map image. Click for full size.
2. The Boulevard System Map
1 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
2 Oakwood Boulevard
3 Drexel Boulevard
4 Drexel Square
5 Midway Plaisance
6 Garfield Boulevard
7 Western Boulevard
8 31st Boulevard
9 California Boulevard
10 34th Boulevard
11 Marshall Boulevard
12 Douglas Boulevard
13 Independence Square
14 Independence Boulevard
15 Hamlin Boulevard
16 Central Park Boulevard
17 Franklin Boulevard
18 Sacramento Square
19 Sacramento Boulevard
20 Humboldt Boulevard
21 Palmer Square
22 Kedzie Boulevard
23 Logan Square
24 Logan Boulevard
25 Diversey Boulevard
and so surrounding the city with a magnificent chain of parks and parkways that have not their equal in the World.

It took two decades for Wright's innovative idea to gain public support. The 1869 Illinois "parks bills" established three regional park commissions to create a unified system of parks linked by pleasure drives.

The South Commission hired Frederick Law Olmstead, America’s premier landscape architect, who styled landscapes with informal groupings of trees and meandering pathways. The West Commission's lead designer was William LeBaron Jenney, whose formal rows of trees complemented the geometric paths he planned. Later, Jens Jensen, founder of Prairie-style landscape architecture, created a more natural look for the west parks and boulevards using native plantings. Legal challenges precluded construction of the North Commission's design for Diversey Parkway.

Much of Chicago's boulevard system was constructed during the real estate boom of the late 19th century. As these boulevards were completed, they became popular recreational and social destinations. Chicagoans promenaded and rode horses and carriages along the smoothest roads of their era. As John Wright and others had hoped, the boulevard gradually attracted residential developers. The most magnificent mansions were built along Grand (now King Drive) and Drexel boulevards.

The Boulevard System Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher
3. The Boulevard System Marker
Chicago held the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park and along the Midway Plaisance, it showcased a grand park system that few American cities could match. Inspired by this display, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., initiated the development of their own park and parkway systems.

In the early 1930s, the three park commissions were consolidated to become the Chicago Park District. The Park District maintained the boulevards until 1959, when the responsibility was turned over to the City of Chicago. Today, the parks and boulevards remain a testament to the vision that helped establish Chicago as a national model.

A • Drexel Fountain
1881, Henry Manger
One of the oldest in the city, this fountain honors Francis Drexel, a Philadelphia banker who donated the land for Drexel Boulevard.
B • Fountain of Time
1922, Lorado Taft
The masterpiece of one of Chicago's foremost sculptors, this depiction of the "Ages of Man" took 14 years to complete.
C • Carl von Linne Monument
1891, Johan Dyfverman
This monument depicts the Swedish botanist who originated the modern scientific classification system for plants and animals.
D • Masaryk Memorial
1949 Albin Polasek
This statue of the medieval knight, St. Wenceslaus was dedicated to Thomas Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's first president and a former University of Chicago faculty member.
E • Victory Monument
1927, Leonard Crunelle
Dedicated to members of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard (an African-American unit) who died in service during World War l. The "doughboy" was added in 1936.
F • Washington Memorial
1904, Daniel Chester French and Edward Clark Potter
This statue of George Washington at the time of the Revolutionary War is a duplicate of one in Paris.
G • Vietnam Veterans Marker
This marker and flag pole were commissioned by the Gage Park Civic Association in 1983.
H • McKinley Monument
1905, Charles J. Mulligan
This statue was installed in honor of President William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901.
I • Marquette Monument
1926, Hermon Atkins MacNeil
Jacques Marquette, Louis Jolliet, and an Algonquin Indian are depicted as they explored the Illinois River Valley in 1673.
J • One Family-One World
1979, Sidney Murphy
This sculpture was designed by the winner of a local high school student design competition.
K • Independence Fountain
1902, Charles J. Mulligan
This fountain honors American youth and Independence Day. Four children are depicted celebrating the Fourth of July
L • Illinois Centennial Column
1918, Henry Bacon
This monument, which honored 100 years of Illinois statehood, was designed by the architect of the Lincoln Memorial Washington, D.C Evelyn Longman sculpted the eagle.
Location. 41° 55.717′ N, 87° 42.418′ W. Marker is in Chicago, Illinois, in Cook County. Marker is at the intersection of North Milwaukee Avenue and West Logan Boulevard, on the left when traveling north on North Milwaukee Avenue. Touch for map. Located in Logan Square Park. Marker is in this post office area: Chicago IL 60647, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Logan Square • Palmer Square (here, next to this marker); Florsheim Shoe Company Building (approx. 1.2 miles away); (Former) Marshfield Trust and Savings Bank (approx. 2.1 miles away); Charles N. Loucks House (approx. 2.1 miles away); Former Site of the “Zum Deutschen Eck” Restaurant (approx. 2.3 miles away); Lake View High School (approx. 2.7 miles away); Joseph R. Scott (approx. 3 miles away); Graves Family Monument (approx. 3.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chicago.
Also see . . .  Chicago park and boulevard system. Wikipedia (Submitted on November 28, 2017.) 
Categories. Man-Made FeaturesRoads & Vehicles
Credits. This page was last revised on November 28, 2017. This page originally submitted on November 28, 2017, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 104 times since then and 22 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 28, 2017, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.   3. submitted on November 27, 2017, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
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