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Eckhart Park (Park No.1)

Jensen drawings of the Dvorak Park.
© Copyrights reserved to Chicago Park District.

In 1907, Jens Jensen began designing Eckhart Park as one of the first three small parks planned by the West Chicago Park Commissioners to provide breathing space and social services for the congested tenement districts within their jurisdiction. Two years earlier, a revolutionary system of ten neighborhood parks had opened on the city’s South Side. Designed by the Olmsted Brothers and D.H. Burnham & Co., these innovative parks not only provided landscape amenities, but also public bathing, branches of the Chicago Public Library, classes and vocational training, inexpensive hot meals, health care, and a variety of recreational programs. Eckhart Park’s 8-acre site presented Jensen with a major challenge. His initial plan of 1907 illustrates that he began with a rigid and formal layout in order to incorporate all of the ambitious program components. He later modified the plan to provide a looser organization of space, with activities integrated throughout. Eckhart Park’s final plan included a playground, open-air gymnasiums, a swimming Pool with a Prairie style bridge separating the deep and shallow ends, and community gardens where children could learn to plant and tend their plots. It also included a handsome brick field house and natatorium designed by William Carbys Zimmerman who then served as the State Architect for Illinois.

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