Columbus Park (Austin Park)

Jensen drawings of plans for Columbus Park.
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Jensen considered his 1916-18 design for Columbus Park one of his greatest achievements. He wrote that it was as “complete” an “interpretation of the Native Landscape of Illinois as anything" he had ever done. The project represented Jensen's first and only opportunity to design an entirely new large park for the citizens of Chicago. His vision for the 140-acre park was inspired by the site’s natural history and topography. Jensen knew that the property, then known as the Austin Tract, was the site of an ancient beach. In honor of the site’s prehistory, he created a series of berms resembling glacial ridges, to encircle the flat interior part of the park. In the center area, following the traces of sand dune, Jensen created a "prairie river" flowing from two brooks. Two natural looking waterfalls, composed of layers of stratified stonework were meant to represent the source of the river. Broad prairie like meadows provided a golf course and ball fields. A smaller clearing or sun-opening known as the "player's green," provided an outdoor theatre for plays and other performances. Back stage open air changing areas were called “player’s nooks.” In the children's playground area, Jensen included a council ring, for storytelling and campfires. The Chicago Park District restored this area including the council ring using funding through the Save America’s Treasures Program. Columbus Park was officially listed as a National Historic Landmark in 2003.

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