Jensen drawings of the Dvorak Park.
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Jens Jensen was very concerned about the need for breathing spaces in the congested tenement neighborhoods within the jurisdiction of the West Chicago Park Commission. In 1905, a revolutionary system of neighborhood parks had opened on the city’s South Side. Designed by Olmsted Brothers and D. H. Burnham & Company, these innovative small parks were described by President Theodore Roosevelt as the "most important civic achievement in any American city.” In 1907, Jensen had the opportunity to begin designing the first West Side neighborhood parks. Known as Parks #1, #2, and #3, they were soon renamed Dvorak, Eckhart and Stanford Parks. Due to funding restrictions and the area’s extreme population density, the sites ranged from only two to eight acres in size. With such small properties and numerous programming requirements, Jensen faced a space-planning problem. The park would have all of the major components introduced in the south side neighborhood parks: swimming and wading pools, changing rooms and shower baths, an athletic field, a playground, outdoor gymnasiums, and a field house. Jensen did not like the rigid designs of the South Park Commission, however; and believed that these small parks needed “more green and less gravel.” Although Dvorak Park’s 5-acre site provided limited opportunities to express his naturalistic ideas, he incorporated community gardens into the site’s design to help bring children closer to nature. Seventy children were each given a plot to plant vegetables including Swiss chard, lettuce, beets, and radishes, as well as geraniums and other flowers. According to a Chicago Tribune article that was published in 1914, their mothers eagerly awaited the “picking day” each Friday.