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Wicker Park

1425 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622

312-742-7553

History:

In 1870, when businessmen and developers Charles G. and Joel H. Wicker began constructing drainage ditches and laying out streets in their subdivision, they donated a four-acre parcel of land to the city to be used as a public park. Fencing the triangular site to keep cows out, the city created an artificial lake in the center of the park, surrounding it with lawn and trees. As the Wickers had hoped, the area developed into a fashionable middle- and upper-class neighborhood. In 1885, the city transferred Wicker Park to the West Park Commission. Five years later, the West Park Commission filled the park's lake, replacing it with lawn. Between 1892 and 1895, a fanciful fountain was installed in the park. The cut-granite fountain had an outer basin which still exists, lovely ornamentation, and floral urns. In the center was a cast-iron fountain with foliage motifs and small gargoyle faces from which water was sprayed. In 1908, Jens Jensen, then West Park System Superintendent, removed the cast-iron fountain and replaced it with a jet spray, converting the fountain into a children's wading pool. Jensen also built pergolas (trellis-like structures) and planted additional trees and shrubs in Wicker Park. The West Park Commission was consolidated into the Chicago Park District in 1934. To provide additional programs, the park district soon constructed a small fieldhouse in Wicker Park. The building proved inadequate, and the park district replaced it with an attractive post-modern fieldhouse in 1985. Throughout its history, the park has borne the Wicker family name. Having settled in Chicago in 1839, Charles G. and his brother Joel H. opened a wholesale grocery business. Charles went on to own two railroad lines, and to serve as Alderman, Cook County Supervisor, and Illinois State Legislator.

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