Stretching from East 56th Street southward to East 67th Street, Jackson Park is both park and coastline, situated between South Stony Island Avenue and Lake Michigan, about 8 miles south of The Loop. It is next to the Hyde Park neighborhood, and just to the southeast of the University of Chicago.
Jackson Park is the creation of Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, who, based upon their renown as the designers of New York City’s Central Park, were hired by Chicago’s South Park Commission in 1869 to create this park (the project was called “South Park” during that time.) In 1881, the Commission renamed the eastern portion, specifically known then as Lake Park, after the Seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
Olmstead again focused on Jackson Park in 1890, and with Daniel Burnham designed the site for the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition (a.k.a World's Fair), which included the famous White City. The 24-foot-high gilded bronze Statue of the Republic that now stands on East Hayes Drive was erected to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Exposition (it replicates the 60-foot tall original from 1893).
In 1975, amid public concerns over the deteriorating condition of the city’s public parks, two Chicagoans, Lois Weisberg and Vicky Ranney, formed the nonprofit Friends of the Parks. Their first effort was a cleanup in Jackson Park. More than three decades of activism, safety and use studies, and fund-raising on behalf of Chicago’s parks followed. Friends of the Parks now manages a number of community service and adapt-a-park projects with volunteers, and non-profit and corporate partners.
The 600 acres at Jackson Park contain baseball diamonds, a golf course, two fitness centers, and running and jogging trails. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, beachfront on Lake Michigan is open at the Jackson Park 63rd Street Beach House.
The Fine Arts Palace from the 1893 Exposition is now the site of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, located in the upper section of the park. The Osaka Garden, a Japanese-style strolling garden, is the only other major section of the Exposition that is still intact. The Jackson Park Yacht Club offers resident memberships to any boater with a permit to moor in any Lake Michigan harbor in both Illinois and Indiana.