West on Jackson Boulevard: Traversing Chicago via Garfield Park

Early guides for travel to and through Chicago utilized the existing Park Boulevard system as much as possible, since the Boulevards were established routes originally planned and built starting in the early 1870s. Whereas other city streets were largely unpaved, mired in mud, or encumbered by street car lines, the Boulevards were restricted from commercial traffic, were generally wide and free from trolley rails, and were not subject to 4-way stops. Motoring enthusiasts who followed the advice of the Blue Books and their competitors would be blessed with the pleasant drive through Garfield and Columbus Parks on the city's western border. Here are some postcard views of Garfield Park from my collection.

From a postcard folder showing eighteen views of "Chicago's Beautiful Parks," © 1937 by Curt Teich & Co. This is an image of the West Park Commission Administration Building, built in 1928. According to the AIA Guide, [pp. 310-311] "this headquarters of the politically powerful West Park Commission...housed their administrative offices, engineering department, and police force." The connection of the parks and their boulevards to the highways of the state is given an artistic depiction inside the building's rotunda. "Four panels by Richard W. Bock pay homage to Art and Architecture..., Chicago's parks and playgrounds, and the Illinois highway system."

Another image from the 1937 postcard folder of "Chicago's Beautiful Parks," showing the band stand built in 1896, south of a lily pond/reflecting pool.

This postcard of the Garfield Park band stand is an early divided-back card with front writing space as well, most likely from circa 1907. On the front bottom left it states, "Illustrated Post Card Co., N.Y." The roof of the octagonal band stand is shown in its copper color, rather than oxidized green. According to the AIA Guide, [p.311] the band stand was designed by Joseph Lyman Silsbee. "A 100-piece orchestra could fit on its broad platform, sheltered by the fantastic copper roof." The base is constructed of white marble.

Another view of the Band Stand, looking south across the lily pond, with a viewpoint oriented more to the east than the 1937 Curt Teich view above. This card was published by the "Max Rigot Selling Co., Chicago." At the bottom of the left side of the divided back, it states, "Chicago World's Fair 1933." The blurb at the top of the back reads "LILY POND AND BAND STAND. GARFIELD PARK, CHICAGO. Band Concerts are given here during the summer season. The spacious grounds around the Band Stand afford ample room for the thousands who attend and enjoy the concerts."

Title at top left of this postcard indicates "Garfield Park, New Pavillion, Chicago." Along the left edge of the divided back it stated "No. 89. Made in Germany." The card is postally unused and is likely from the 1907-1915 period. Pavillions were added to Garfield Park in this period by noted landscape architect Jens Jensen. [Grese, p. 71]

This card is postmarked September 11, 1961, yet it shows one of the oldest features of Garfield Park (the message on the back indicates that the writer is "using some cards left from my Chicago school days"). As Julia Sniderman Bachrach points out in The City in a Garden [p.63], Garfield and the other main west side parks had been planned and designed by William Le Baron Jenney in the early 1870s. The architect is "best known today for creating the nation's earliest skyscrapers." "As the ambitious plans could not all be realized at once, Garfield Park developed in stages, beginning with the east lagoon." Robert E. Grese, in his book about Jens Jensen, notes that "The drainage problems caused by the relatively flat topography and heavy soil of the region were solved by creating large ornamental lakes" [p. 33]. So, the lagoons and lakes served aesthetic, recreational, and engineering purposes, combining form with function.

The postcard is published by Max Rigot Selling Co., Chicago. The blurb on the top of the divided back states, "SCENE IN GARFIELD PARK, CHICAGO. Garfield Park is located on the west side between Hamlin Avenue and Central Park Avenue, from West Kinzie Street to Colorado Avenue. Madison Street, the dividing line for the north and south part of Chicago, runs throught he center of the park. Just south of Madison Street is the band stand and the Formal Gardens. North of Madison Street is the Lagoon and the boat houses, also the conservatory, said to be the largest in the world. The total area of the park is 188 acres."

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