Independence Park History


In 1907, Irving Park area residents petitioned Mayor Fred Busse for the creation of parks in their neighborhood. Mayor Busse referred the request to the city's Special Park Commission, which inspected potential park properties, including the longtime site of the neighborhood's annual Independence Day celebration. With the city's most congested districts as their focus, the commissioners could not justify creating a park in this spacious, middle-class neighborhood, but enabling state legislation offered an alternative. By popular vote in 1910, community members established the Irving Park District.

Independence Park, circa 1933

Independence Park, circa 1933

The new Park District soon began acquiring lots in the previously identified block. Though acquisition took several years, improvements began immediately, and the neighborhood continued holding its annual 4th of July festivities there. Recognizing the importance of this community celebration, the block bounded by Irving Park road, Hamlin, Byron, and Springfield was named Independence Park.

Shirley Steiner, neé Hagen, of the 3800 block of N. Ridgeway, playing on the cannon in Independence Park, circa 1933

In 1914, the Park District constructed an attractive brick field house designed by Hatzfeld and Knox. Several years later, Independence Park was extended to Byron Street. The new property included a single-family brick home, which was converted for use by the Women's Community Club.

In response to requests from the public, the Park District created a beautiful sunken garden with fanciful rockwork, trimmed hedges, and elaborate plantings. Colored lights illuminated the garden at night. By 1930, in addition to the garden, Independence Park included horseshoe and tennis courts, two 18-hole putting greens, playgrounds, and a wading pool.

Independence Park Field House

In 1934, all of the city's 22 independent park agencies were consolidated into the Chicago Park District. As part of a federal Works Progress Administration arts initiative, artist M.R. Decker created a patriotically themed painting for Independence Park's field house auditorium. In 1950, the Park District replaced the sunken garden with ball fields.

As the years passed, the Women’s Building at Hamlin and Byron remained heavily used but grew increasingly outmoded physically and mechanically. In 2006 a committee was formed to spearhead a renovation drive, which was completed in 2013. The park was recognized by the National Park Service with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in February 2009.