The original plans for Marquette Park called for "a golf course on two islands surrounded by naturalistic lagoons; indoor and outdoor gymnasiums; swimming and wading pools; a children's playground; formal gardens; and a concert grove."1 Due to its size, construction of the park went more slowly than most of the others in the system, and several features of the original plan were dropped due to difficulties with the landscape. Still, in 1913, the 18-hole golf course opened and "by 1917, the park included playing fields, a children's playground, tennis courts, propagating houses for the nursery, and a large, classically-designed golf shelter."1,3 In the early 1930s, the Great Depression caused the bankruptcy of the individual park districts. In 1934, the 22 independent agencies were consolidated into the Chicago Park District.4 After the consolidation of Chicago's park commissions into the Chicago Park District in 1934, park workers redesigned the golf shelter, built comfort stations, and expanded the walking paths in the park to include the islands. In 1935, public support helped secure a statue honoring Lithuanian-American aviators Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas who perished tragically during the transatlantic flight of the Lituanica.1
The incident at Marquette Park was part of the protests led by the Chicago Freedom Movement (of which King was co-chairman). It was a year-long campaign for open housing. It started in January 1966 when King and his wife Coretta moved into a North Lawndale slum (on the west side of Chicago). King and the movement wanted to make Chicago a racially open city. They wanted it to be a place where everyone could live without fear of racial attacks.
The march was not as successful as King and the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) had hoped. A rather vague agreement was created with Richard J. Daley (the Mayor of Chicago) containing unkept promises of open housing legislation and improving living conditions. It was an eye opener for King and the SCLC and showed just how violent the Northern white people could be.
This march was part of a series of marches coordinated by the Chicago Freedom Movement the marriage of King's SCLC and the CCCO (Coordinating Council of Chicago Organizations) lead by King's co-leader in Chicago Al Raby.
There are several books that deal with King and Raby's "Northern Experiment". Arguably the best is Northern Protest by historian James Ralph.
It is a common misbelief that the incident in which Dr. King was struck with a rock happened in Cicero rather than Marquette Park. The Chicago Freedom Movement never marched in Cicero.
It is the fortieth anniversary of the Chicago Freedom Movement, in commemoration a three day conference is being held in mid-July by Chicago community organizers, veterans of the Chicago Freedom Movement, academics. The official site of the Chicago Freedom Movement and the most detailed web accessible source of CFM information is www.cfm40.org.
Looming land development threatened the rare patch of prairie. But a heroic effort by the Park District and members of the public resulted in the prairie being moved to Marquette Park. In the spring in 1993, the Park District dug up several plugs of prairie using a tree spade. Each plug measured four to five feet across. With the important roots of these prairie plant plugs intact, crews carefully transported these huge plugs to Marquette Park. There, the rescue team drilled holes and installed the huge plugs near the edge of the lagoon. Fortunately, the soil profile at the old site was similar to the soil profile at the new site, and overall the prairie rescue was a success. Most of the flowers bloomed the very first year in their new home. As the prairie began to settle into its new home, prairie reconstruction activities continued. Volunteers seeded, planted and weeded between the tree-spaded remnants, and in the areas north of the remnants. To this day, Ashburn Prairie thrives on the commitment of dedicated volunteer stewards.
The prairie is located along the edge of the lagoon, south of Mann St., east of Kedzie Avenue.2
Course Architect: Tom Bendelow Greens & Fairways: Greens - Bent Grass, Fairways - Rye Grass Golf Instructor: Mike Harriga
Park operators and information can be reached at 312-747-6469