Jackson Park is a 500 acre (2 km²) park on Chicago's South Side officially located at 6401 S. Stony Island Avenue in the Woodlawn community area. It extends into the South Shore and Hyde Park community areas, bordering Lake Michigan and several South Side neighborhoods. Named for President Andrew Jackson, it is one of two Chicago Park District parks with the name Jackson, the other being Mahalia Jackson Park in the community area of Auburn Gresham on the far southwest side of Chicago.
After the state legislature created the South Park Commission in 1869, the designers of New York's Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, were hired to lay out the park (which included the Midway Plaisance and Washington Park). Known originally as South Park, the landscape had eastern and western divisions connected by a grand boulevard named the Midway Plaisance. The eastern division became known as Lake Park; however, in 1880 the commission asked the public to suggest official names for both the eastern and western Divisions. The names, Jackson and Washington, were proposed. In the following year, Lake Park was renamed Jackson Park to honor Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), the seventh president of the United States.
In 1890, Chicago won the honor of hosting the World's Columbian Exposition, and Jackson Park was selected as its site. Olmsted and Chicago's architect and planner, Daniel H. Burnham, laid out the fairgrounds. A team of architects and sculptors created the "White City" of plaster buildings and artworks in Beaux-Arts style. The historic World's Fair opened to visitors on May 1, 1893. After it closed six months later, the site was transformed back into parkland. Jackson Park featured the first public golf course west of the Alleghenies, which opened in 1899.
Every structure from the World's Columbian Exposition was long ago demolished or moved elsewhere, except the old Palace of Fine Arts, which is now the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Osaka Garden, a Japanese strolling garden reconstructed on its original site on the Wooded Island. (By itself the Wooded Island is considered one of "150 great places in Illinois" by the American Institute of Architects.) The only other significant building that survived the fair is the Norway pavilion, a building now preserved at a museum called "Little Norway" in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. The full scale replica of Columbus' flagship the Santa María rotted in the Jackson Park lagoon, and is now located at . The Art Institute also occupies a building originally constructed for the Exposition, with the intent of housing the museum upon closing of the fair, this building is the only one not located in Jackson Park.
During the summer season for the Chicago Park District (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend) the Jackson Park 63rd Street Beach House and the adjacent Lake Michigan beachfront is a destination for beachgoers. The Beach House competes with the South Shore Cultural Center and Promontory Point as South Side beachfront special use facilities in the Park District.The park also hosts the Chicago Landmark 63rd Street Bathing Pavilion as well as the 18-hole Jackson Park Gold Course and two walking trails.
Jackson Park is connected by the Midway Plaisance to Washington Park (see Encyclopedia of Chicago Map). In accordance with a canal that Olmsted wanted built between the two parks, a long excavation was made on the Midway, but water has never been allowed in. It is connected to Grant Park by Burnham Park.
Jackson Park is home to over two dozens spieces of birds including a well-studied population of feral Monk parakeets, descendants of pet birds that escaped in the 1960s.
Jackson Park Heights is a common neighborhood name for an area abutting Jackson Park. It received its name from a low ridge that once existed south of the present-day park.