The OPC will enrich us

To the Editor:

This was the beautiful Horticultural Building of the Columbian Exposition, one of many built for the Fair by the leading architects in 1891-1893 in Jackson Park. The Horticulture Building became a model for Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Garfield Park Conservatory which are both built in accessible and historic public parks. Its design was copied in cities around the world.  Vandals set fire and destroyed the Fair architectural masterpieces, designed by the famous Chicago architecture masters: Burnham, Adler, Sullivan, Cobb, Atwood, Wright, and Root.

Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous 1893 Fair landscape architect, was disabled due to a horse and buggy accident, found walking painful. As a disabled parent and son who understood the needs of children elderly, and disabled, he added plans for park comfort buildings, weather shelters, and enclosed weather safe pavilions for food, drink, bathrooms, and visitor group gatherings.

He created areas on his famous Wooded Island  for the Japanese Tea House and Tea Garden adjacent to the Japanese Phoenix Pavilion where diverse visitors could get out of inclement Chicago weather, use a safe bathroom, order food and drink, sit down for a bite with your family  group, out of the weather, have a Tea House meeting with other visitors, and learn Japanese history, enjoy Japanese art and musical performances. He allowed no autos inside the Fair Only non-polluting quiet electric trains, boats, wheelchairs, or bikes were allowed. He would never have allowed a six-lane, fast moving, dangerous to park walkers, expressway filled with polluting automobiles into his Fair landscapes. His public parks had balance of nature, recreation, culture, and democratic amenities that welcomed, inspired, and enriched the lives of all visitors.

The Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry were built for the Fair and survived the vandals’ fires. Today they are the treasured educational and architectural legacy buildings of Jackson Park 1893 World’s Fair.

The point of this history is that these are the institutions in the park that educate, enrich and inspire our children.  If “Protect our Parks,” which is trying to block the construction of the Obama Presidential Center from being built in Jackson Park, were around either before or directly after the 1893 Jackson Park World’s Fair, none of these architectural legacy buildings would not have been built or be standing today. Jackson Park probably would still be a sparse, quick-sand-filled swamp.

Thanks to the World’s Fair, Jackson Park today is 400-plus acres of green and blue space where visitors can play, relax, and learn Through the addition of a sledding hill, new bike and walking paths and acres and acres of green space and more, the Obama Presidential Center, will create new opportunities for community members to enjoy the park.  Balancing this, is OPC’s inspiration for our children with the story of a couple from the South Side that made it all the way to the White House.

Jackson Park is a model today of the balance between learning, relaxing, recreational, cultural, historic and natural park activities.  This legacy will continue with the building of the Obama Presidential Center.  It deserves to join the other Conservatories and Museums in Chicago’s parks.

The wishes of our large, diverse and hopeful community members are NOT represented by the negative vocal few.  The OPC will enrich the lives of South Siders and visitors alike and will leave a positive legacy for future generations to enjoy. With all these positive benefits, we have to ask: How does Protect Our Parks plan to enhance the lives of our community and inspire our children to greatness?

By Louise McCurry,

South Side Neighbors for Hope