Plaque celebrating Promontory Point unveiled

As Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Promontory Point Conservancy member Jack Spicer finish the countdown, Sherry Gutman and Jeffrey Kratowicz unveil a plaque commemorating the inclusion of Promontory Point on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Contributing writer

Members of the Promontory Point Conservancy and supporters unveiled a commemorative plaque on June 16, celebrating the Point’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The unveiling of the plaque along the Lake Shore bike path just north of the David Wallach Memorial Fountain near 57th Street is the culmination of the decades-long effort of the Conservancy (formerly “Save the Point”) to protect and preserve Promontory Point Park.

According to the website, “In 2000, the Park District and the City’s Department of the Environment presented preliminary plans for proposed changes to Promontory Point’s revetments. The officials ‘told residents there was no way to save the limestone—the rocks were crumbling under pressure from the water.’

“Many of the Hyde Parkers at the meeting strongly believed that the step-stone revetments were a critical element of Promontory Point’s historic landscape. They were aware that the limestone revetments had been repaired in the past, and they believed they could be saved.”

“It has been 20 years,” said 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston during the ceremony. “I cannot believe it, but we are still standing strong. We are dedicating this rock here. We’re getting the Park District and the City to ‘yes’. It takes time, but we have stood strong. You have stood strong.”

To understand the politics of Promontory Point one needs to understand its deep, almost mythic place in the psyche of Hyde Parkers. It is a place of swimming, summer nights and first kisses.

“When I was a kid and I got into the Girl Scouts, the Girl Scouts would come here [Promontory Point] once in the summer and we could have an overnight,” said Rosemary Hake during the unveiling ceremony. “But, my world in Chicago in the 40s … wasn’t just racially divided, it was ethnically divided. There was the Polish neighborhood, the Lithuanian neighborhood, the Irish neighborhood, the Italian neighborhood … and we came here … all these different people … from different worlds,” Hake continued. “The first [overnight] I attended … there was … [a] commotion … It was the day that World War II ended. World War II ended … I’ll always remember that. I come here[now] and I think of that. I was here [during] a moment of history, a big moment in history.”

In 2018, under the direction of August Tye, The Hyde Park School of Dance produced Amira “A Chicago Cinderella Story” that included two scenes of magical encounters that were placed at Promontory Point. In 2008 University of Chicago graduate students in the Committee on Social Thought founded the literary and philosophical journal The Point, which, in its 2019 Summer issue, included writings on “The Dictatorship of the Present”, teaching fiction, and “Why we are still looking for Lorraine Hansberry.”

“All I can say is this is magic land,” said James Des Jardins, an officer of The Promontory Point Conservancy, gesturing toward the Promontory Point meadow during the ceremony. Gesturing west toward the city he said, “That’s real life; never mind that. This is magic land, let’s keep it that way.”

“It is a wonderful place to reflect, it is a wonderful place for family, for anybody, and you can just come and exist, and this is really what life should be like, this is really how our city, how we as citizens should coexist and so I am just proud that we are here today and we are going to continue our fight,” said Hairston as she and others concluded the dedication ceremony chanting, “Save The Point, Save The Point.”