Archive ID: 2018-074-052

Bessemer Park swimming pool

Date Created: undated

Donor: Raymond Mulac

Media Type: Postcard

Language: English

Description:

Bessemer Park swimming tank and field house, South Chicago, Illinois.

Backstory:

Bessemer Park was one of a series of innovative parks developed in Chicago by the South Park Commission in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The park was designed by the famous landscape architects, the Olmsted brothers, whose father, Federick Law Olmsted, Sr., helped lay out the original designs for the park system. The brothers began working on Bessemer Park, one of the largest in Southeast Chicago, in early 1904 and finished late in 1905. The Park was named after Henry Bessemer, an English scientist who in the mid-19th century developed the first inexpensive process allowing for the mass production of steel.

Chicago’s progressive park system not only provided beautifully landscaped “breathing spaces,” but also offered public bathing, the city’s first branch libraries, classes and vocational training, inexpensive hot meals, health care, and a variety of recreational programs. Given that immigrant homes in the early 1900s were crowded and lacked amenities, many immigrant families looked for activities outside their residences. As a result, Southeast Chicago residents were avid users of the park system, and parks figured centrally in their oral histories. Coni Martinez recalled that, “We lived in the park.” Bob Bork, who was born in 1906 and had eleven siblings, noted that, “You could also take a shower there [at the parks] whenever you wanted with nice hot and cold running water and they’d give you a towel and a bar of soap, too.” Bathing facilities were particularly welcome for large families since, as Bork remarked, it meant you didn’t have to wait for a turn to heat water on a stove top at home. Controversies among ethnic and racial groups over use and control of park space would also prove common in Southeast Chicago in later years. This postcard was one of many of Southeast Chicago donated by long-time resident Raymond Mulac.

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Filters:

Buildings/Landmarks   Community Life   Parks   Recreation   Other/Unknown   South Chicago   Other/Unknown   Postcard   2018-074   Bessemer Park   Buildings   Swimming  

This item appears in:

Mexican-American Journeys

A story told through Museum objects saved by Southeast Chicago residents

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