1400 North Sacramento Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
Phone: (312) 742-7549
Shortly after the establishment of the West Side Park Commission in 1869, landscape designer and architect William Le Baron Jenney was commissioned to design the entire system of West Side parks and boulevards. Jenney, who is often referred to as the "Father of the Skyscraper," drafted a plan that called for the creation of three large parks, connected by formal boulevards and dotted with tranquil squares.
By the beginning of the 20th Century, the West Park Commission was infested with corrupt political alliances. The three major West Side parks, Douglas, Garfield, and Humboldt, had fallen into a state of disrepair. As part of a reform effort, Jens Jensen was appointed to the position of Chief Landscape Architect for the West Park System in 1905. Jensen, a Danish immigrant who was fired from his position as Superintendent of Humboldt Park five years earlier because of his attempts to fight corruption within the Commission, focused on cultivating a native Midwestern scene. He created meadows lined with native trees, wildflowers transferred from local woods, and rustic benches. His landscaping soon became known as Prairie Style. He was able to transform Humboldt Parks lagoon into a long "prairie river," which he claimed was inspired by the natural rivers and brooks he had seen in the Midwestern countryside. He also commissioned an elaborate boathouse, which stood next to a music court designed for concerts, dances, and other special events.
The Humboldt Park community has historically been a magnet for immigrant populations, each bringing their own cultural traditions to the neighborhood and park. Today the park is home to the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance.
**The Chicago Park District and Parkways offers a free self-guided audio tour of Humboldt Park. The recording can be either downloaded to an MP3 player or listened to on-line. The tour includes a map with stopping points that correspond with the audio tracks. Using the recording as a guide for a walking tour takes approximately one hour. Visit the Chicago Park District website to access the audio tour.