Jackson Park | The Most Beautiful Places in Chicago
I really want to reconnect not just Black people, but a lot of people of color with the outside, with the outdoors, and just how important and restorative these spaces can be not only for your physical health, but for your mental and your spiritual health.— Deja Perkins, urban ornithologist and ecologist
A group of birders in Jackson Park shows Geoffrey Baer the beauty of birding.
Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side is as full of history as it is beauty. It was the site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, although the park itself predates the fair. Some 20 years before the fair, landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were hired to design the park at a time when the city’s population was booming, and people were looking for more greenspaces as a break from the crowded, dirty city. Olmsted and Vaux looked to their surroundings – the swampy lakefront – for inspiration, creating a network of lagoons. Jackson Park is part of a larger vision of Olmsted and Vaux to create a network of two large South Side parks, Jackson Park and Washington Park, connected by the Midway Plaisance. Jackson Park was later overhauled to serve as the location of the fair. One of the beautiful elements of the park is the Garden of the Phoenix. Originally called the Japanese Garden, it was home to the pavilion for the Japanese government during the fair. The garden was rehabbed multiple times over the years, and today, it is the site of a beautiful spectacle each spring: the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Just outside the Garden of the Phoenix is a shining steel sculpture named Skylanding, created by Yoko Ono. One of two structures that remain from the fair is the Palace of Fine Arts, which is today the Museum of Science and Industry, situated at the north end of the park. (The other is the Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue.) Per the park district, Jackson Park is also a haven for more than 250 species of birds – and the birders who hope to catch a glimpse of them. In the video above, Deja Perkins, a Chicago-born ecologist and ornithologist, chats with Geoffrey Baer about the importance of having such access to nature in a city, particularly those city neighborhoods with fewer trees and greenspaces.