Fieldhouse Stories

There are times you need to be outside.

I moved to Chicago in 1990 and opened my design firm, Forward Design. I certainly went to the lakefront and rode along the path, I saw Buckingham Fountain and drove to Promontory Point. But, it wasn’t until I had kids that I first noticed fieldhouses.

These are the buildings in most Chicago parks where you can learn to swim, make ceramics, stop to use the bathroom, sing along in a tots class or play basketball. You probably never noticed them. You see the play lots, maybe a pool and the baseball diamonds. But past all that, there they are!

Most of these buildings are old, and if you do step inside, your impression can be peeling paint and bulletin boards jam-packed with upcoming events or classes. But if you look a bit longer, you begin to see the details and the beauty within. 

The railing may be carved wood, the window panes could be set in the original iron, or the ceiling might have an intricate mural. They are beautiful. They were built by the best and have served different communities as the neighborhoods have changed over generations.

As impressive and interesting as the buildings’ details are, the people and the energy they bring to these rooms are how these buildings come to life. Some might visit once a week while their kid is in an indoor soccer league, others may come daily to swim or to use a craft studio.

So, we took some time out of our day to slow down, take it all in and get out of the office to show you a few of them.

These buildings have stories.
— Judy, Forward Design