Harrison Park|Chapter 4
My first introduction to the Pilsen area was when I moved to Chicago. I had heard about a weekend open gallery walk where you could see the live/work spaces of local artists. I was blown away by this area of the city I had never seen before. Since then I have continued to come mostly to eat great food or hear music. It has long been Chicago’s best neighborhood for a fantastic Mexican fare or the area to go to view murals by famous Mexican muralists, but it is also home to the National Museum of Mexican Art. It is all right there and it turns out Harrison Park is in the middle of it all.
So now with our project underway it was a natural destination to explore.
Originally this park was a respite from the crowded west side industrialized district, it was a place to get away from the surrounding factories. In 1914 landscape designer Jens Jensen created swimming and wading pools on this site. The park is named after a popular Chicago Mayor, Carter H. Harrison. Harrison served as mayor for five terms, but his tenure ended when he assassinated in late 1893 just two days before the World's Columbian Exposition closed.
Inside the light is streaming in through the windows in the rotunda entryway and the fieldhouse was bustling. There were gymnastics classes in full swing, a swim class that was about to start and a baseball game happening outside. It was lively, just like the neighborhood that surrounds it.
This fieldhouse building was definitely newer than the others we have visited so far. It really was the people we met that made our visit so special. Harrison Park felt welcoming.
As we walked down the halls, we saw brightly colored rooms that are covered with stickers and legos. No kids were in sight though as a field trip was in session.
We eventually found our way to the gymnasium and started to see signs of life and excitement and anticipation.
As we walked into the Gymnastics Center, the room is bustling. When we were there, various gymnastics classes in session. The ages ranged from toddlers to teens and it was so much fun to see the different groups testing their limits. I’d forgotten what it was like to be fearless! With one eye on her group of tweens Krystal shared with such obvious pride how much she liked teaching here.
In the end, it felt like we were watching the pretrials for the Olympics. It’s clear the teachers loved what they were doing and the students were very focused on learning their new skill… even if it meant flipping upside down on the balance beam.
Around the corner and down the hall, we found ourselves by the pool. The all too familiar smell led our way, but in no way prepared us for what we would find. It was quiet in when we got there; the lifeguards were at the ready for the next class. It just felt good to be inside this room. The colored glass panes seem to rise from the pool to the sky; it felt like a nest with a huge pool. This room has texture and color and we loved everything about it.
Needless to say, this was definitely our favorite room.
Trophies line the wall with pride. You could tell this room booms in competition.
As we left the fieldhouse and wandered around outside, we saw a man selling paletas next to a full playground that was filled with multi-cultural families playing together. That is what this park is all about and it was obvious that this had to be our next post.
Thanks for having us, Harrison Park!
We want to hear from you… do you have any suggestions for a fieldhouse near you that has a story to tell?