Independence Park|Chapter 1
The summer is supposed to close with Labor Day but we had a beautiful warm day well after the weekend passed. Work in the office just didn’t seem as pressing as getting outside. Independence Park is nearby and so we decided to pack the camera and get out for a bit.
Independence Park sits on the gray bustling Irving Park Road near the Kennedy Expressway. As soon as you turn on Springfield Avenue, though, you find yourself in this lovely quiet neighborhood of historic homes.
Time has not been kind to the fieldhouse. As we walked up, it was easy to see it is in need of some love. But the front stairs beckoned. and even in the middle of the day in the middle of the week there were plenty of people outside sitting on benches, tending to young children or reading whatever was on their phones.
The park was first established in 1910, when the community started a tradition of celebrating Independence Day by complete with a parade and reading of the Declaration of Independence on the fields. Hence the name of Independence Park. The neighborhood is definitely the park’s greatest asset, and it was obvious that this park is heavily used and enjoyed.
We were inside for just a minute before seeing a group of senior women came out into the front lobby after a morning swim class. One of them was Faride Yanez who quickly became the ambassador for Independence Park. She was happy to tell us how swimming at Independence Park fieldhouse has become a daily anchor in her life. For the past five years she starts each weekday with swim aerobics class and she is sure it has been the cure for all that ails her 80 year old body!
With Faride as our escort we were invited to see the next class in session in the pool area.
A short walk up the stairs took us into a bright room with tall ceilings and green trim. A class for Moms, Dads and their Tots was full swing, so we hung around with them for a bit. It was great to see such an old space filled with so much energy and excitement!
Around the corner and down the stairs and we found ourselves in a small gym, our favorite room, even when it’s empty when we visited. It feels unreal to be here when it’s so quiet, I can only imagine the roars and racket here when a game is in play.
It feels like a secret room, special.
The director of the park told us to be sure to check out “The Bungalow”. Across from the fieldhouse, between the baseball fields, a playground and sunken gardens, we couldn’t miss it. It is one of the things that makes Independence Park special. The building sits at the corner of Hamlin and Byron, and it is 100% charming on the outside. Inside is no different. It is quaint, warm and was filled with children laughing and playing.
According to Tegan, who was leading a class of little kids learning how to make guacamole, the Independence Park Bungalow is said to have been a dental office at one point. In the early 1900s, it was gifted to the Park District, and today is used for everything from morning activities for infants to three-year-olds to an afterschool activity center. It was fun to see it in action.
Independence Park proved to be a good first “Out of the Office” venture. I look forward to finding more fieldhouses, more stories Chicago has to share.