Discover a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art that provides the backdrop for hundreds of free cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours, and family activities. In Millennium Park, you’ll find a new kind of town square- a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city and destination for Chicagoans and visitors alike.
The Millennium Park Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to maintaining Millennium Park as a free venue for all Chicagoans today and for generations to come. In partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Millennium Park Foundation is also committed to the stewardship and improvement of Millennium Park and has the responsibility for the programming and care of several features including the public garden, the sculpture galleries and the public art.
Also visit City of Chicago’s Millennium Park Website.
Grant Park has historically been portrayed as the “front yard” of Chicago. Since its official designation as parkland in 1844, its approximately 320 acres of green space has served as the primary recreational area for generations of city dwellers. However, in 1852, despite early 19th Century legal restrictions that prohibited any development within the vacant premises, the City gavea significant portion of the land to the Illinois Central Railroad Company (ICR) in exchange for constructing a breakwater in Lake Michigan. This “swap” resulted in the construction of an immense system of railroad tracks running between Chicago’s waterfront and the developing Loop district. In 1909, Daniel Burnham laid out a master plan for the City of Chicago, calling for Grant Park to become the premier cultural center for the City. Because the City no longer controlled certain sections of the land; Burnham’s plan accommodated the existing railroad tracks and built the park around them.
Over the years, Grant Park evolved and cultural amenities were added in and around it. However, a lingering eyesore still remained – the Illinois Central Railroad tracks. Chicago’s long-sitting mayor, Richard M. Daley, found this blemish especially troubling (he was reported to have been particularly displeased with the view of it from his dentist’s office in a bordering building). During the 1990s, Daley set out on an ambitious campaign to make Chicago one of the greenest cities in the United States. Mayor Daley long viewed the northwest portion of Grant Park as an opportunity to provide additional public green space. The Mayor instructed his staff to pursue site control of the railroad lands. As a result, in 1996, the City filed a lawsuit against the ICR to regain some of the property within Grant Park. As it turned out, a provision in the original 1852 contract required the ICR property to be used for railroad purposes – a function that much of the land no longer maintained. The ICR therefore had to cede control of the property to the City. The reacquisition of this land made Daley’s proposal for the future Millennium Park possible.
Millennium Park Foundation and patrons hired various artists and architects to design and construct its sculptures and facilities. Each new addition to the Park presents its own story of vision, risk, project design, finance, construction and operation. In many ways the Park is the aggregate of the initial framework and individual additions of art, landscape design and architecture that were not anticipated in the original plan. Yet at each stage, the framework for planning was flexible and neutral enough to enable multiple options to evolve successfully. Each project enriched the whole, adding to the critical mass of attractions – and thus to the ability of the Park to attract a diverse group of visitors. In June 2004, a month before the Park’s opening date, the City announced that the Park would be managed the private, not-for-profit conservancy, Millennium Park Foundation. On July 16, 2004, four years after the initial estimated completion date, Millennium Park officially opened to the public.
Visit Chicago Public Library for more archival photos of Millennium Park.