The popular 24.5-acre park is situated in the downtown area of the Windy City. The location was once owned by the Illinois Central Railroad. Today, the site holds live performances, displays artwork in addition to having gardens to explore.
During the 1850s, the land on which Grant Park, Maggie Daley Park, and Millennium Park now stand was owned by the Illinois Central Railroad. But by the end of the century, Aaron Montgomery Ward was instrumental in passing legislation that would prohibit massive structures from being constructed that would take away from the view of Chicago’s skyline. He also desired to create a space to be enjoyed by all residents.
Architect Daniel Burnham was hired in 1909 to start the plan that began with Grant Park. The spot was designed around the railroad tracks. At the time, the railroad made up most of the lakefront property. In 1977, city officials discussed the possibility of building a park over the railroad. However, the many obstacles encountered eventually tabled the plan. But, when Mayor Richard M. Daley began his term in 1989, he was determined to do something about the railroad’s unsightly appearance. In 1997, Illinois Central agreed to donate the land back to the city, at which time Mayor Daley began renovations.
John Bryan started fundraising to finance the plan. Working with marketing specialist Leo Burnett, Bryan decided to name the revamped location Millennium Park. The initial 16-acre project was to include art displays and a concert venue. Architect Frank Gehry designed what is now known as the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The unique sound system incorporated the seating and surrounding lawn for sound waves to emanate throughout the space to mimic a concert hall’s acoustics. Gehry’s effort won him the National Medal of Art.
In 1999, artist Anish Kapoor created the massive Cloud Gate, which is now affectionately referred to as The Bean. Landscape architects Gustafson Guthrie Nichol and Piet Oudolf created the Lurie Garden, which encompasses 3.5 acres of floral plants, greenery, and pathways. The design also includes a 15-foot hedge that commemorates Carl Sandburg’s poem entitled “Chicago.” Jaume Plensa created the Crown Fountain, which incorporates water, light, glass, and video to create a mesmerizing reflecting pool with dual towers that display 1,000 city residents’ images.