Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Rich & Complete History of Indian Boundary Park, Chicago, Illinois.

Indian Boundary Park at 2500 West Lunt Avenue in Chicago is a 13-acre urban park in the West Ridge community of Chicago that opened in 1915. 
Map of Rogers Park and later the West Ridge communities showing Indian Boundary Road. Kenilworth Road is Touhy Avenue today.
Interested in the 'LAKE' at Pratt and Kedzie?
Indian Boundary Park is named for the territorial boundary established by the Treaty of St. Louis in 1816 between the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi tribes and the United States government.

After the U.S. Government bought the land as far west as the Mississippi River from Emperor Napoleon of France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, they still had to work out treaties with the Indian tribes who recognized neither the Americans nor the French made a claim to their territory.

The Indian tribes ceded land in a 20-mile-wide corridor to the Mississippi River in the Treaty of St. Louis in 1816. The rest of the land outside the boundaries (both north and south) was still owned by Indian tribes until the Chicago Treaty of 1833.

Over the Fieldhouse Entrance.
Indian Boundary Village Marker: Long ago, Native Indians lived on this land. Before recorded history, the Mound Builders traveled the area, perhaps along the nearby ridge. Later, the Illinois Tribe hunted game and planted maize. Last was the Ottawa, the Chippewa, and especially the Potawatomi who lived here. The Potawatomi, which means "People of the Place of the Fire," lived in villages on the Indian Boundary Line, which runs through this Park.

The 1816 Treaty of St. Louis 
Like many diagonal streets interrupt Chicago's grid-patterned streets, Rogers Avenue comes from a past far earlier than the surveyors who laid out Chicago’s streets. An ancient Indian trail, the passageway we now know as Rogers Avenue, holds a special historical significance.

On August 24, 1816, the Treaty of St. Louis designated this particular trail to be a boundary dividing the land between the Indians and white settlers. Signed on behalf of the United States by Illinois’ first Governor, Ninian Edwards (1775-1833); Auguste Chouteau (1749-1829), and William Clark (1770-1838), of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and brother of the Revolutionary War hero Gen. George Rogers Clark, after whom Clark Street is named), the treaty was negotiated with the Council of Three Fires, the united tribes of Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi. White settlers were permitted to settle south and east of the boundary line.

The line ran southwesterly to what is now Ottawa, Illinois. The boundary existed until the Treaty of Chicago in 1833 when Indian tribes were driven out of the area.

This treaty line exists now as Rogers Avenue, which runs from Eastlake Terrace to Ridge Boulevard and then starts and stops a few times in the Chicago neighborhoods of Sauganash and Forest Glen. The same trail picks up again briefly as Forest Preserve Drive, just west of Narragansett Avenue and continues the path to Belmont Avenue between Highway 171 and River Road. Rogers Avenue is named in honor of the same man after whom the community of Rogers Park is named, Philip Rogers.

Although the boundary now exists in history, it has lent its name to a very familiar landmark in our community, Indian Boundary Park, which lies directly in the path of the trail. Further down the trail, at the end of Forest Preserve Drive, the history of the trail is further memorialized by the aptly named “Indian Boundary Golf Course.”

A historical plaque was installed at the Northeast corner of Clark Street and Rogers Avenue. Presently, it is partially hidden by the housing of the traffic light controller at this busy intersection.

The Plaque Reads as Follows
Indian Boundary Lines - Clark Street honors George Rogers Clark, whose brother William Clark, with Ninian Edwards and Auguste Chouteau, in 1816 negotiated an Indian treaty ceding land, including the Chicago site from Rogers Avenue to Lake Calumet. Erected by Chicago’s Charter Jubilee, Authenticated by Chicago Historical Society, 1937."
Indian Boundary Park
The Park was created in 1915 by the Ridge Avenue Park District (RAPD) for $3000 per acre. The Ridge Avenue Park District was the first of 19 neighborhood commissions established in 1896 to serve areas recently annexed by the City of Chicago.
Indian Boundary Park 1916 Stone Marker: This 13.06-acre Park commemorates the treaty of 1816, which established the land boundaries of the Potawatomi Indians.
Indian Boundary Area Council - 1979.
The Park was the 2nd most prominent of four passive parks created for middle and upper-class residents who were purchasing some of the "finest apartment buildings in Chicago (then under construction), besides the houses and (Chicago style) bungalows" per the Chicago Evening Post on July 11, 1925. Other Chicago parks were created for healthy outdoor activities for "the poor and immigrant communities." In contrast, passive parks were created for strolling through gardens and quiet activities such as bird-watching. 
Philip Rogers Home Site. Born in Ireland, Philip Rogers came to Rogers Park in about 1843 and bought 1600 acres from the government. Rogers first lived in a log house at Lunt and Western Avenues. Dies in 1856. The village was named after him in 1844. Erected by Chicago's Charter Jubilee. Authenticated by Chicago Historical Society 1937.
Richard F. Gloede of Evanston, Illinois, the park landscape architect who created many North Shore estate landscapes. Two stone columns (still in place) on Lunt Avenue marked the entrance to a large, oval perennial garden designed by Mr. Gloede with many shrubs and meandering paths. One can imagine people in the 1920s strolling or sitting in the Park with friends on a Sunday afternoon visit.
Old City Hall Keystone: Historical. This keystone was taken from the arch of the Washington Street entrance in the City Hall building Chicago, which was erected in 1877. Replaced by the present building in 1909. Presented to the Indian Boundary Park, July 4, 1927, by Julius H. Huber. Erected by the Ridge Avenue Park Commissioners.
The park was unique because it had no straight lines crisscrossing it like most other city parks. The park's eastern and northern lawns flow seamlessly into the front yards of the Park Gables, Park Castle, Park Manor, and Park Crest co-op apartment buildings. The original plan also included the lagoon and spray pool, which are still essential park features.

Indian Boundary Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

Flying around Indian Boundary Park - 2016

Indian Boundary Park Zoo
In the mid-1920s, the Ridge Avenue Park District opened a small zoo in Indian Boundary Park at 2555 West Estes Avenue with the donation of a black bear given by the district President, Frank Kellogg. Although many parks had their own zoos then, the animals were eventually transferred to Lincoln Park Zoo.
In the early 1980s, the community successfully lobbied to prevent the zoo from closing. The Chicago Park District spent $300,000 on repairs and new animal habitats, and work was completed in 1984. In 2013, the zoo at Indian Boundary Park finally closed. The remaining animals - a goat and some chickens - were moved to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
The former zoo has been transformed into an interactive play area with elements encouraging physical and imaginative play for children of all ages.

Indian Boundary Park Lagoon
The Park's lagoon, designed by Richard Gloede, is a 1.04-acre multi-habitat natural area with prairie plants at its north end; the Park's west end is the former site of a small prairie planting. The lagoon contains wetland vegetation, while grassland plants dominate the island in the middle of the lagoon.
In 2001, the lagoon and the prairie areas underwent a restoration, while the island saw the planting of Bur oaks. Periodic controlled burns maintain plants on the island and the prairie.

Flying around the Lagoon at Indian Boundary Park - 2016

Indian Boundary Park Bird Sanctuary - 2010

Indian Boundary Park Fieldhouse
The Fieldhouse incorporates Indian interior elements and is a Tudor revival "Arts and Crafts" style structure. It was designed by Clarence Hatzfeld, who is responsible for many of the Chicago Park District's distinctive public buildings, including the nearby Green Briar Park & Chippewa Parks. Built in 1929, the structure serves as one of the twelve Cultural Centers of the Chicago Park District. It offers classes for all ages in theater, dance, visual arts, music, and performances presented to the public.

The interior design motifs acknowledge the Indians who lived here before being driven to the West. The motifs include an Indian Chief keystone carved in relief over the entryway, chandeliers in the Banquet Room/Auditorium featuring parchment as drums with bows and arrows, and Indian Head carvings on the walls.

The centerpiece of the Fieldhouse is the multi-use Auditorium with the original 1929 lighting fixtures and sprung maple dance floor.
This room is a theater rehearsal and performance space, dance studio, lecture hall, and music performance venue. Some music classes were conducted in the Auditorium on the newly restored 1929 Mason Hamlin grand piano.

The Basement is another multi-use space but is primarily the province of the theater program. It multi-tasks as an ample rehearsal space, black box theater, and gathering space for teen programs. 

The Ground floor Board Room and Solarium are where some visual arts classes occur because of the excellent natural lighting. In addition, smaller meetings take place there. The room is equipped with a piano for some music programs, and the ground floor front office, also equipped with a piano, is used for music instruction in a more private, one-on-one setting.

The Second floor has been devoted to the rapidly expanding stained glass and ceramics programs, complete with kilns for ceramics and glass fusing. In addition, the studio is set up with student workstations, each with easy access to storage and equipment.

In 2005, the Indian Boundary Park fieldhouse was designated a Historical Landmark by the City of Chicago and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Chicago Landmark Plaque: Indian Boundary Park Fieldhouse, Clarence Hatzfeld, architect, 1929. An unusual combination of the Tudor Revival style and Indian-inspired decoration distinguishes this park fieldhouse. The exterior features a slate roof, carved stone, patterned brick, and timber details. On the interior, and particularly unique and distinctive to this building, Indian imagery is incorporated into the light fixtures, woodwork, and sculpture. The fine quality of this Fieldhouse reveals the prominent place these buildings historically have occupied in the community life of Chicago's neighborhoods. Designated on May 11, 2005. Richard M. Daley, Mayor - Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
Robert Leathers Playground
The large playground was built by the community in 1989. Funds were raised over 3 years, and 1500 neighborhood volunteers constructed the playground in 5 days.

Fieldhouse Fire
An extra-alarm blaze severely damaged the Park's landmark fieldhouse on May 20, 2012. A partial roof collapse sent three firefighters to the hospital; two firefighters were treated for heat-related injuries, and the third firefighter was slightly injured. All three were checked out and then released from the hospital.
According to the Chicago Fire Department, the fire broke out around noon. Firefighters arrived quickly on the scene after the park supervisor called 911. The fire was caused by an electrical problem at the upper level of the fieldhouse. Windows were shattered, and interior beams appeared to have crumbled inside the fieldhouse.
Witnesses say there were at least eight fire engines on the scene. About 15 firefighters enter the building at one point through the thick smoke.
Indian Boundary Fieldhouse Fire - May 20, 2012
The Fieldhouse was closed to the public.

Fieldhouse Restoration
The entire restoration cost $1.5 million, but the tab was covered by the Chicago Park District's insurance policy, said park district spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner. She said the restoration included all new electrical and interior finishes, a new slate roof, new steel roof beams, new copper gutters, masonry repairs, and restoration of "destroyed" historic chandeliers and wall sconces.
Indian Boundary Park Fieldhouse (Indian Boundary Park Center, today) offers theater arts, painting, dance lessons and much more.
Park supervisor Phil Martini said the fieldhouses' memorable Indian relief artwork, sculpted from plaster and wood trim, was all restored by an art restoration specialist. In addition, the Auditorium's ceiling was reinforced with steel support beams. The wood floors were also replaced.

The Indian Boundary Park fieldhouse reopened in January 2014.

The restoration of the burned-out Indian Boundary Park fieldhouse received two preservation awards;
  • "Landmarks Illinois" was awarded the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for the restoration project.
  • The recipient of the City of Chicago's Preservation Excellence Award.
Chicago Park District opens Nature Play Area at Indian Boundary Park, August 7, 2014.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. I used to love going to Indian Boundary as a kid to see the animals. It was closer then Lincoln Park Zoo. When my son was old enough to ride a bicycle, we'd ride up there together. There were only a few animals left in the late 80s but it was still fun. I never knew about the field house in all the years of my living in the area.


  2. An excellent, comprehensive survey of Indian Boundary Park, surely the cultural home of West Ridge. Thanks for the information.

  3. Great read. Spent many wonderful hours and days there. My cub scout troop, skating and hockey on the pond, going to the zoo originally stocked with bears and lions/tiger, playing tennis, etc.

  4. Had many great aerobic workouts here; some led by Phil Martini who is mentioned in this article. Great memories of walking the park, sitting by the lagoon, seeing the old zoo and some Xmas caroling. My friend Tim Hurley also taught art classes there for a time.

  5. My Mother told me when she worked for the Park District one summer in the early to mid-1930's, she remembers coming to the Indian Boundry Fieldhouse for district meetings. Everyone was impressed with the park and the fieldhouse. She always thought it was the ideal park. She came to visit me many years later and was so surprised that the park was still there. THat's when she told me her story.

  6. Loved the zoo. I miss it. Thanks for all the info.

  7. So many memories of this place. When I was really young, my sister had ballet lessons (and on occasion performances) and got to see the field house a lot and remember they would go pretty far out with their holiday decorations. If my mother and I arrived early to pick my sister up, she would take me to the zoo and I would always found the llamas tend to stay in the back of the enclosure anytime I was there.
    I had summer day camp and I remember we would take field trips to Indian Boundary park every so often and climb on the keystone which we thought was like a tomb or sarcophagus or something. After school, I would meet up with friends and we would climb all over the massive wooden playground area for hours.
    One winter, my friend and I hopped over the fence of the lagoon and tried breaking the ice with the rocks and sticks but were chased out by some of the park staff who saw what we were doing.
    I returned to the park a few weeks ago for the first time in a long time to see the zoo was gone and the sprinkler area was completely changed from what it used to be which was a single pipe that sprayed out water from the top. A tornado hit the city this summer so a lot of the trees were uprooted. I would say half of the park was unrecognizable from the changes. Time really flies.

  8. Grew up in the Lunt Ave apartments overlooking the park - the skating rink in winter was outside our living room window. Amazing memories there, from hanging out with friends in the pumpkin to being tempted to climb the fence into the lagoon, bike riding, all the classes in the field house (drama, first aid), Halloween costume contests, day camp. Best time and place to grow up in the 70s/early 80s!

  9. Fantastic, excellent, comprehensive writing and photographs on Indian Boundary Park Dr. Gale! I have been walking the grounds, enjoying the trees and pond and birds since 1979. I started taking my children there in 1982 and now my grandchildren enjoy it! It is my sanctuary in the city! Thank you!

  10. As always, Dr. Gale, a thoroughly researched and superbly written article. Bravo!


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