|Looking north on Michigan Boulevard in 1868, with the homes of prosperous businessmen on the left. Lake Park was nothing more than a marsh-filled lagoon, with rail lines on the right, between Lake Michigan and the lagoon-like area. The estimated vantage point of this photo is from where Congress Avenue is now located.|
|This is an 1890's view of the Lake Park area looking north, showing how cluttered it was with rail yards and tents. Civil War veterans camped in the park in 1890. Troops camped in Grant Park in 1894 during the Pullman strike and a reunion.|
In 1915, the South Park Commission located a temporary wooden bandshell in Grant Park near Michigan and Congress Avenues. It hosted large events as well as band performances and remained in place for five or six years.
In 1931, Mayor Anton Cermak suggested free concerts to lift spirits of Chicagoans during the Great Depression. The Depression and the proliferation of new technological innovations such as records, radios and "talkies" (films with sound) led to a declining demand for live music and a shrinking job market for musicians. That year, as buildings were being built for the 1933 Century of Progress International Exposition, the Chicago Concert Band Association offered to organize a seventy-person concert band to give free summer concerts if the park commissioners would build a band shell that had electric lighting and dressing rooms. Construction on the wood and fiber E. V. Buchsbaum design began on a budget of $12,500, and the opening of free concerts commenced on August 24, 1931. Construction was completed in three weeks.
|The original Grant Park Band Shell completed in 3 weeks. (1931)|
|Grant Park and Chicago Skyline. (Circa 1931)|
|The Petrillo Band Shell, originally located at the south end of Grant Park in Hutchinson Field. It was modeled after the original Hollywood Bowl.|
|The original Grant Park Band Shell at the south end of Grant Park looking north during anti-war demonstrations, Chicago. (1968)|
In 1975, the music shell was renamed to honor James C. Petrillo, president of the Chicago Federation of Musicians from 1922 to 1962 and president of the American Federation of Musicians from 1940 to 1958, who created a free concert series in Grant Park in 1935. Petrillo was a commissioner of the Chicago Park District from 1934 to 1945.
Despite $77,000 in 1977 repair expenditures by the city, the performers were considering cancelling the 1978 season.
In 1972, plans were advanced to build a large new concrete-and-fiberglass band shell atop a new underground parking garage, but community groups defended the Ward restrictions.
A compromise produced the inexpensive, staff-designed, demountable band shell at Grant Park's Butler Field, which opened in 1978.
|The new Petrillo Bandshell, Grant Park, Chicago.|
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
 Deed restrictions dating from the city's early history generally forbid any buildings in Grant Park between Randolph Drive and 11th Place. As the result of a series of Illinois Supreme Court rulings, Grant Park has been "forever open, clear and free" since 1836, which was a year before the city of Chicago was incorporated. In 1839, United States Secretary of War Joel Roberts Poinsett declared the land between Randolph Street and Madison Street east of Michigan Boulevard "Public Ground forever to remain vacant of buildings. Aaron Montgomery Ward, who is known both as the inventor of mail order and the protector of Grant Park, twice sued the city of Chicago to force it to remove buildings and structures from Grant Park and to keep it from building new ones. As a result, the city has what are termed the Montgomery Ward height restrictions on buildings and structures in Grant Park.