|“New Gymnasium and Natatorium at Douglas Park,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 1896.|
Agreeing to the request, the commissioners soon hired Bohemian immigrant architect Frank Randak (1861-1926) to design the facility. He produced a brick natatorium with turrets, pitched roofs, and open courtyards that had separate outdoor pools for men and women. Randak’s complex included a quarter-mile-long running track with gymnastics apparatus—parallel and horizontal bars, trapezes, swings, vaulting horses, and ladders in the center of the oval.
|With separate pools for men and women, the 1896 Douglas Park natatorium was the first swimming facility in a Chicago park. Douglas Park Men's pool. (1900)|
|This photo of the women’s pool dates from 1914.|
The impact of changing recreational trends accelerated over the course of the 20th century.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.