Monday, May 18, 2020

The History of the Springfield Tank Natatorium at Beilfuss Park in Chicago.

The West Chicago Park Commission laid out Humboldt, Garfield, and Douglas Parks in 1869.

In the early 1900s, some of the independent Chicago Park Districts began building natatorium facilities with showers, indoor swimming pools, and gyms, to provide public bathing (Bath Houses) and recreational opportunities to the city's community parks with the quickly increasing number of residents. 

By 1915, Mayor Carter H. Harrison II and the West Chicago Park Commission had hit upon the idea of building natatoriums adjacent to city water pumping stations to take advantage of the excess steam generated there. The Springfield Avenue natatorium, nicknamed "The Springfield Tank," was adjacent to the pumping station in the Humboldt Park Community. It was one of three such facilities under construction that year. The others were the Roseland Natatorium (later Griffith Natatorium, in Block Park) and the Central Park Avenue (Jackson) Natatorium. 
The Springfield Tank at Beilfuss Park in Chicago
On March 29, 1915, at the suggestion of Mayor Harrison, the Special Park Commission named the new Humboldt Park facility in honor of late ten-term Republican Alderman, A.W. Beilfuss (1854-1914). A native of Germany and a printer by trade, Beilfuss was serving as Special Park Commission Chairman at the time of his death.

The current "Chicago Park District" was created in 1934 by the Illinois Legislature under the Park Consolidation Act. By provisions of that act, the Chicago Park District consolidated and superseded the then-existing 22 separate park districts in Chicago, the largest three of which were the Lincoln Park, West Park, and South Park Districts, all of which had been established in 1869.
Beilfuss Park, 1725 North Springfield Avenue, Chicago.
The Beilfuss Natatorium, located at 1725 North Springfield Avenue, was so popular that by 1935 it drew more than 300,000 patrons. During World War II, boys from Beilfuss Park began to publish a local-interest newsletter that was circulated to former patrons serving in the military around the world. During the same period, the Chicago Park District installed a playground adjacent to the natatorium, as well as an athletic field, that during the winter months, was flooded for ice skating.

The park district replaced the original play equipment with a new soft surface playground in 1992. In 1998, the out of date, 1915 natatorium was razed. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. We spent many a summer afternoon at Springfield tank, sometimes with a stop at the doughnut shop (Johnny's?) on Armitage, just west of Springfield.

    This solves another childhood mystery: "Who or what is a Beilfuss?"

  2. Used to swim here back in the early 60s. Live in Texas now (have since '76) and haven't thought of Springfield Tank in I don't know how long. Sorry to read it is gone but not surprised. It was a rather old building when I was going there. Sign me, "Turn Key".

  3. As kids we swam at Springfield Tank back in the 1940s. You took a shower and were checked by a lifeguard who made sure that you had really washed yourself and then swam in the nude. There were half hour sessions, either all boys or all girls, never at the same time. I got my junior lifeguard card there. I'll be 90 in July, so the Tank is a distant memory.

    1. I learned to swim there in the middle 50's. We used to sit on the outer steps and wait for opening time so we could be first in the water. So many memories.

  4. Replies
    1. Indeed he did. I remember swinging on the rope he used to swing on. At least, that’s what we were told around 1970 or so.

  5. Springfield tank was the first pool I ever swam in. Me & my brother & sister used to walk there from our house on Springfield & Grand and wait for it to open. We all had towel/bathing suit rolls under our arms. Great memories of the tank.


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