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McKinley Park: Where Cut-Rate Condos Overlook the Park

The next stop on our week long tour of Chicago's Emerald Necklace takes us North along Western Boulevard, to McKinley Park, located adjacent to the historic Central Manufacturing District and serving the Brighton Park and McKinley Park neighborhoods.

In October of 1901, one month after the assassination of President McKinley, the South Park Commission officially named a new and still undeveloped park in his honor. Experimental in location and plan, this park proved to be nationally important. At the time, Chicago's existing parks were far away from the filthy, noisy, overcrowded tenement neighborhoods in the center of the city. Superintendent J. Frank Foster envisioned a new type of park that would provide much needed quality of life improvements to these areas. To test the idea, in 1901 the park commission began acquiring property near the Union Stockyards. Composed of open prairie and cabbage patches, the site had previously been the Brighton Park Race Track.

The experimental McKinley Park originally offered ball fields, lawn tennis, swimming and wading lagoon, and a lovely classically-designed bathhouse. More than 10,000 people attended the park's dedication on June 13, 1902. The effort was so successful that the following year the South Park Commission began creating a whole system of new neighborhood parks for the south side. Opened to the public in 1905, the first ten were: Sherman, Ogden, Palmer, Bessemer, and Hamilton Parks, and Mark White, Russell, Davis, Armour, and Cornell Squares. These innovative community parks were so popular, they became a model for other neighborhood parks across the United States.

McKinley Park received such intensive use, that in 1906, the SPC acquired adjacent property, doubling its acreage. The designers expanded the existing wading pool into a large naturalistic lagoon with several small wooded islands. They also introduced a children's playground, a music court plaza, open-air gymnasiums, and the following decade, a field house.

At the entrance of the park stands a statue of president William McKinley. At the time of
construction, the United States was in the midst of a recession and sculptor Charles Mulligan came up with a creative means of saving money on materials. Mulligan acquired a publicly scorned statue of Christopher Columbus that once sat on the lakefront at Congress Parkway. He melted the mocked Columbus and recast the statue in the likeness of William McKinley.

McKinley Park continues to serve Chicago's West Side by providing meeting rooms and assembly halls, outdoor spaces for baseball and basketball, a gym, gymnastic programs, paths for walking, jogging, and cycling, tennis courts, swimming facilities, a spray pool, and a water playground. It is also conveniently serviced by the 35th/Archer Orange Line stop, located just two blocks away.

Featured Property

After a brief absence of properties with true park views, we bring you a 1BD + den, 1BA, 900-square-foot loft in the McKinley Park Lofts development at 2323 W. Pershing Rd. Once the symbol of a gentrifying neighborhood, this 2005 development struggled to sell out amid the downturn and many current properties are listed at fractions of their initial purchase prices. But the seller's loss is the buyer's gain. Listed for $134,900, unit 324 features a living space with true park views, a balcony, hardwood floors, a new kitchen, in unit laundry and includes parking. Building amenities include dog park, bike storage and a complete fitness center.

You might be wondering what the catch is, aside from neighboring units marked down to outrageously low prices, it seems that this starter apartment lead to a starter family, witnessed by the unavoidable 'crib of death' listing photograph.
· Listing: 2323 W. Pershing Rd. #324 [Redfin]