The University of Chicago News Office
April 27, 2006 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

University of Chicago helps celebrate 125th anniversary of Washington Park

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Washington Park, the Washington Park Advisory Council and the Civic Knowledge Project at the University of Chicago are holding a month-long celebration of the park's history and natural attractions. All of the events are open to the public and, except for the May 7 dinner, are free. For more information, call Elizabeth Babcock at (773) 834-3929.

Sunday, May 7

3 p.m., Refectory just east of 5531 S. King Dr., Chicago

Enjoy a buffet dinner, an exhibition of some historic treasures of Washington Park, and lecture by local historian and Roosevelt University professor emeritus Christopher Reed. Bring your treasured photos of Washington Park and have them digitized while you eat. Leave with your photos on a complementary Treasures of Washington Park CD. Cost is $25 and all proceeds go toward the renovation and making of a playground in Washington Park disabled accessible.

Saturday, May 20

1 p.m., Washington Park Field House, 5531 S. King Dr., Chicago

Join tour leaders Cecilia Butler, President of the Washington Park Advisory Council, and University of Chicago graduate students Moira Hinderer and Anne Stephenson for a walking tour of the park. Learn about the park's initial design and its change over time. This tour will highlight the symbolic dimensions of Washington Park in discourses of race and class. It will end at the historic location of the Washington Park Forum. A public debate will be staged with current members of the forum and local school debate teams.

The Washington Park Forum, also known as the "Bug Club," is an open-air forum for the public discussion of ideas. The club's presence in the park can be officially traced back to the early 1920s, but many say a meeting place existed well before. Local folklore suggests that before modern settlement Native Americans met in the area to discuss important issues.

Over time, the Forum drew a larger and more diverse audience including African Americans and communists who came to see nationally renowned speakers. All who attended were free to speak. The South Park Board tried to prevent these meetings but their effort was unsuccessful and in 1930, the Chicago Park District officially made the site in the northwest corner of the park "a place for public gathering." At the time of the race riots in 1919 the Bug Club was integrated with an African American chairman. However, due to the increasing marginalization of African Americans in the local community, a separate African American forum was founded in 1930. This forum has met every Sunday, in good weather, since that time.

Saturday, May 27

11 a.m., Washington Park Field House, 5531 S. King Dr., Chicago

Enjoy a tour of the prominent sites mentioned in local author James Farrell's novels. The tour will be led by Ellen Skerrett and John Lillig. Skerrett is a historian and archivist at Loyola University Chicago and is is the author and editor of a number of texts on Chicago history including, Catholicism, Chicago Style and Chicago: City of Neighborhoods. Lillig is an English teacher at St. Ignatius College Prep.

Tuesday, June 6

10 a.m., Washington Park Field House, 5531 S. King Dr., Chicago

Children and their parents are invited to enjoy a day of learning activities in the park. The Field Museum's mobile soil station will be on site. Local schools are invited to participate.
Last modified at 03:15 PM CST on Thursday, April 27, 2006.

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