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10 Things You Might Not Know About Clarendon Park As It Turns 100

By Josh McGhee | September 22, 2016 5:39am
 The beach house at 4501 N. Clarendon St. was built in 1916, but now suffers from water infiltration and other building code issues.
The beach house at 4501 N. Clarendon St. was built in 1916, but now suffers from water infiltration and other building code issues.
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Preservation Chicago

UPTOWN — Clarendon Park turns 100 years old this year, and to celebrate the Chicago Park District will host a centennial celebration featuring a history lesson of the area, live music, model trains and refreshments.

The celebration will be held at the Clarendon Park Fieldhouse, 4501 N. Clarendon Ave., from noon-3 p.m. Oct. 1.

At 12:30 p.m., Julia Bachrach, author and historian for the Chicago Park District, will give a historical presentation called "Healthful Recreation for the People: History of Clarendon Park."

"Today, we have so many beaches people forget the edge of the lake wasn't always all beaches," Bachrach said.

In the early 1900s, the city reversed the flow of the Chicago River sending Chicago's heavily polluted water west, paving the way for Clarendon Municipal Beach and other beaches along Lake Michigan, she said.

She spoke with DNAinfo on Wednesday to put together this timeline of the area's history:

• When Clarendon Municipal Beach opened in 1916, the "state-of-the-art facility" featured separate open-air lockers for men and women, a smaller building for laundry and a children's playroom, Bachrach said.

• The building was designed by architect C.W. Kallal in a Mediterranean revival style, sometimes referred to as "Italian resort style," according to Preservation Chicago.

• It takes its name from the avenue it sits along honoring the first Earl of Clarendon Edward Hyde, who died in 1674, according to the Chicago Park District's website.

• It was built to accommodate more than 9,000 swimmers and featured a promenade that could hold thousands of spectators. The facility provided bathing suits, towels and lockers for 10 cents per adult, Bachrach said.

• In the late 1930s, the park district expanded Lincoln Park to Foster, eliminating Clarendon's lake frontage. The city then converted the facility into "a community center, adding gymnasiums, club rooms, a playground and an athletic field," according to the park district website.

• In 1959, the park district assumed ownership of the community center, according to the park district website.

• In 1972, a major renovation project lead to its signature towers being removed, which eventually led to water infiltration and roof issues.

• In 2015, Preservation Chicago added Clarendon Park Community Center and Field House, 4501 N. Clarendon St., to its annual list of seven historic buildings most in danger of being lost to demolition or decay.

• It's also home to the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club, which has been housed in the basement of the building for more than 50 years.

• Clarendon Park currently sits on more than eight acres of land, including two junior baseball fields, two softball fields, a basketball court, a dog-friendly area and a playground with an interactive water play area, according to the Chicago Park District.

Three young women laughing at Clarendon Park Beach in 1927. [Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum]

Beach-goers using a blanket to lift up a boy at the Clarendon Park Beach in 1929. [Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum]

Clarendon Park Beach and clubhouse in 1916. [Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum]

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