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A Park So Big, You Can Lose a Circus in It

By Sam Cholke | September 28, 2016 9:39am | Updated on September 30, 2016 11:50am

Photo credit: Daily Overview | Image (c) 2016, DigitalGlobe, Inc.
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WASHINGTON PARK — Washington Park is big — so big it makes a giant circus tent look tiny.

We wouldn’t know that unless a satellite hadn’t passed over the 372-acre park on the South Side when UniverSoul Circus was in town.

The circus is now in the park, with shows running through Oct. 2 for anyone who wants to see how big the “big top” really is to fit 2,000 people in it along with all the performers and acrobats.

It’s put park designer Frederick Law Olmsted’s “South Open Green” into perspective, too. You can see how there could have been room for sheep to graze alongside baseball games and cricket matches.

Yes, those little white rectangles in the middle of the meadow are cricket pitches, still popular on weekends for matches. That’s not a new thing either. Though cricket has never really caught on in the United States, the game has had a permanent home in Washington Park since the early 20th century, though other early features have not fared as well.

It would be hard now to pick out where the toboggan slides, archery ranges and zoo once were.

One of the largest structures now missing from the park is its conservatory, which was once ran formed the eastern border of the sunken garden is on Cottage Grove Avenue, the front yard of the DuSable Museum of African American History, which was the south parks administration building when the conservatory was torn down in the 1930s.

The park hasn’t lost any of its acreage though and standing in the middle of it, it feels like the biggest park in the city. But it’s not even the biggest park on the South Side.


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