As I’ve said before, I haven’t spent that much time in Lincoln Park, personally. I think I’ve been to Lincoln Park Zoo maybe five times in my life (my family preferred Brookfield Zoo) and while I’ve driven past the park on Lake Shore Drive probably a dozen times or more, I haven’t spent much time in the park itself.
While researching this post, I found one thing that was surprising. Lincoln Park is apparently 150% the size of Central Park. It probably wouldn’t take as long to explore, however, since, at seven miles in length, Lincoln Park is four times as long and, at 1500 feet wide, is only about half as wide.
Lincoln Park is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago History Museum (formerly known as the Chicago Historical Society), the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, a conservatory (the plant kind, not the music kind) and the usual park amenities — sports fields, playgrounds, public art (including statues of Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln), a field house, and things of that nature. The city website says, in part, “The Chicago Park District is committed to making its facilities accessible to and usable by all patrons and visitors. This commitment is ongoing, proactive and intended to meet the needs of a diversity of individuals with disabilities.” So the park itself should be wheelchair accessible.
Much like Milam Park here in San Antonio, Lincoln Park is built on land that once was the city cemetery (there was also, like with Milam Park, a Catholic cemetery across the street). The story I was told was that they dug up the bodies (with the exception of the Couch family — their mausoleum is visible from LaSalle Street where it intersects with Stockton Drive). The truth is messier than that. The land that was chosen to become the city cemetery was, as so much of Chicago was at the time, swampy and disgusting. The residents worried that they might come down with cholera or something from the corpses stewing in the cemetery, so they started to agitate to have the cemetery removed. Some of the bodies were removed, but then the Great Chicago Fire hit. the fire spread as far north as Fullerton Avenue, which means that the land that had been the city cemetery was in the path of the fire. Many of the grave markers were wood and burned as a result. Near as I can tell, if no one came forward to say “Great-uncle Fred is buried here,” they just left the body there. Artist Pamela Bannos, in her Hidden Truths project, estimates that there are at likely thousands of bodies still left under the park.