Park History

The Midway Plaisance was designed in 1871 by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed New York City’s Central Park. During the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the Midway was home to restaurants, attractions, and various exhibits, as well as the world’s first ferris wheel.

LINK: Souvenir map of the World’s Columbian Exposition at Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance

Chicago History Museum Images: Amateur Photographs of the World’s Columbian Exposition

After the fair ended, Olmstead proposed that the Midway be turned into a canal, though that proved to be an expensive and complicated proposition. Instead, the land was converted to the park that it is today.

The Midway has since undergone a series of renovations that improved the park’s landscaping and lighting and also added features like the ice rink and Allison Davis Garden.

In 1999 the “Midway Plaisance Master Plan” was conceptualized in coordination with the Chicago Park District, the University of Chicago, and local community members. The plan received a Merit Award in 2000 from the Illinois Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects.

This Master Plan is a formal record of the community’s hopes for its park along with those of other significant stakeholders (the university and the park district).  It was incorporated into the Chicago Park District’s framework plan for the Midway Plaisance Park in 2000.  Both plans are below.

mpac – Midway Plaisance Master Plan 1999

Midway Plaisance – Chicago Park District Framework Plan 2000

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