DuSable Park









Site of the future DuSable Park
Photo Courtesy of Friends of the Parks

Despite a renewed interest in his life, DuSable has not received the full recognition he deserves as the first permanent non-Native American settler and founder of modern Chicago. DuSable Heritage Association works with the Chicago Park District in planning a future DuSable Park near Navy Pier, where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan and close to DuSable’s original home.

DUSABLE PARK, dedicated as parkland in 1988 by the late Mayor Harold Washington, is located where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan. Developing this park site provides an opportunity to celebrate Chicago's origins. DuSable Park is named for Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, the first non-native settler and founding father of Chicago. 

The 3.5 acre park site is also a critical piece of Chicago's lakefront park system. The park is very much desired by lakefront park advocates and residents in the nearby Streeterville and Near East Side neighborhoods, as well as Chicagoans desiring to commemorate Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable's contributions to Chicago and its diversity.

A public river walk connects DuSable Park with Pioneer Court on Michigan Avenue. Alderman Burt Natarus introduced and passed a resolution designating this river esplanade as DuSable Founders Way. The DuSable Founders Way, like DuSable Park, would include historic plaques and signage about Chicago's founding at the confluence of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

DuSable Park Chronology

DuSable Park is a three and a half acre undeveloped site situated where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan. A concrete and steel seawall currently forms the boundary with the water on three sides: on the north, with Ogden Slip, a public navigable waterway; on the south, with the Chicago River; and on the east with Lake Michigan. The western boundary is Lake Shore Drive. 

1770's Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable established a prosperous farm and trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River (now the site of the Tribune Tower) 

1857 The DuSable Park site, then shallow coastal land, was part of the grant of 46 acres of land to Dock and Canal Company, which promoted commercial and industrial development in the area, but retained ownership of the underlying land. 

1893 The DuSable Park site was filled in by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, possibly as part of the Chicago Dock and Canal Ship Basin Project (now known as Ogden Slip), to connect cargo boats with railroads at North Pier. 

1906 Lindsay Light & Chemical Co. Operated in the area owned by Dock and Canal Company. With its main facility at 161 E. Grand Avenue, Lindsay Light extracted thorium from monazite ore. The waste included radioactive tailings.

Dedication ceremony for DuSable Founders Way.

1928 The National DeSaible Memorial Society (since 1966 the Chicago DuSable League) was formed to commemorate and promote appreciation of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable as the first colonial settler and founding father of Chicago. 

1962 The Chicago Dock & Canal Company, reorganized as the Chicago Dock & Canal Trust, begins a master plan for residential and commercial development. 

1985 This development was approved as a 40 acre planned development with three open space areas dedicated to the Chicago Park District: River Esplanade, Ogden Park, and the future park to be named by Mayor Harold Washington in 1987 for DuSable. 

1988 Ownership of the DuSable Park site was transferred to the Chicago Park District through a quit claim deed. 

1996 Keer-McGee and River East L.L.C. are named as the parties responsible for investigating & cleaning up suspected radioactive contamination in Streeterville, including DuSable Park. 

1998 The Amended Planned Development for River East Development included DuSable Park with a matched contribution from the private development corporation from the private development corporation, MCL, totaling $600,000. 

1999/2000 Chicago Park District budget includes $1,200,000 for development of DuSable Park; The B.F. Ferguson Fund of the Art Institute of Chicago commissions internationally renowned sculptor, Martin Puryear to create a commemorative sculpture for Dusable Park. 

2000 Chicago Park District's proposal for a temporary parking lot on the DuSable Park site creates a public outcry, and the DuSable Park Coalition is formed, composed of park advocacy, community organizations, and groups desiring to commemorate DuSable. 

2001 Laurie Palmer, School of the Art Institute, invites DuSable Park proposals for 3 Acres on the Lake; DuSable Park Coalition with the Chicago Architecture Foundation presented an exhibition of the Dusable Park designs and hosted a symposium: Hidden in Plain View. 

2003 With Support of public officials (local, state and federal), the Chicago Park District makes significant progress to develop DuSable Park, including:

Dedication ceremony for DuSable Founders Way.

  • Environmental clean-up

  • Establishment of the Dusable Park Steering Committee

  • Formulation of concept plan for DuSable Park which includes the Art Institute's (Ferguson Fund) commission with Martin Peryear, internationally renowned artist

  • Amendment to Planned Development #368 which clarifies access issues and establishes responsibilities and schedule. 

2004 Chicago Park District includes DuSable Park in the Capital improvement Budget and releases a Request for Proposals for the design/engineering contract with selection scheduled for November and park construction in 2006. Alderman Natarus introduced and passed an ordinance designating the river esplanade between DuSable Park and Pioneer Court on Michigan Ave., as the DuSable Founders Way."

DuSable Park Steering Committee

The Art Institute

Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad, Chicago Chapter

Bronzeville Children’s Museum

Chicago DuSable League

Chicago River Rowing and Paddling Center

DuSable Heritage Association

DuSable Park Project

Friends of the Chicago River

Friends of DuSable

Friends of DuSable Park

Friends of the Parks

Grant Park Conservancy

Grant Park Advisory Council

Midwest Association of Haitian American Women

Near Eastside Association of Residents (NEAR)

Streeterville Organization for Active Residents (SOAR)


DHA is grateful to Friends of the Parks for much of the content of this page.


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DuSable Heritage Association
P.O. Box 6121
Chicago, IL 60680
Tel/Fax:  (312) 938-0341

Tel/Fax:  (312) 938-0341