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HYDE PARK

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HISTORY
Washington Park

Washington Park is located approximately six miles south of the Chicago loop. It was built just before the Chicago Fire by Hyde Park founder Paul Cornell. Washington Park was known as South Park until 1881, and was one of largest parks of the nineteenth century. The development of Washington Park on Chicago’s south side began in 1869. They employed New York based landscape architects Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux who also designed Central Park in New York. In 1871, landscape architect Horace Cleveland, concerned about the project’s escalating costs, instructed the architect to drop those parts of Olmstead’s plan that required drastic alterations to the existing landscape. Cleveland eliminated plans for a canal and boat harbor. By the early 1880s, Washington Park had begun to take on the appearance of an urban pleasure ground. Several recreational lakes and a music pavilion had been built. Park officials developed a formal botanical gardens after receiving over three thousand donated packages of flower seeds and bulb from cities around the world. In the south part of the park, a pleasure boating lagoon was set amidst hills and a planned connection via the Midway Plaisance to the future Jackson Park’s lagoon and Lake Michigan was designed. In the north half, a Great Sheep Meadow for sports and getting away from an unhealthful urban surrounding was also planned. Features on the west side include the lagoon boat house and fishing pier and nearby Mall, a nature trail, children’s arts and drama building and skating pond and the grand caretaker’s cottage all since gone now. In the center-west south of Morgan is the grand Refectory designed by Daniel Burnham. On the east side were the Stables with its rotunda, and the park headquarters building which is now the DuSable Museum. In the north center of the park is the Meadow, and a set of running and riding trails. Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time was created from concrete in the early 1920’s.

Hyde Park Neighborhood Club
The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club seeks to enhance the quality of life for neighborhood residents from toddlers to seniors by providing recreational, extra-curricular and special needs programming and access to versatile spaces for gatherings within a true community center. As a community partner, HPNC promotes life-long learning, fitness of mind and body, and family support across our richly diverse neighborhood. The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC) was founded in 1909 as part of the settlement house movement, to serve neglected or abandoned youth in the neighborhood. It was deliberately named "the Club" as a reaction to the exclusivity of private clubs of the time. The founders believed everyone was entitled to a club to belong to. Over the years it has redefined its mission to respond to community needs. The Club has been in three locations and has gone in a number of programmatic directions, but it has held fast to the idea that everyone in the community belongs to the Club. Today HPNC serves several hundred people across race, class, generation, and need.

Leopold and Loeb, The Perfect Murder?
On May 21st, 1924, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb kidnapped and murdered Bobby Franks. The Leopold, Loeb, and Franks families resided in the Kenwood area of Hyde Park and were among the area’s wealthy Jewish elite. Leopold and Loeb were accomplished scholars, having attended the most prestigious private schools, and universities and excelled far beyond others of their age. After committing many petty crimes (for entertainment value) they decided that they could commit the perfect crime and not get caught. They decided that this crime would be a kidnapping/murder and that they would ask for $10,000 ransom. After kidnapping, murdering, and dumping the body of Bobby Franks, they promptly sent a well-written ransom letter to the Franks family. Their demands were not met and the police then became involved. After a lengthy, dramatic, scandalous investigation, the two were convicted based on one key bit of evidence: a pair of glasses found at the site of the body. The glasses, they found out after careful examination, had a rare type of hinge used on them. The hinges were only used on 3 pairs of glasses in the Chicago area, and one of those prescriptions was that of Nathan Leopold. The controversy over this case was because the suspects were both from affluent families, Jewish, and homosexual. The prosecution lasted for two days and on September 29th, 1924, the Judge reached his decision. For the crime of murder, confinement at the penitentiary at Joliet for the term of their natural lives and for the crime of kidnapping for ransom, similar confinement for the term of ninety-nine years. The judged urged that the two never be recommended for parole. The glasses are currently housed at the Chicago Historical Society.