The Development of Private and Public Beaches for Recreational Use
The Lincoln Park Board voted to open the city's first public bathing beach on July 1, 1895. The following day, more than three hundred working-class boys from Chicago's North Side, referred to by the papers as "Arabs," went swimming in the lake at the new public beach, most without swimming suits. The Park Commissioners quickly drafted a list of rules and regulations and initiated a plan to construct dressing rooms, lockers, and a pier for the bathers.
Members of the Chicago Beach Hotel wore elaborate swimming costumes as they enjoyed their private beach in the first decades of the twentieth century. They maintained exclusive access to the city's South Side beach until 1915 when the Chicago City Council Finance Committee appropriated $82,000 for the construction of a free bathhouse on the city-owned three acres of land adjacent to the Chicago Beach Hotel.
Windsor Bathing Beach at 75th and the lake, established in the early 1890s, boasted Windsor Beach Hall in G. (George) Nichol's Natatorium and a grand pier. It earned a reputation as one of the cleanest private beaches in the city and advertised as such to attract more paying members. The beach was reclaimed by the city in the early twentieth century to establish a municipal beach that extended from 75th to 77th Streets.
Located near Windsor Bathing Beach, Manhattan Beach (later Rainbow Beach) was a popular spot for middle-class boys and girls to meet in the early decades of the twentieth century. Some religious leaders and conservative politicians opposed this and other private beaches, claiming that they encouraged sexual promiscuity and the consumption of alcohol among minors. Rainbow Beach was also reclaimed by the city and operated as a municipal beach in the 1920s.
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
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