Encyclopedia ofChicago
Entries : Fort Sheridan
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Fort Sheridan

 

 

 

Fort Sheridan

Aerial: Fort Sheridan, 1937
Designed by the Chicago architecture firm of Holabird & Roche, Fort Sheridan occupied over 600 acres along Lake Michigan in Highwood, Illinois, from 1887 to 1993. The land had been purchased in 1887 by the Commercial Club of Chicago and donated to the federal government with the hope that the army would use the gift to create a military post near the city. Since the great strikes of 1877, members of the Commercial Club had supported the use of the army as a national police force for the protection of property and the suppression of labor unrest. After the Haymarket Affair of 1886, Commercial Club members were determined to bring a U.S. Army post to the city to have troops available immediately if needed. Fully supporting this plan was the Civil War hero and commanding general himself, Philip H. Sheridan. After Congress accepted the gift, over the objections of western senators whose local posts were being closed down, construction began in the spring of 1888. Soon afterward, President Grover Cleveland named the post in honor of General Sheridan.

Troops from Fort Sheridan responded only once to labor unrest, in 1894 during the Pullman strikes. In 1898, during the Spanish American War, Fort Sheridan became a mobilization, training, and administrative center and continued to house these functions through World War II, when over 500,000 men and women were processed through military service at the fort. From 1953 to the 1970s, Fort Sheridan fought the Cold War by servicing and supplying all NIKE antimissile systems in the upper Midwest. After 1973 the post again housed administrative and logistical support services. In 1988 Fort Sheridan was among those slated for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and in 1993 the army post was closed.

After Fort Sheridan was slated for closure, residents of the area formed the Fort Sheridan Joint Planning Commission and developed a reuse plan with public participation. Environmental analysis identified landfills, pesticide storage areas, asbestos-containing material, PCB-containing transformers, unexploded ordnance, and a variety of petroleum products and metals in the soil and groundwater. Environmental cleanup began in 1993. Ninety-four buildings, including 64 designed by Holabird & Roche, are situated on the 110-acre Historic District, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984. An Army Reserve base continues to use about 90 acres. The remaining property is divided between a golf course and a variety of ongoing commercial and residential developments.

Bibliography
Smith, Nina B. “ ‘This Bleak Situation’: The Founding of Fort Sheridan, Illinois.” Illinois Historical Journal 80 (1987): 13.
Sorenson, Martha E. View from the Tower: A History of Fort Sheridan, Illinois. 1985.