Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
Growing up along the Water

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Swimming at Pools and Lagoons

By the early twentieth century, Chicagoans had begun to create swimming areas beyond the natural waterways in the region. Many were built in the small parks of Chicago’s dense industrial neighborhoods. Swimming also moved indoors with public paths and natatoriums. Many of the initial generation of indoor pools were built to provide community access to showers and baths in neighborhoods where indoor plumbing was rudimentary. For the first time, boys and girls could swim yearround and remain clean. But pools also involved swimming on a schedule, with lots of adults and rules.

Davis Square, Outdoor Pool, 1907

During the first decades of the twentieth century, a system of playgrounds and small parks were created in densely settled neighborhoods. In addition to playgrounds, ball fields, and gymnasiums, many of these small parks included outdoor pools. Children in neighborhoods like Back of the Yards, at some distance from Lake Michigan, now had ready access to summer swimming.

See also: Playgrounds and Small Parks; New City; Back of the Yards; Swimming

Children Wading in Union Park Lake, 1912

Union Park on Chicago’s Near West Side was one of the city’s first public parks. When this lake was created in the mid-nineteenth century, it was envisioned as a scenic backdrop for people walking or riding through the park. By 1912, children waded in the small lake on hot summer days. Note that while some of the children had bathing suits, others were wading in what appears to be their street clothes.

See also: Playgrounds and Small Parks; Near West Side; Leisure

Wading, Austin Park, 1909

Lagoons in larger parks like this one in Austin, were also used for swimming and wading by the early twentieth century.

See also: Park Districts; Austin; Swimming

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