Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Rich Map : Prairie Avenue
Worlds of Prairie Avenue (Essay)  |  Prairie Avenue Elite in 1886 (Map)  |  Prairie Avenue Gallery  |  Neighborhood Change, 1853-2003 (Essay)  |  Prairie Avenue, 1853-2003 (Map)
Rich Map
Prarie Avenue
Prairie Avenue Gallery
Working on Prairie Avenue
Town Building
The Reach of Prairie Avenue Businesses
Prairie Avenue Politics
Homes Away From Home
Prairie Ave Gallery : Leisure

Washington Park Race Track, Derby Day, c.1900

In 1883, some 500 prominent Chicagoans formed the Washington Park Jockey Club. Within a year, the club purchased land just south of Washington Park and established a race track that, for the next twenty years, was both Chicago's premier horseracing venue and an exclusive social club for its wealthy members. On American Derby Day in the spring racing season, wealthy Chicagoans (such as Arthur Meeker Jr., Fred Stephenson, Miss Marjorie Burns, and Mrs. Arthur Caton pictured here) went to the race track along with more than ten thousand other race fans to watch the high stakes race. In 1896, architect Solon Beman built a club house and C. B. McDonald built a short nine-hole golf course in the center of the track for the club's members. The prestige of both the track and the club were short-lived. In 1905, a gambling ban forced the race track to close. By that time, new, larger golf courses and the residential dispersion of elite members marked the club's decline as well.

See also: Gambling; Golf; Horse Racing

Clippings on Twentieth Century Club

The origins of Chicago's Twentieth Century Club lay in the belief that the creation of a cultural and literary club composed of members from the city's best families could help Chicago overcome its reputation for coarseness. Spearheaded by Mrs. George R. Genevieve Jones Grant of Prairie Avenue and several of her friends, the club was organized to replicate similar organizations in New York and elsewhere. Potential members were nominated and vetted before they were offered membership. The club suffered from open tensions over control the club and the nature of its cultural and social activities. This page from Jones's father Fernando's scrapbook provides a sense of the club's mission, the social struggles of the rapidly growing city, and the elite's consciousness about the city's reputation compared to that of its chief rival, New York.

See also: Art Institute of Chicago; Clubs, Literary