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Table of Contents > Chapter 11

South Lakefront (continued)

Hyde Park began to take on the characteristics of a small New England town, reflecting the background of most of its early residents. The suburb even had a small commons located on 53rd Street and the lakefront. Moreover, as with many other small towns, the train depot became the center of activity. Before the town hall was constructed, the IC Station served as a meeting place for community organizations. By the late 1860s the entire township, stretching to 130th Street, numbered about 3.000 people, and Paul Cornell and other real estate developers began to look for ways to speed up development on the South Side.

At the end of the Civil War, Cornell headed a group which called for the creation of a park system south of Chicago. After suffering several defeats, pro-park forces succeeded in getting a bill through the Illinois General Assembly. Cornell was considered the "father of the South Park System," so it is not surprising that his settlement was surrounded by the largest and most beautiful of the parks. Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance formed the southern boundary of Hyde Park, while Washington Park bordered it on the west: thus the community took on the appearance of an island surrounded by greenery (See Fig. 1). The parks became strong selling points for Hyde Park developers, and years later they provided natural boundaries between Hyde Park and the economic and demographic changes going on around it (See Fig. 2).

Meanwhile, transportation improved for Hyde Park residents. In 1869, the same year the South Park System was created, the Chicago and Calumet Railroad began to run a "steam dummy" train along 55th Street and up Cottage Grove Avenue. This rail line connected with the horsecar line at 39th Street and provided residents of western Hyde Park with easy access to Chicago. In 1870 the town had 1,000 inhabitants, while the township as a whole had grown to 3,600. Cornell's original settlement continued to be populated by businessmen and professionals, though others were moving in to provide services for the middle class. In 1872 the township was granted a "village" government by the General Assembly in order to expand services for the growing population.

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Figure 1: Midway Plaisance, c. 1909.

Figure 2: Promontory Point, 1937.

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