To acquire … and hold lands … containing one or more natural forests or lands connecting such forests or parts thereof, for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauties within such district, and to restore, restock, protect, and preserve the natural forests and said lands together with their flora and fauna, as nearly as may be, in their natural state and condition, for the purpose of the education, pleasure, and recreation of the public. Cook County Commissioners 1905
1904 had been a tough year for Chicagoans, especially south siders - Chicago lost the Summer Olympics to St. Louis and the Streetcar and Stockyard Strikes. put many people in financial, physical and even mortal jeopardy - scabs opened fire from rail cars used by the packers to safely transport them to and from the yards and killed several strikers.
Orchestra Hall was completed largely through the subscriptions of the Swift, Armour. Schwarzschild & Sulzberger packinghouse barons. Very few stockyard workers attended the symphony, I would hazard a guess.
What did working people do and where did they go for relaxation? What was available to them? Saloons. Church. Union Halls.
The Great Conservationist was in the White House. President Teddy had designated vast tracks of land for the edification, enjoyment and education of the American people.
It seems that in 1905, a few like-minded public servants did the same.
Some brilliant people staked out 68,000 acres of field, wood and water around and within the City of Chicago and gave us the Cook County Forest Preserve District.
This soul tonic of a resource is one of the wonders of living where we do - one wonders if a contemporary public official has the heart and brains to match the vision of the 1905 County Commissioners.
Following the lead of Dr. John Rauch's Public Parks, City of Chicago (Chicago, 1869), the great sanitarian who fought Yellow Fever and cholera here and beyond Chicago, some clear headed people put the Forest Preserve into being just after the 1904 strikes and the loss of Olympics.
The 1905 document calling for the creation of a Forest Preserve District was weakly written and it was not until 1911 that the dream came to life.
From that time, the common man, as well as the swell, had his own 'green retreats.' Dan Ryan Woods, Maple Lake, Willow Slough, Joe Louis Golf Course, Brookfield Zoo, Arie Crown Botanic Gardens, Busse Woods, Desplaines River Trail and Camp Dan Beard became places where the grey canyon of La Salle Street, or the red dust of Hegewisch might be forgotten for a couple of restorative hours.
- Chicago kids could take nature hikes, toboggan, sled, swim, play football, softball and jog.
- Old Timers could take their Kerry Blue, or mixed mutt breed out for a chase of a tennis ball.
- Lovers could neck.
- Families could barbecue, picnic, camp and relax.
- Children at the Nature Stations like Little Red Schoolhouse could learn about the flora and fauna of Cook County
- Teens learned to 'drink responsibly
All photos of Dan Ryan Woods