Neighborhood Parks

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Jefferson Park, in Chicago, Illinois. The Jefferson Park District was established in 1920 to provide neighborhood parks for Chicago's rapidly-developing northwest side community, and began to purchase land for this park in 1921. The District was one of twenty-two parks commissions consolidated into the Chicago Park District in 1934. Courtesy of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Illinois Digital Heritage Hub.

Since the late nineteenth century, calls arose for more distributed systems of parks throughout American cities. Growing cities were enfolding the "rural" parks built on what had once been their outskirts, the well-to-do were building stately homes around the now-desireable park locations, and civic leaders felt that working people rarely visited the large parks because of strenuous work schedules and the difficulties of traveling long distances.

It was also believed that the proper "ventilation" of a city was a primary factor in the health of its residents. Parks and open spaces served as lungs generating "currents of air which sweep through neighboring streets cooling the atmosphere and raising noxious effluvia out of harm's way." (E. R. L. Gould, "Park Areas and Open Spaces in Cities," 1888.)

Social and health concerns such as these led many cities to devote resources to creating smaller neighborhood parks that would provide easy access to open or recreational space in order to "recuperate waning energies by physical exercise or quiet rest in the midst of delightful surroundings." (E. R. L. Gould)

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, for example, park planners decided that no resident should be further than six blocks from a public park. Residents were typically pleased to support park creation as it increased their property values, as well as providing attractive recreational space.