Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Urban Woods

Besides the Daniel Chester French statue in Jackson Park, we also were able to examine Wooded Island in some detail on Sunday. The only other time I had been there was in the early 2000s, during a festival in Jackson Park that included activities at its Japanese garden, which is toward to north end of the island. This time we parked at a lot near Hayes and Cornell, crossed a small bridge and walked northward along one of island's two main paths toward the Museum of Science & Industry -- which is across another bridge. Wooded Island really is an island, between the two lagoons of the park, which are distant echoes of the 1893 Columbian Exposition held in Jackson Park.

Alas, the bridges to and from Wooded Island are only functional in our time -- nothing like this.

There's also very little sense that anything like a world's fair ever happened here as one walks along the forested pathways in June. In fact, except for the ubiquitous sounds of traffic, there's very little sense that you're in a metro area of about nine million people. In the thick of things, no buildings are visible, not even at a distance. The trees are enormous and varied -- oaks, maples, willows, just to name those I recognized -- the underbrush intensely thick, and everything is lush this wet June. Mosquitoes weren't quite the nuisance I expected, and the place was a flutter with butterflies and dragonflies. Only a few people were around, many of them fishing in the lagoon.

South of Wooded Island, but still in Jackson Park, is an 18-hole golf course. We don't visit many golf courses, but were advised it had the closest public restrooms when, after quitting Science & Industry and returning to the car, Lilly expressed the need for one. According to a plaque in the club house, the first course on the site, opened in 1899, was the "the first public golf course west of the Alleghenies," which I suppose counts for something in golf course lore.

Though much different from Wooded Island, it was also hard to imagine the rest of the city from certain vantage points near the course. Such as this one:

The course, it turns out, is a design of the Olmsted Brothers, the son and adopted son of Fredrick Law Olmsted. The old man and his partner Calvert Vaux are best remembered for designing Central Park, as well as the grounds of the Columbian Exposition, while the brothers are best known for designing the parks of Seattle.


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