Columbus Park Historic Shelter and Council Ring Renovation
Chicago Park District
The Chicago Park District planned to restore the historic shelter and council ring at Columbus Park, a historic landscape and structures designed by Jens Jensen from 1917 through 1920. Columbus Park is often considered Jensen’s greatest work and was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. The Children’s Playground, Jensen’s name for this area, was the location of the shelter and council ring as well as a wading pool, sand play area, open lawn area, and dense perimeter planting. It was designed to be an area where children’s imaginations would be stimulated and where creative play could occur within a naturalized setting. The council ring, with its democratic form, encourages group activities and story-telling; the shelter provides escape from the sun and rain; and the shallow wading pool respite from the summer heat. There are also paths and walkways wound through the native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. All of these elements frame a large open lawn area where unstructured creative play can occur.
Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. was retained by the Chicago Park District to develop a restoration plan for the two main features of the playground, the shelter and council ring. Services included historic research and program, design, documentation, and construction phase services. The shelter rehabilitation included new wood frame and trim, a new clay tile roof, new stucco ceiling and soffits, new gutters and downspouts, and tuckpointing the limestone piers. The council ring rehabilitation included tuckpointing the piers and hearth, resetting the limestone bench slabs, and rebuilding piers and slabs that have been lost or damaged. Work also included new flagstone paving in the shelter, a new flagstone walkway near the council ring, a new walkway paved with “old time” screenings that will make the council ring handicap accessible, replacing historic trees and shrubs, and repairing the sand play area that has been buried for decades. Construction was completed in 2004.