The Abandoned Fieldhouse: History of a Chicago Neighborhood Park


River Park has one. Jefferson Park has one. Independence Park has one. Why doesn’t Hollywood Park have a Clarence Hatzfeld-designed fieldhouse?

As this Chicago Tribune (February 1931) clipping shows, Hollywood Park was supposed to have one. Clarence Hatzfeld’s design for a Hollywood Park community house/fieldhouse was approved and work was scheduled to begin. But, instead of a Tudor Revival fieldhouse, generations of Hollywood Park area residents had to make do with a generic bunker that barely had enough space for the ping-pong table.

Blame it on the Great Depression

The Hollywood Park District, formed in 1926, purchased parcels of lands for a park to be bound by Peterson, Christiana, Thorndale and Spaulding. There was to be an assembly hall, parlors, boardrooms, club rooms, secretary’s office, banquet hall, kitchen and playroom. In addition to the fieldhouse, the grounds would include a playground, wading pool, sandbox, outdoor shelter, trees, shrubs, flowers, curving paths, shady nooks and a rock garden. According to the Chicago Tribune article, work on the building was to be rushed, “with a view to having it dedicated at an early date.”

The rock garden, complete with goldfish pond, was built. There was a waterfall and there were trees imported from China and Japan. And then the park commissioners’ well ran dry. Work on the fieldhouse never started.

The Chicago Park District acquired the property in 1934 and following WWII they purchased additional land, expanding the park to its present-day eastern border at Jersey (Kedzie). Later, sometime in the 1950s, the Park District filled in the rock garden and built the current fieldhouse.



My family’s move to Hollywood Park in the early 1960s was an improvement over our life in Budlong Woods in every way except for the profoundly disappointing park itself. Hollywood Park had the facilities–a tennis court, basketball court, baseball diamond, children’s playground and outdoor ice skating–but not much in the way of organized activities. Back at Budlong Woods’ glorious River Park, I had enjoyed countless classes–dance, tumbling, baton twirling, singing, arts and crafts, swimming–even though I was only six at the time we moved.



I’m not saying Hollywood Park wasn’t fun. But what if the plans for a Clarence Hatzfeld-designed fieldhouse hadn’t been abandoned? What a difference it would have made in our young lives and in the community itself.

Sources: (1) HOLLYWOOD PARK COMMUNITY BUILDING FOR NORTHWEST SIDE Hollywood Pk. District to Have New Unit. (1931, February 22). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),24.  Retrieved August 10, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987). (Document ID: 457541732). (2) Chicago Park District website.

Related post: Architect Clarence Hatzfeld designed houses in Chicago’s landmark Villa neighborhood.

Note: Julia Bachrach will be giving a talk, “Architect Clarence Hatzfeld Is Haunting Me,” on October 27, 2010, at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

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7 Responses to The Abandoned Fieldhouse: History of a Chicago Neighborhood Park

  1. Jennifer August 16, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    Great post, Frances! Paul and I love the old fieldhouse architecture — actually I’m forwarding this one to him!

    I remember when our neighborhood fieldhouse at Webster and Lincoln Park West became the Lincoln Park headquarters for the Chicago Police Department during the ’68 Democratic Convention. It was completely taken over by the CPD and I don’t think the place was opened to the community for several years. I also remember it was at that time that the CPD put the police car numbers on the roof of their cars (used to watch them drive up and down Stockton Dr. It was a very, um, strange time to be a kid growing up in Lincoln Park. Might have to write about it sometime;-).

  2. Frances Archer August 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    Jennifer, I didn’t know that building been a fieldhouse. Did you ever go inside?

  3. Christine Hancock August 17, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    Even though I was pretty young when I lived in Portage Park I still have the fondest memories of their Field house at Irving Park & Central. There was a pool and a million other things to do there! Thanks for the fond memories Frances!

  4. Marv August 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    I have great memories of Indian Boundary Park on Lunt Ave in Rogers Park. The park boasted a field house designed by Hartzfeld, tennis courts, and a small zoo for the kids.
    Frances, thanks again.

  5. Frances Archer August 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    Marv, thanks for visiting again. I’ve only once been at Indian Boundary, back when I was a freshman in high school we went to see the zoo. I was so surprised because it wasn’t that far from us but until then I had no idea it existed. It show how much we stayed in our own hoods.

  6. Frances Archer August 17, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi, Chris. Good to hear from you. Portage Park I’ve heard is beautiful and I’ve only see it from riding past on my bicycle. Maybe we should take a field trip together next time we get together.

  7. Frances Archer August 17, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    I received an email from another Peterson School graduate and Von alum. She filled me in what Hollywood Park was like before I started going there and guess what? We remember some of the same activities–outdoor ice skating and hot chocolate from McDonald’s! Here’s her comments:

    “My name is Zola Greene Keller. I grew up in Hollywood Park in the 1950’s to 1965. My family’s house was at 5817 North Spaulding Ave. At the end of my block was Hollywood Park.

    I went to Peterson Elementary School, and then went to Von Steuben for 7th to 12th grade. All my friends used to go to Hollywood Park from early childhood to high school. Great memories, from swinging the baby swings, to ice skating and hot chocolate at McDonalds.

    I remember that Hollywood Park did have a swimming pool, but it was closed and filled in because of the polio epidemic. I remember lining up at Peterson to get the first oral vaccine for Polio. Those were the days when we would have air raid drills, and we would either go under our desks or into the hallways.”

    They were still giving us polio shots at Peterson and having us duck and cover in hallways in my day (I attended Peterson 1963-1970.) Anyone recall when they stopped either the shots or the drills? Thanks, Zola, for your bringing back those memories.

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