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The Chicago History Museum’s Jaffee History Trail is now open! The interpretive path through the park space around the Museum incorporates features such as a fire relic from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Couch Tomb, a reminder that the area was once a Chicago city cemetery. Developed in partnership with the Chicago Park District and support of neighborhood groups, the Jaffee History Trail creates a new destination at Lincoln Park’s southwestern corner. 

Each stop on the Jaffee History Trail explores aspects of Chicago’s personality, highlighting the city’s resilience, connections, and complexity. As you move along the trail, be sure to: 

  • Visit the native species garden where you can identify native plants and trace plant shapes etched into the garden’s boulders.  
  • Take in a collection of community-inspired kinetic sculptures by local artist Bernard Williams 
  • Stop by the open pedestal, which invites you to consider what your legacy will be.  

The new landscaping includes approximately 150 young trees and large beds of native plants, which will attract birds and other pollinators. 

This project included renovation to our underground storage facility, which is directly below the plaza and houses the Museum’s 23,000 linear feet of archives and manuscripts. Renovations upgraded the structural integrity of the space and modernized the interior. This project will be ongoing through the first half of 2022 (estimated timeframe).  

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Trail Stops

Expand each box to learn more. 

Chicago is Resilient

At this station, you’ll encounter a seven-ton relic of melted metal created in the heat of the Chicago Fire as a hardware store burned. Learn more about how the city rebuilt and how Chicago’s identity was formed. 

Chicago is Zhegagonyak

Here you’ll discover more about Chicago’s indigenous history and the large Native community in Chicago today. Explore a touchable map featuring content developed by Bmejwen, Kyle Malott, Potawatomi language speaker and citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. 

Chicago is Curious

Take a closer look at the Couch Tomb and learn about the unique history of Chicago’s early cemeteries once located in this park.  

Chicago is Complex

In this shady spot, take a moment to contemplate the complexities of history and think about how challenging history today can help create a better future.  

Chicago is Community

Explore twelve kinetic sculptures developed by Chicago artist Bernard Williams and Chicago Park District Cultural Centers around the city, who each completed the sentence “Community is ______” to inspire the artist.  

Legacy

At this pedestal, take a moment to read Dr. Margaret Burrough’s poem “What will your Legacy Be?” and imagine what impacts you can make.  

Chicago is Natural

Here, enjoy graceful native plants and trees surrounding a low-lying rain garden. Learn more about Chicago’s close connection to water throughout its history to the present day. Look for silhouettes of native plants on the boulders around the garden, with names in English and Potawatomi. 

Chicago is Connected

At this station, you’ll explore how for thousands of years, Chicago has been a gathering place where people meet to do business and create their homes. In the last 150 years, that role was solidified by the growth of the railroad–echoed in the track design of this station. 


Additional FAQs

Is the Abakanowicz Research Center still open?

The Abakanowicz Research Center remains open, and published material, prints, and photographs are still available. Archives, manuscripts, and maps, with the exception of some small collections, will not available to researchers through the first half of 2022 (estimated timeframe). If you have specific questions, please email [email protected].

What languages are used on the trail signs?

The interpretation on the trail is in English and Spanish. The station key words, land acknowledgment, and plant names at the Chicago is Natural stop were written in Potawatomi language by Bmejwen, Kyle Malott, Potawatomi language speaker and citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. 

Is entry into the park free?

Yes, the Jaffee History Trail is open to the public for everyone to enjoy.


Community Partners

We are grateful for the support Ald. Michele Smith and Sheila Pacione, Director of Constituent Services and Infrastructure, and our supportive community partners who have provided guidance and letters of support for this important project:

  • Amy Lemar, Wintrust Old Town
  • Dorothy DeCarlo, Old Town Triangle Association
  • Ellen Isaacson, Lincoln Park Advisory Council
  • Kim Schilf, Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce
  • Kevin Bell, Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Michael Pitts, Moody Bible Church
  • Randall Dunn, Latin School of Chicago

Donor Acknowledgement

The Chicago History Museum gratefully acknowledges the generosity of the following donors to capital improvements in 2021:

Research Collection Facility

  • The Abakanowicz Arts and Culture Charitable Foundation
  • Bon & Holly French
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources
  • Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Richard M. and Shirley H. Jaffee History Trail Trailblazers Honor Roll

As of June 30, 2021

  • BMO Harris Bank, N.A
  • Bon and Holly French  
  • The Grainger Foundation  
  • The Guild of the Chicago History Museum  
  • ITW Foundation  
  • Phyllis and Bob Jaffee  
  • Edgar D. Jannotta  
  • Oil-Dri Corporation of America  
  • Stanley Paul  
  • The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation  
  • Larry and Mary Selander  
  • Allan H. and Suzanne L. Selig 

Project Contributors


In the Media

Press Release

Please direct all media inquiries to [email protected].


Make your mark on the Jaffee History Trail 

There are many opportunities to make your mark along the Jaffee History Trail. From honoring a loved one with a park bench on the Museum Plaza to naming the new Parisian-style outdoor seating area at the North & Clark Café, we can customize the right gift for you. For more information, contact Michael Anderson, vice president of external engagement and development, at [email protected] Donate today to support this community project.

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