The Chicago History Museum’s Jaffee History Trail is an interpretive path through the park space around the Museum. The trail 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 southwest 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.

Guided Tours

Guided tours of the Jaffee History Trail are available this summer. For more information, visit our Adult Group Tours page.

Daffodils & Couch Tomb on the Jaffee Trail
Exhibition-Jaffee-History-Trail-Couch Tomb_2022
Children’s Fountain at south entrance of Jaffee Trail

Trail Stops

Chicago is Resilient
At this station, you’ll encounter a seven-ton metal relic 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.

At this pedestal, take a moment to read Dr. Margaret Burroughs’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.

Native Flora


Red Oak: Attracts game birds, game mammals, migrant birds, and small mammals
Swamp White Oak: Attracts game birds, game mammals, migrant birds, and small mammals
Bur Oak: Attracts game birds, game mammals, migrant birds, and small mammals
Accolade Elm: Attracts migrant birds
Exclamation London Planetree: Attracts birds, insect pollinators, and small mammals
Skyline Honeylocust: Attracts migrant birds, game birds, and small mammals
River Birch: Attracts game birds, insect pollinators, small mammals, songbirds
Black Hills Spruce: Attracts browsers, nesting birds, and songbirds
Wintergreen Arborvitae: Attracts birds, browsers, and small mammals
Common Witchhazel: Attracts birds and butterflies
Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn: Attracts game birds, migrant birds, nesting birds, and songbirds
Blackhaw Viburnum: Attracts birds and butterflies


Black Chokeberry: Attracts pollinators and birds for the nectar and fruit
Buttonbush: Attracts pollinators and birds for nectar


Ornamental Chive
Big Beauty Onion
Pennsylvania Sedge
Sienna Sunset Tickseed
Zagreb Tickseed
Hairy Alumroot
Early Bird Catmint
East Friesland Salvia
Crystal Blue Salvia
Golden Fleece Goldenrod
Alkali Sacaton
Summer’s Swan Song Ironweed
Turtlehead Tiny Tortuga
Gold Dew Tufted Hair Grass
American Boneset
Wild Blue Iris


Fond Du Lac and Eden Stone: When wet, provides necessary minerals to pollinators

Additional FAQs

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.

In the Media

Read the press release

Please direct all media inquiries to


Make Your Mark on the 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

Donate today to support this community project.

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