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The Chicago History Museum is excited to embark on a multifaceted park beautification project including renovations to our plaza and construction of the Richard M. and Shirley H. Jaffee History Trail. Set to break ground on March 2021, the History Trail, an interpretive path through the park space around the Museum, will incorporate features such as the “Fire Blob,” a rarely-seen relic from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Couch Tomb, a reminder that the area once housed a Chicago city cemetery.

Each stop on the Jaffee History Trail will explore aspects of Chicago’s personality, highlighting the city’s resilience, innovation, and complexity. Additional elements will include a native species garden where students can identify native plants and trace plant shapes etched into the garden’s boulders, a collection of community designed weathervanes, and an open pedestal where visitors can consider what leadership means and what they stand for. The new landscaping plan includes approximately 150 new trees and large beds of native plants, which will attract birds and other pollinators.

This project will also include renovation to our underground storage facility which sits directly below the plaza. The storage facility houses the Museum’s 23,000 linear feet of archives and manuscripts. Renovations will upgrade the structural integrity of the space and modernize the interior.

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Anticipated Project Timeline

  • March 2021 | Construction Begins! Perimeter fencing will be one of the first noticeable elements neighbors will see
  • March—April 2021 | Tree and plaza removal will be underway. Learn more about the trees selected for removal, trees that will be added to the space, and what species will be included in our native plant garden
  • Summer 2021 | Work will continue throughout the summer
  • Fall 2021 | Most of the outdoor work will be completed, normal activity on the renovated grounds and plaza should resume by September 2021

We will host a virtual community town hall to discuss the project on April 13, 2021, at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom. This page will be updated as information becomes available.


Additional FAQs

What about the black-crowned night herons?

We have coordinated with experts on the black crowned night herons and have scheduled the most potentially disruptive work to occur prior to nesting season.

Is the city involved?

Yes! We have been working on this project with the Chicago Park District and several community partners and are looking forward to making the park a more beautiful, educational, and welcoming space for all to enjoy.

What if you find . . . history when you’re digging?

We’re working with an archaeologist who specializes in urban cemeteries to monitor deep digging on the portion of the grounds that have not previously been significantly disturbed.

What about the Research Center? Will it remain open?

The 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 early 2022 (estimated timeframe). If you have specific questions, please email [email protected].


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 (lead gifts of $100,000 and above):

  • BMO Harris Bank, N.A.
  • Bon & Holly French
  • David W. Grainger
  • The Guild of the Chicago History Museum
  • ITW
  • The Jaffee Family
  • Oil-Dri Corporation of America
  • Larry & Mary Selander
  • Allan H. & Suzanne Selig
  • The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation

Project Contributors


In the Media

Press Release

Block Club Chicago | November 2020

Please direct all media inquiries to [email protected].


Interested in contributing?

Fundraising for the Richard M. and Shirley H. Jaffee History Trail is still underway! Donate today to help bring this community project to life.

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