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The Chicago History Museum Breaks Ground on Richard M. and Shirley H. Jaffee History Trail

Mar 18 2021

The Chicago History Museum earlier this month broke ground on a multifaceted park beautification project. Named for long-time Chicago civic leaders and supporters of the Museum, Richard M. and Shirley H. Jaffee, the project features an accessible interpretive path around the Museum and includes renovations to the Museum’s public plaza. In cooperation with the Chicago Park District and community partners, the Museum seeks to make the 4.5 acres surrounding the building a more beautiful, educational, and welcoming space for all. The Jaffee History Trail will open to the public this fall.

“The Chicago History Museum is proud to continue sharing Chicago stories in an innovative way that encourages learning and critical thinking outside the museum’s doors, said John Russick, Senior Vice President for the Chicago History Museum. “We are honored to work with the Chicago Park District to make this interpretive path come to life, and we are incredibly thankful to our supporters, community partners, and neighborhood residents for their ongoing support and guidance during this important project.”

Each of the 8 stops on the walking path around the museum will explore aspects of Chicago’s personality, highlighting the city’s resilience and complexity. The Jaffee History Trail will serve as a space for continued education outside the museum, incorporating features such as the “Fire Blob”, a rarely seen and massive relic from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Couch Tomb, a reminder that the area was once a city cemetery.

“Enhancing park spaces for Chicagoans to enjoy and learn something new is the epitome of what the Chicago Park District seeks to support,” said Michael Kelly, Chicago Park District General Superintendent & CEO. “We are honored to work with the Chicago History Museum on the Jaffee History Trail project and eager to welcome the public to the space.

This project also includes necessary renovations to CHM’s underground collection storage facility, which sits directly below the plaza on the east side of the museum. The facility houses 23,000 linear feet of archives and manuscripts. Renovations will upgrade the structural integrity of the space and modernize the interior, so collection items are well-preserved and accessible for years to come.

Additional elements of the trail will include a garden featuring native plants, a collection of weathervanes designed in collaboration with the Chicago Park District’s 15 cultural centers and local artist Bernard Williams, and an open pedestal for visitors to consider what leadership means and what they stand for. The landscaping plan includes nearly 150 new trees and beds of native plants, which will attract birds and other pollinators.

As work continues on the Jaffee History Trail project, CHM invites members of the community to an upcoming virtual town hall to learn more about the project on April 13, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.

For more information on the Jaffee History Trail, FAQ’s, and a project timeline, please visit:

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