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Friends of the Parks: Keeping A. Montgomery Ward’s Dream Alive

LI-sculp-0020aFriends of the Parks (FOTP), a Chicago non-profit and an opponent of the Lucas Museum’s occupation of lakefront space, released the following statement on Facebook on June 24th, 2016:

“It is unfortunate that the Lucas Museum has made the decision to leave Chicago rather than locate the museum on one of several alternative sites that is not on Chicago’s lakefront. That would have been the true win-win,” said Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry and Board Chair Lauren Moltz.

At the time of this writing, they have received over 830 comments on their post. Mostly negative to put it mildly.

I see the FOTP as a continuation of A. Montgomery Ward’s life’s work to keep the Chicago lake front as “Forever Open, Clear, and Free.”

Ward fought to prevent the elite Chicago leaders of his time from encroaching on the lakefront, leaving all the future generations a priceless legacy that FOTP and its supporters continue to protect. The Tribune was one of his vanquished opponents.

Despite his 1909 victory in the Illinois Supreme Court, Ward was “embittered by his struggle.”

“I fought for the poor people of Chicago, not for the millionaires,” he told the [Tribune].

“Here is park frontage on the lake, comparing favorably with the Bay of Naples, which city officials would crowd with buildings, transforming the breathing spot for the poor into a showground of the educated rich. I do not think it is right.

“Perhaps I may yet see the public appreciate my efforts. But I doubt it.”


Past is prologue. History has been grateful for Ward’s efforts that were nearly thankless in his lifetime. Similarly, history will be kind to FOTP and US District Court Judge John Darrah. Its critics clinically congratulate the heroes of this story on their preservation of “a parking lot”. Future generations will find it far more feasible to transform the parking lot back into a “breathing spot for the poor” than they would a museum showground for Chicago’s 2010s era elite.