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Déjà Vu All Over Again!

Washington Park, ChicagoA mayor and a president collaborating to place a presidential library on parkland? Yes, you read that correctly. But this time, it’s Chicago and not Atlanta where the battle lines are being drawn.

One of the four proposed sites for President Barack Obama’s Presidential Library is 20 acres in historic Washington Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1871. The other sites under consideration are in New York, a second location in Chicago, and the University of Hawai’i campus.

A group known as Friends of the Parks in Chicago is deeply concerned about Washington Park. The Friends group states that protecting the Olmsted legacy and the historic 19th century park is even more important for urban populations today than when it was built.

The National Association of Olmsted Parks (NAOP), of which OLPA is a member, has also come out in opposition to the planned library in Washington Park. NAOP has sent a letter to President and Mrs. Obama decrying the proposal by the University of Chicago to construct the Obama library on 20 acres in the Olmsted Park.

During the 1980s, Olmsted Park supporters in Atlanta waged a national campaign to save the Linear Park along Ponce de Leon from an expressway. The park was threatened by former President Jimmy Carter’s proposal for a road to access his library in the Copinhill section of Atlanta. In fact, the road that Carter supported was basically the same road that had been around since 1946 – variously called the Stone Mountain Tollway, Presidential Parkway, and Freedom Parkway. At the time, the Olmsted Park Society of Atlanta joined with other local groups to seek support from national conservationist and historic preservation organizations. Now it’s turn to help our Olmsted friends in Chicago.

Please consider writing of your opposition to the destruction of an Olmsted park to President Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Please send letters of support to NAOP and to Friends of the Parks in Chicago. For more information, visit these web sites: and

  1. One reason for parks to be protected and not seized by special interests is so that children (and adults) will have a safe, peaceful and picturesque place to enjoy in the out-of-doors. Support of parks for all IS supporting children and teachers in the great natural and outdoor laboratory of nature. This is especially important now, when many children are parked indoors in front of televisions, computers and games. I urge everyone to go outside and enjoy our fabulous parks.

  2. Alida Silverman #

    Thank you for this posting! Since DHCA is also a member of the National Association for Olmsted Parks, the national Olmsted network that focuses on all Olmsted landscapes, it is so good to see the network in action. We who are fortunate to live in an Olmsted landscape need to stand up for them. We particularly need to hold the line on taking away parkland. There are other options in Chicago for the Library site. Why would the University of Chicago propose taking 20 acres from a major historic park and the Mayor enable the proposal by having the Park District hand over the land??? Clearly, both need to be educated.

  3. claudiajkeenan #

    This concerns an Olmsted Park in Chicago. I think your comment probably belongs here:

  4. Dianne Medlock Joy #

    It seems to be fine for you to protect what you think is important but what about those who are having our schools taken away by a selfish group of people? If DHCA want their homes to be in Atlanta, that is fine but you have no right to school so that that all of DeKalb County has paid for and supported. You concern is a park design and trees. Ours are children and teachers. Do you not see the hyprocrisy?


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