Horner Park

At nearly 55 acres, Horner Park is one of the largest parks on the North Side and boasts nine softball fields, three senior baseball diamonds with night baseball on two diamonds, two football/soccer fields, four outdoor basketball standards, five tennis courts, a playground, a relaxing nature area and 13 picnic groves.

The park, located at the major intersection of Montrose and California Avenues, plays a prominent role in its Irving Park neighborhood.Horner Park hosts a number of holiday and seasonal special events, including an annual pumpkin patch, movies/concerts in the park, their popular Doggie Egg Hunt along with various public community meetings.The park offers programming to meet every possible age group, interest and need.

Area youth and teens play sports, such as basketball, football, volleyball, softball, track & field and floor hockey.Youth also participate in recreational tumbling and gymnastics. Preschoolers get started as early as age three, building skills in tumbling and tap & ballet.The park offers traditional early childhood recreation classes—preschool; playschool; Moms, Pops & Tots and playgroup. Adults join in athletics with basketball, volleyball and softball leagues.

On the cultural side, Horner Park offers woodcraft for all ages in its downstairs shop.Youth and teens choose from multi-cultural art, piano and guitar. For adults there are more specialized classes, such as tile mosaic, clay/hand building, open pottery studio and Horner Park Jazz Band.

Horner is one of the few parks to teach two levels of American Sign Language, plus offers programs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community such as park kids and Friday Night teen club.

History of Horner Park

After 1900, Chicago’s northwest side Irving Park community developed quickly. Residential construction boomed, and industries soon located along the North Branch of the Chicago River. Among these was a brick manufacturer, which excavated its riverside property for brick-making clay. Some years later, the company abandoned the site, and the clay pits became a garbage dump. Because community organizations opposed this new use, the property was eventually down-zoned from its industrial designation.

In the spring of 1946, the Chicago Park District began acquiring the nearly 55-acre site as part of a ten-year, citywide plan to increase recreational opportunities throughout the city. In 1949, the park district began demolishing the brick kilns and industrial structures. Filling and grading were soon underway. By the early 1950s, the park had a large tobogganing hill, tennis courts, a playground, and a comfort station. A large, open meadow bordered with trees stretched across the southern section of the park. A fieldhouse was added in 1956. After adding handball courts in the 1970s and making various upgrades in the 1980s, the park district installed a large new soft surface playground with separate areas for tots, young children, and older children.

The park honors Henry Horner (1878-1940), Illinois’ first Jewish governor, who served from 1933 to 1940. A native Chicagoan, Horner was appointed attorney for the Cook County Board of Assessors in 1907, and was elected judge of the Cook County Probate Court seven years later. Having gained an early, solid reputation for integrity, he won increasing popularity with diverse segments of the community. This broad-based support propelled Horner to the governorship, and fostered acceptance of a state sales tax to fund much-needed welfare programs during the Depression. A red granite monument in the northwest corner of Horner Park depicts the former governor’s accomplishments. The art deco relief, carved by sculptor John David Brcin (b. 1899) in 1948, stood in Grant Park until 1956, when it was moved in time for the Horner Park fieldhouse dedication.

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