Chicago’s Millennium Park: From parking lot to park




As part of our celebration of WGN’s 75th anniversary, we’re going back through the archives to see how the city has changed over the years. We recently found footage from the early 1970s showing how Millennium Park, Chicago’s most visited location, was transformed from a gravel parking lot to green parkland.  

In 1871, the Chicago White Stockings – the team that eventually was renamed the Cubs — played games at the site. Later that year, the grounds were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. 

The Illinois Central railroad owned the right of way from 1852 to 1997. The rest of the land was a parking lot. It’s been reported that Mayor Richard M. Daley was sitting in his dentist’s chair on Michigan Avenue overlooking the eyesore when he thought a park would be better than a parking lot. 

Chicago History Museum
Chicago History Museum, ICHi-073588; Lynne Lee, photographer

The Civic Jewel opened in 2004 at the cost of $475 million, which was raised from private donors and public funds. Its 25 acres of gardens and sculptures attract 25 million people a year, making it the top tourist destination in the Midwest. 

In 2014, on the park’s tenth anniversary, WGN’s Steve Sanders took viewers on a tour of Millennium Park offering rarely-seen views of the city.   

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