Lake Shore Drive was originally laid out in 1875 to connect Oak Street with North Avenue at the south end of Lincoln Park. The primary motivation to build a broad thoroughfare along the shores of Lake Michigan came in 1899 after wealthy Chicago merchant and real estate developer Potter Palmer asked the city for a street improvement in front of his lakeside mansion. The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Palmer “would not object to putting a sea wall farther out into the lake and having a strip of land filled.”
The newly created land was considered prime real estate for development but another notable city resident, merchandising genius Montgomery Ward, fought to keep the lakefront “forever open, clear and free.” The result of his legal efforts are the beaches, parks and athletic fields that flank the modern boulevard today instead of the warehouses, piers and industrial structures seen on the waterfronts of other Great Lakes cities. All are photos courtesy of the Chicago Tribune where you can view more photos and find additional information.