There are some parks that make an impression on a visitor, and Chicago is home to many. This city is a haven for city park lovers and of them all, the Oz Park is one that captivates the hearts of many, especially those who are Wizard of Oz fans. The artwork throughout the park is one of a kind and serves as a brilliant nod to the Emerald City. The park was an effort to brighten up the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and it did just that by honoring the late author L. Frank Baum.
The green space is free for all and was just the thing to bring a bit of whimsy and fun to the area, with its grand statues blazing the way. There are few parks that bring everyone's favorite characters from Oz to life in the form of life-sized figurines, and it's a must-visit for those visiting Chicago.
The History Of Oz Park
The statues in this park aren't the only thing that is Oz-themed; the entire park features a Wizard of Oz wonderland that's nothing short of perfection. The idea dawned on the city when the parkland was first acquired back in 1974, and for decades, the park has slowly become an Emerald City dream. However, in order to understand why the transformation of the park was so significant, it's important to know what the area was like prior to the founding of Oz Park.
During the time when the park was first purchased, the neighborhood of Lincoln Park was nothing of what it is today. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Today, the neighborhood is full of high-end real estate options but decades ago, it was nothing of the sort. Therefore, the park was intended to be the first step forward in brightening and livening up the neighborhood by giving it a community feel. With the intention of bringing people together in a safe space, Oz Park was born. In the 1960s, a plan was procured for a potential 13-acre park which was achieved a little more than a decade later. However, it wasn't until two years later, in 1976, when the park was officially named for L. Frank Baum.
- Fun Fact: In 1891, Lyman Frank Baum lived only a few miles away from where the park was eventually created.
While the park didn't start out with any tributes to Baum's famous work, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz immediately, they would soon come along decades later. In the 1990s, both the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce and the Oz Park Advisory Council commissioned the first work that would be displayed in the park. The artist, John Kearney, was responsible for creating a sculpture of the Tin Man. It was installed in October of 1995 and began a shift to commissions as more statues filled the park. Next, the Cowardly Lion was installed in 2001, with the Scarecrow, which was installed in June 2005. And, finally, arguably the two most important pieces of the park, Dorothy and Toto were installed in 2007.
- Fun Fact: The Scarecrow statue weighs 800 pounds and sits at a height of seven feet.
'Emerald City' Additions To Oz Park
The statues aren't the only thing that brings this park to life in true Emerald City form. While it's easy to imagine these characters popping to life and skipping down any one of its trails, there's most to explore. Two prominent parts of the park are the Emerald Garden and Dorothy's Playlot. The latter was actually named after Dorothy Melamerson, who was the donor for the park and was a local schoolteacher.
It was her savings that helped to pay for many improvements and advancements in the park, and she just so happens to share the name of the main character of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as well. In total, the Oz Park Advisory has raised thousands to make the park what it is today.
Visiting The Park
Going to the park today is a magical experience that's still just as wonderful and whimsical as it was when it was first built. Along with this, it has also served as a community spot for families and friends, and a place where the neighborhood can gather safely. The artwork and designated spaces only serve to enhance the park experience and are a delight to both kids and adults. It's a reminder that no matter how old a person gets, magic still exists in a way that's tangible - even in a park setting.
Oz Park Details
- Hours: 6 AM - 11 PM
- Address: 2021 N Burling St., Chicago, Illinois