Ping Tom Memorial Park: Exposed to Culture

When I left the apartment this morning, my intention was to snap a few pics of the St. Charles Air Line Bridge from the 18th Street overpass and head to Mariano’s on Clark. Little did I know I’d be pleasantly exposed to some culture.

I couldn’t get any great shots of the bridge from the Leonard M. Louie Field House grounds, yet from my vantage point I did notice a walkway beyond the fences overlooking the river. Access to it was nowhere in sight; I consulted my friend Google and learned that not only was entry to it nearby, it stemmed from Ping Tom Memorial Park, located at 700 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60616.

I’d known nothing about this park or Ping Tom, a “prominent Chinatown businessman and civic leader”(quoted from the Wikipedia page) until today. From the park’s website:

“The Chicago Park District acquired the site for Ping Tom Memorial Park in 1991. For years, its surrounding Chinatown community had suffered a total lack of open space and recreational facilities. The only nearby parks, Hardin Square and Stanford Park, had been demolished 30 years earlier to make way for the Dan Ryan Expressway. Two full generations of children in Chinatown grew up without access to a neighborhood park or any recreational area. Ping Tom Memorial Park’s 12-acre site was originally a Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad yard located along the edge of the South Branch of the Chicago River. In 1998, the Chicago Park District began transforming the old rail-yard into a beautiful rolling green space, taking full advantage of impressive river views. The park has a children’s playground, community gathering areas, and Chinese landscape design elements. The park was named in honor of the leading force behind its creation, Chinatown’s most noted civic leader, Ping Tom (1935-1995). A lifelong resident of Chinatown, Ping Tom formed the Chinese American Development Corporation in 1984. The private real estate firm transformed a 32-acre rail yard site into Chinatown Square, a $100 million dollar residential and commercial expansion of Chinatown. Active in numerous prominent civic and cultural institutions, Ping Tom was also an advisor to U.S. senators, Illinois governors, and Chicago mayors. In 2002, the Chicago Park District acquired 5 additional acres on the northeast side of the park. Landscape improvements to the expanded area of Ping Tom Memorial Park will soon follow. “

Below is a slide show of my favorite photos from today’s walk-through. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did taking them!

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Author: Kevin Baum

I'm a Chicago native with a passion for style, fitness, travel, and personal improvement. And pizza!

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