6. Steelworkers Memorial Park

Steelworkers Memorial Park, East 87th Street and Lake Michigan  

(Photo by Joann Podkul Murphy)

In an experiment to landscape the 40 foot deep slag base of the former steel mill site, a layer of Illinois river silt was used successfully to nurture the trees in this space, which commemorates the United States Steel Corporation’s South Works steelworkers. 

After that environmental revitalization was begun, the owners, working with the City of Chicago, conveyed ownership of a 300 foot wide strip of the land, from the lake inward, to be dedicated to use by the Chicago Park District, providing lakefront access to the community.

Once the Chicago Park District became responsible for that space, interesting things began to happen, and continue to happen, as this page attempts to illustrate.

2014 - 2015: Steelworkers Memorial Statue is Conceived, Commissioned, Created, and Dedicated

One of the first significant actions was the commissioning of the creation of a statue to commemorate the generations of steelworkers whose labors fueled the mighty engine of steel manufacture in South Chicago.   Ultimately — and appropriately -- that task fell to community artist — and former USS South Works steel worker — Roman Villarreal.  But, as is true of most community projects, local, regional, national, there must be a beginning.  

2014: This video was taken at — or very near — that beginning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uk-QfzwgeIw&feature=youtu.be

2014: A few short months after that meeting, artist Roman Villarreal began creating the mold for the commissioned steel workers memorial statue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyMPs2wXa_Q&feature=youtu.be

2014: Then, community representatives and the 1oth Ward Alderman met with the artist to plan the unveiling of the completed statue: https://youtu.be/bwIBHaTnQsU

2015: Community representatives and the artist met in the 10th Ward Alderman’s office, to discuss preparations: https://youtu.be/KoU_dzxf6kk

2015: Community representatives and the artist met again in the Alderman’s office to finalize preparations: https://youtu.be/Urxm0aO7d-c

2015: Next, the statue was mounted in the parkhttps://youtu.be/7t05_XKX1w8

2015: And, finally, the statue was unveiled to the public: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAAIP6elS9A&feature=youtu.be

2015 - 2016: Steelworkers Memorial Park Comes Alive

In 2015, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater Company and Chicago Park District, collaborating in their “Shakespeare in the Parks” program, brought their first South Chicago presentation, “Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits,” to this park, to the community’s delight:  http://youtu.be/RNjQFNn22k4 

That production was soon followed by the Erica Mott Production, "Trials and Trails,” which was a dance theatre tribute to the steelworkers whose labors made the site a major engine of national growth for nearly a century and a half: https://youtu.be/asu9tsb3e3w

2016 saw the continued use of Steelworkers Park for community enjoyment of the arts, as the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre/Chicago Park District collaboration continued with the production of “Twelfth Night:” https://youtu.be/PA-q6pfN2Uc  and, shortly thereafter, the return of Erica Mott Productions: https://youtu.be/F1ct6BnEJiM



© Kevin Murphy & Joann Podkul Murphy 2016