There’s a Grant Park in Atlanta and Chicago. But how do they compare?

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There’s a Grant Park in Atlanta and Chicago. But how do they compare?

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Ryon Horne; AJC file
Grant Park, Chicago (left) and Grant Park, Atlanta.

Two public spaces, both named Grant Park, sit in major American cities more than 700 miles away from each other.

One’s in the South; the other in the Midwest. One’s named after a Confederate colonel; the other nods to a general who led the Union Army.

Yet there are similarities, too. Both were established in the 19th century. And both simultaneously serve as popular tourist attractions and familiar haunts for locals. 

Here are more characteristics that may shed light on the intricacies of the dual, identically-named city parks.

Founded

Atlanta: The park land was donated to the city on May 17, 1883 by railroad-man, landowner and Confederate Army colonel Lemuel Pratt Grant. The Grant Park neighborhood was eventually built around the 131-acre park, and the area was designated as an historic district in April 2000. 

Chicago: The area known as “Chicago’s front yard” was conceived in 1835 and approved by the city in 1844. The 319-acre public park is sandwiched between the downtown area and Lake Michigan. In 1901, the city transferred the park to what’s now called the Chicago Park District, and then-“Lake Park” was renamed for the country’s 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant.

Landmarks and history

Atlanta: Zoo Atlanta opened in 1889 when local lumber merchant George V. Gress donated to the city a collection of animals he bought at a public auction. His generosity continued four years later when Gress gave the city Cyclorama, a large circular painting of the Battle of Atlanta. The artwork was displayed in the park in 1921, but it was recently moved to the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead. Now the zoo is retrofitting the former Cyclorama building into an events center. 

Elsewhere, in the southeast corner of the park, an earthen embankment remains in Fort Walker. The barrier was constructed as part of a defensive line during the Civil War.

Chicago: The park is so expansive that it encompasses two other parks, a giant fountain, three museums and the Art Institute of Chicago. The 25-acre Millennium Park — renovated between 1998 and 2004 — connects to Grant Park by bridges and is probably best known by Instagram-happy tourists for its reflecting oval arch, “Cloud Gate” aka the Bean. Maggie Daley Park has a climbing wall, mini golf and an ice skating “ribbon.” Buckingham Fountain was built in 1927 and streams water 150 feet in the air. The 57-acre Museum Campus includes Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History and Shedd Aquarium. 

Notable events

Atlanta: The park’s long-running Summer Shade Festival, which features live music, a street market and a 5K is one of the park’s events most anticipated by locals. Other well-known events include House in the Park, zoo events such as Sippin’ Safari and Brew in the Zoo and various 5Ks throughout the year.   

Chicago: Many festivals are held in the park, including the Taste of Chicago and the Grant Park Music Festival. But most out-of-towners probably recognize it primarily as the site of major music festival Lollapalooza. The park is also the start and finish lines for the Chicago Marathon; served as the location for President Barack Obama's 2008 victory speech; and was where Chicago Cubs fans rallied when the team won the 2016 World Series.  

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The residents are worried about the trees being removed near the zoo.
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