Chicago Guest House's Guide to Millennium Parks Fun Facts!

Millennium Park is pretty impressive, but when you actually understand the story behind this amazing park it become so much more interesting! Millennium Park is Chicago's pride and joy, and it should be with all the money that was and still is poured in to it.  To think of all the people who made it possible and how much they've impacted tourism in Chicago with this park alone is pretty remarkable! We love our city!
In 1839, United States Secretary of War Joel Roberts Poinsett declared the land between Randolph Street and Madison Street east of Michigan Avenue "Public Ground forever to remain vacant of buildings".  Aaron Montgomery Ward, who is known both as the inventor of mail order and the protector of Grant Park, twice sued the city of Chicago to force it to remove buildings and structures from Grant Park and to keep it from building new ones. As a result, the city has what are termed the Montgomery Ward height restrictions on buildings and structures in Grant Park. However, Crown Fountain and the 130-foot Pritzker Pavilion were exempt from the height restrictions because they were classified as works of art and not buildings or structures to dodge the protections established by Ward, who "rules over Grant Park from the grave".​​
Millennium Park was conceived in 1997 and construction began in September of 1998 with the plan of completing the park in the third Millennium, but that didn't happen. It didn't open until 2004; 4 years behind schedule! The projected cost of constructing the park was $150 Million. The final cost was $475 Million. Who paid for that?! Chicago tax payers and private donors. Chicago picked up $270 of the total cost and we paid for the rest.
Millennium Park in Chicago overhead view
Train Station
​​Because the space where Millennium Park is was previously occupied by parkland, Illinois Central rail yards, and parking lots; Millennium Park is considered one of the largest green roofs in the world.
Grant Park Music Festival Schedule
Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park Chicago
Pritkzer Pavilion
Chicago tried fours times to get Frank Gehry to design a proscenium arch and orchestra enclosure for a bandshell, as well as a pedestrian bridge crossing Columbus Drive. He had refused four times until Chicagoan, Cindy Pritzker and her $15 Million dollars got involved. She had developed a relationship with the architect when he won the Pritzker Prize in 1989. The family is most well-known for owning the Hyatt hotel chain. 

The Pritzker Family had donated $15 million and an additional nine donors committed a total of $10 million. In the end, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion cost $60 million. It's the ONLY FREE music festival of its kind.

BP Bridge
BP Oil company donated $5 million to get naming rights.

The bridge is closed in winter because there is no where to put the snow other than to shovel it on to passing cars  on Columbus Drive. Not gonna happen. Additionally,  the Brazilian hardwood would be damaged by rock salt. Maybe that should have been a consideration in the initial design?

The city mandates that the bridge be swept and washed daily & that the parapets be wiped free of fingerprints. What a job!

The bridge has been described as snake-like. Gehry, said it looked like a river, but he may be the only one who thinks that.
Winding BP Bridge in Millennium Park Chicago
Crown Fountain picture of a woman in Millennium Park Chicago
Crown Fountain spewing water in Millennium Park Chicago
Crown Fountain
Lester Crown and his family agreed to sponsor a water feature in Millennium Park. Unlike other park feature sponsors, the Crowns acted independently of Millennium Park officials; they conducted independent surveys of water technologies, held their own informal design contest, and stayed active in the design and engineering of the project.

The fountain cost $17 Million. The Crown family donated $10 million, the Goodman Family (Goodman Theatre) was also a large contributor. Clearly if you have enough money, they'll name anything in Chicago after you!
​​The faces on the winding video are of Chicago residents. They appear for 5 minutes each before they pucker in to what is said to be a kiss. Then the water pours out on the the children below. Of the original 1,051 subjects filmed, 960 videos were determined to be usable for the project because the pucker lined up with the hole in fountain.
Lurie Garden with purple flowers in Millennium Park Chicago
Seams in Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park Chicago
Lurie Garden
It is the featured nature component of the world's largest green roof. The garden cost $13.2 million and has a $10 million endowment for maintenance and upkeep. It was named after Ann Lurie, who donated the $10 million endowment.
Cloud Gate reflecting the city skyline in Millennium Park Chicago
Cloud Gate AKA 'The Bean'
Kapoor's design was inspired by liquid mercury.   Various experts were consulted, some of whom believed the design could not be implemented. Eventually, a feasible method was found. It would be constructed with 168 stainless-steel plates.
​​At the unveiling in 2004, the sculpture had visible seams, so it would be again covered for over a year while they polished out the seams and formally dedicated on May 15, 2006. The cost for the piece was first estimated at $6 million, HOWEVER, by the time it was finished the final figure at stood at $23 million!  Kapoor's contract states that the constructed piece should be expected to survive for 1,000 years, so if if that were true, we'd only be paying $64 a day to have it! What a bargain for something that brings so much joy and revenue to Chicago! Ha!