Designed by Olmsted and Vaux in 1871 as part of the 1,055-acre South Park system, this 593-acre tract is connected to Washington Park via a mile-long boulevard, the Midway Plaisance. Conceived as an escape from urban strains, the swampy land adjacent to Lake Michigan was remade into a picturesque setting in which water figured as the primary element. Olmsted and Vaux envisioned an interconnected system of waterways, lushly planted and accessible from Lake Michigan. In the original design, entrance via steamboat from Lake Michigan was envisioned as the primary approach. Originally called Lake Park, it was later named for former president Andrew Jackson.
In 1893, Jackson Park became the site for the World’s Columbian Exposition. A “White City” of neoclassical structures, planned by Olmsted and architect Daniel H. Burnham, was built as a system of lagoons with a formal Court of Honor. After the Exposition, the site reverted to parkland designed by Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot. Additions to this plan include the first public golf course west of the Allegheny Mountains in 1899; the expansion of lakefront beaches in the 1900s; and the Japanese-style Osaka Garden built on the wooded isle in 1935. The park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.