This square is situated at an important transition point in the Chicago boulevard system, where Humboldt Park’s Sacramento Boulevard to the north connects into Garfield Park to the west via Franklin Boulevard. There is little green space at this turning point for the boulevard system, historically overrun by intersecting roadways and industrial traffic. It only retains one of its original corners, the southwest at Whipple Street and the Franklin Boulevard south service drive, and has some nondescript, while pleasantly shady, clusters of trees and shrubs.
Although always a component in Jenney’s original West Chicago Park System planning, Sacramento Square’s design and borders have been altered several times in the past century. Especially of note was a 1909 redesign project for purposes of the Park District’s new acquisition of Sacramento Boulevard from the city, from south of the C & NW rail embankment at 400 North pictured in the previous part of this story, to Roosevelt Road at 1200 South.
This was to serve as another vital connector in the boulevard system to Douglas Park. But today it leaves much to be desired as a “boulevard”; it essentially serves as a 2-mile long, 4-lane expressway for cars, with little to no accommodation to pedestrians (decrepit sidewalks, crosswalks, and viaducts) nor cyclists (no bike lanes, degraded pavement markings and dangerous speeds) between these historic green spaces.
On the west end of Franklin Boulevard sits Garfield Square at 300′ X 325′, connecting Franklin Boulevard to Central Park Boulevard directly into Garfield Park near the Conservatory and former stables. Pedestrian walkways in various states of neglect serve as connections between the boulevards and service drives.
The southern border of the square is the C & NW railroad embankment, where a “Central Park Station” railroad stop once existed (see 1910 map detail above). There are signs of this crossing’s history over the years, including wide, vacated east service drive in the underpass along with disused utility poles and sidewalk and stair fragments.
Unique from Sacramento Square is the presence of residential buildings bordering the square on West Garfield Square Drive and North Monticello Avenue to the west. The dominant type are 2- and 3-flat brick building, as well as a few well-preserved greystones and even single-family brick homes, all dating from 1900s-1920s. Most striking are the massive multi-unit developments sitting vacant across from one another at North Central Park Avenue and West Garfield Square Drive.
Through this exploration of these squares as public spaces, their depiction and the development of the West Park System as a whole, there are certain patterns or symptoms of systemic neglect that reveal themselves. Patterns of delayed growth, drawn-out negotiation complicating each wave of construction, and organizational mismanagement of the boulevard all drastically limited the infrastructural and residential development that one sees on nearly every other Chicago boulevard segment.
Another inescapable issue, persisting today, is the overbearing influence of railroad and automobile traffic constricting the boulevard’s development and safety — essentially rendering them obsolete once roadways were carved through them. From the start a century ago, it seems Franklin Boulevard and Sacramento and Garfield Squares were doomed as successful public spaces.