Fort Sheridan History
I. Historical Significance

The development of Fort Sheridan in the late 1880s is intertwined with Chicago’s social and cultural history. Built during a period when Chicago was growing from a pioneer settlement to a thriving urban center, Fort Sheridan was established to protect the city’s commer-cial interests. It was to be a permanent military post commissioned to keep the peace, ensuring that labor skirmishes would not disrupt the city’s activities. Members of Chicago’s elite Commercial Club raised funds among themselves and located a beautiful site on Lake Michigan, 25 miles north of Chicago -- surrounded by the cities of Highland Park, Highwood, and Lake Forest. They immediately petitioned the Secretary of War for a post. The architectural firm hired, Holabird & Roche, was destined to be one of Chicago’s most influential, creating skyscrapers that would become world renowned. Fort Sheridan was their first major commission and, even among their portfolio of important buildings, is unique and significant. The Fort’s landscape architect, Ossian C. Simonds, was equally significant. He was a pioneer in the Prairie Style naturalistic approach to landscape design and ranks with Jens Jensen in his contributions to the history of the Midwest’s unique landscape heritage. All of these factors contribute to Fort Sheridan’s rich and significant history and justify this commitment to its preservation.

Parts of Fort Sheridan were designated a National Historic Landmark District by the National Park Service in 1984. Built as a military installation by the U.S. Army beginning in 1887, it is a site that "possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America." The Historic District encompasses 230 acres of land and buildings bounded by Hutchinson and Bartlett Ravines along the shores of Lake Michigan in Lake County, Illinois. Ninety-four structures are included as contributing buildings within the Historic District; three are listed as background buildings, and sixty-four are identified as intrusions. Sixty-six of the contributing buildings were designed by the nationally prominent architectural firm of Holabird & Roche in the late 1880s and early 1890s. They include officers’ quarters, barracks, stables, a drill hall, and other service and institutional buildings, including the tall water tower that dominates the fort. Another twenty-six buildings were constructed in a historically compatible style from standardized plans by the Office of the Quartermaster General between 1905 and 1910. Five buildings were built by others. Although little mention is made in the landmark form of the important contri-bution of landscape architect Ossian C. Simonds, he is responsible for the layout of the roads and the place-ment of the buildings in relation to the parade grounds and the Fort’s overall streetscape. The Historic District today possesses much of its original integrity as an important cultural resource to the region and the nation.

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