Many summers in my youth were spent in Marquette Park, in Chicago, visiting my grandparents who lived there. When I was young, it was a Lithuanian stronghold to the point where I could walk into any of the stores and strike up a conversation in Lithuanian. That’s how homogeneous it was.
For many years, I’ve headed to Indiana and Michigan to partake of Lake Michigan, either near the water or on it. I’ve always been intrigued by a large park in Gary, IN that is also called Marquette Park. But, it’s in Gary, Indiana – oh no!
Gary is not a destination for most people, fairly or not. Sure, some will make the pilgrimage to the Jackson Family home, but I’m not sure why anybody else would go there. (If you have destinations there to visit, please let me know, I love to explore!)
So one day I just decide to do it. I made plans to pick a friend up and we drove down to Marquette Park to check it out. Mind you, this is Winter and a weekend, so we knew everything would be closed and not too many folks would be around, but I just had to go.
Slideshow of Marquette Park:
Marquette Park is completely surrounded by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. People come here for its proximity to that, its white sand beaches, sand dunes, wetlands, a lagoon and beautiful nature.
The Park includes the Recreation Pavilion, the Aquatorium, a Picnic Pavilion, lagoons, trails, and beaches. There is also a playground, concessions, and a multi-use area. The day we visited we saw a family sledding down one of the hills.
The Gary Bathing Beach Pavilion is now the current day Aquatorium. An Aquatorium is a place where one goes to view water. This one is also a planned museum to honor Octave Chanute, the grandfather of flight, and the Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneers of the armed forces integration efforts. The Aquatorium has a special section dealing with black aviators and their contribution to the age of flight.
The Park or Recreation Pavilion was designed by George W. Maher in 1921, combining the Prairie School and Italian Renaissance Revival styles. It’s now used for special events.
The lagoons are the headwaters of the Grand Calumet River and include Patterson Island, a man-made island, as well as a non-motorized boat launch. These waters are also available for fishing. More water is across the street, where the beaches offer exploration of Lake Michigan (or just working on your tan).
Ultimately, this Marquette Park is similar to the one from my youth, though on a much larger scale. It was quiet and empty on a cold Winter’s day, but I can imagine the hustle and bustle during the Summer, which is when I’ll try to visit again.
How to get to Marquette Park: