Olson Rug site eyed for development


A retail and work/living space development is planned for the former Macy’s warehouse complex at Diversey Avenue and Pulaski Road, but for many Chicagoans the property is best remembered as home to a waterfall park that was created in the 1930s by the first industrial occupant of the site, Olson Rug.

Built in the 1930s and dismantled by 1978, the "Olson Waterfall and Rock Gardens" was a popular weekend gathering place for Chicagoans, especially the families of the Avondale neighborhood, Northwest Chicago Historical Society vice president Dan Pogorzelski said.

"Avondale was known for its smokestacks and steeples," Pogorzelski said. "It was a very working class neighborhood. (The park) was a welcome respite in the concrete jungle."

Pogorzelski, along with Jacob Kaplan, Rob Reid and Elisa Addlesperger, wrote the book "Avondale and Chicago’s Polish Village."

The park featured a 35-foot waterfall that was a replica of one near the Upper Midwest home of Walter Olson, the owner of the adjacent manufacturing mill that later became a warehouse for Marshall Field’s department stores. It took 200 workers more than 6 months to build the park, using 800 tons of stone and 800 yards of soil, according to Pogorzelski.

The park included foot bridges that allowed visitors to walk across the waterfall, a birch bark canoe, a teepee, a statue of a Native American, a duck pond and about 3,500 perennials. "It was privately owned but open to the public," Pogorzelski said. "It was sizable."

After the park closed, the site was used as a parking lot for the adjoining warehouse. Macy’s, which bought the Marshall Field’s chain, closed the warehouse about 5 years ago.

"It made the Chicago Tribune’s list of ‘Chicago’s Seven Lost Wonders,’" Pogorzelski said.

The new owner of the site, 4K Diversey Partners, has filed an application for a planned development which would allow commercial, industrial, retail and living uses on the site. The plan includes the rehabilitation of an existing six-story masonry building.

The Chicago Plan Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on the project at its meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.