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History of Grant Park 1830-1871
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Also shown on the map are the piers extending out from the mouth of the Chicago River. The piers, built in the early s, were supposed to channel water in such a manner that the shallow river would be swept clear of sand, allowing ships to enter. If a pier is built out in the lake near Chicago, sand will accumulate on the north side and the south side will erode away.
This s map shows the lakeshore back where it started—within 50 feet of Michigan Avenue. Waves were lapping against lakefront mansions.
The State of Illinois owned the lakebed. A state law was passed allowing the new Illinois Central Railroad to build out in the lake on the condition the railroad also build a breakwater to protect downtown. In the Illinois Central built a trestle about feet east of Michigan Avenue and the breakwater a little farther out.
Grant Park : the evolution of Chicago's front yard in SearchWorks catalog
This left a substantial lagoon extending south to 12th street where the railroad came on shore. North of Randolph, the railroad filled in more of the lake and built large freight and passenger depots.
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Grant Park's Storied History
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History of Chicago. Illinois and Michigan Canal Commissioner map. Source: Encyclopedia of Chicago It is not entirely clear if, or how, feet of the lake got filled.