The Chicago Riverwalk aims to re-establish Chicago’s connection to its “second waterfront.” The Chicago River’s role has changed throughout the city’s history, but it has always been an important setting and amenity. While the Riverwalk has become a successful recreational venue, its River Theater, on the site of the Eastland Disaster, offers a place of respite and reflection. Soon after its 2015 opening, the space hosted a 100th Anniversary Commemoration, led by the Eastland Disaster Historical Society.
Ross Barney Architects developed several memorial concepts to take place on the site. While the decision for a permanent installation has been stalled, one idea comprised a series of light diodes representing each life lost in the event. This subtle approach added an ambiance to the public park at night while alluding to the event. Once per year, a glowing form of the location where the vessel capsized could play host to tributes.
Grounded in the history of Chicago’s development and growth, the river plays a fundamental role in our memory. If only the riverbanks could talk, the stories they would tell would captivate many and inform our collective future.
Explore more rich history on the Eastland Disaster Historical Society’s website. The next phase of the Chicago Riverwalk (North LaSalle Street to West Lake Street) is expected to open Fall 2016.