I am writing to determine if you would have a strong objection to changing the name of the Jarvis Beach and Park (see photo on right) to the Marion Mahony Griffin Beach and Park in honor of the renowned Rogers Park artist and architect, Marion Mahony Griffin (1871-1961).
The Chicago Park District and the Australian Consul-General in Chicago, Roger Price, asked me recently if I would consider supporting the naming of a park or beach in Rogers Park in honor of Ms. Mahony Griffin.
Below is a brief summary of her illustrious life:
Mary Mahony Griffin (see photo on left taken in 1930 with husband,Walter Burley Griffin) was of the first female licensed architects in the United States, an ambassador of the Chicago-style architecture to the world, and a pioneer for professional women in the first decades of the 20th Century. She was the first employee hired by famed architectFrank Lloyd Wright, and became his right hand person. Her design work and watercolors became synonymous with the Prairie Style of architecture.
Her beautiful watercolor renderings of buildings and landscapes became known as a staple of Wright’s style, though he never gave her credit for her work. Despite her talents, her work went largely unrecognized during her tenure with Wright.
Mahony Griffin’s talents finally emerged from Wright’s shadow when she and her husband, Walter Burley Griffin, won the international design competition for designing the capitol city of Australia, Canberra (this is why the Consul-General of Australia is advocating for her to be honored). She is celebrated in Australia and Asia, but remains overlooked in the United States, her hometown of Chicago and the neighborhood of Rogers Park where she spent her final years.
Below is a Wikipedia biography of Mahony Griffin’s amazing life:
Sadly, very few parks and beaches in our City are named after women. Some of the few exceptions are found in our neighborhood. Willye White Park on Howard Street is named after the famous Olympian, and Pratt Beach recently was re-named Toby Prinz Beach in honor of the late Rogers Park activist. Changing the name of the Jarvis Beach and Park to the Marion Mahony Griffin Beach and Park would add to the Park District’s portfolio of parks named after accomplished women.
I initially thought of Fargo Beach at the end of Fargo Avenue as a possible candidate for renaming. Given that Fargo Beach is just around the corner from the landmark Emil Bach House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, I reasoned that renaming the beach the Marion Mahony Griffin Beach would be a suitable tribute for this path-breaking woman and Rogers Park resident.
I ran this idea past some neighbors in the immediate vicinity of Fargo Beach and they pointed out that Fargo Beach has practically disappearedin the last two years due to rising lake levels (see photo on right).
Given that fact, I set my sights on Jarvis Beach and Park, which also is just around the corner from the Emil Bach House. The beach and park on Jarvis are always present even when lake levels are high (see photo below). I agree the park and beach on Jarvis would be a much more fitting and permanent tribute for such an influential woman.
Of course, renaming the park and beach in honor of Ms. Mahony Griffin would mean supplanting the name “Jarvis.” According to the Rogers Park West Ridge Historical Society, Jarvis Beach and Park is named after R.J. Jarvis, a friend of the Rogers and Touhy families. Philip Rogers and Patrick Touhy founded and subdivided Rogers Park.
Perhaps some descendants of Mr. Jarvis may come forward with information about his life, but thus far I have been unable to locate any information about R.J. Jarvis other than the fact he was the friend of two locally influential developers. Given Marion Mahony Griffin’s world renown and connection to Rogers Park, I believe renaming the beach and park after this path breaking woman is a more fitting tribute. Of course, R.J. Jarvis would continue to be recognized with a Chicago street named after him.
Let me know what you think. Absent an outcry of community opposition or compelling argument against the name change, I will offer my support for renaming the Jarvis Beach and Park, the Mary Mahony Griffin Beach and Park at the next Park District Board meeting in August.