DIVERSEY POINT VISITOR CENTER
(aka: Lincoln Park Community Center)
At the mouth of Diversey Harbor where park land meets Lake Michigan, there once stood a two-story, white-washed building that was home to the Lincoln Park Gun Club from 1912 to 1990. With amazing views of Chicago's skyline and the lake, club members enjoyed the sport of skeet shooting, picking clay pigeons out of the sky over the safety of Lake Michigan's water.
When the Chicago Park District (CPD) terminated the Gun Club's lease in 1990, the CPD envisioned a new use for the space, and reached out to the community for ideas.
In 1991, the Lincoln Park Conservancy (LPC) conducted a survey of 770 of its members and found they recommended converting the site into a park visitor center with an overlook, public meeting rooms, and a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. LPC developed a proposal for what was to become the Diversey Point Visitor Center, the first public information center in Lincoln Park to educate and serve the 17 million people who visit Lincoln Park each year. 100% of net proceeds from the visitor center's operations would be used by LPC for park improvements and programs.
The CPD chose the LPC's proposal to operate the visitor center. The new center would include a bicycle repair shop (it was estimated that nearly 10,000 bicycles passed Diversey Point each summer weekend), a small food and beverage concession with indoor and outdoor seating, a large first-floor room for public meetings and classes, storage areas, handicapped accessible restrooms, and an information center with park maps, guides, information on the Lincoln Park Master Plan, park projects and programs, and brochures from park-related clubs and groups.
The CPD spent nearly 12 months conducting environmental studies of the former Gun Club site. Testing found hazardous levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a potential carcinogen from clay pigeon fragments found in the soil. A high concentration of lead was also found in isolated areas.
An environmental clean-up of the grounds included excavating 6,000-8,000 cubic yards of contaminated top soil, which was trucked away by certified waste haulers and disposed of in a special waste facility approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Eleven affected trees were also removed.
Once the clean-up was complete, the CPD added clean top soil, grass seed, sod, and 105 new trees around the site. New area lighting was installed, as well as bike racks, and other outdoor improvements.
The LPC's grand opening of the Diversey Point Visitor Center occurred on September 11, 1993 with a western-themed fundraiser. The visitor center, staffed by LPC personnel, was open during the season Wednesday through Sunday.
Eventually, the Diversey Point Visitor Center building was demolished and replaced with the garden and overlook seen there today.