University of Illinois at Chicago Cook County Forest Preserve Photographs (University of Illinois at Chicago)
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About this Collection

Collection Description


Dates c. 1903 - c. 2004

pool partyThe Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC), charged with protecting and preserving forested lands, came into existence in the 1910s. In 1913, the Illinois state legislature passed an enabling act to allow counties to establish forest preserves. In 1914, Cook County voters approved the creation of a forest preserve district, and in 1917, the FPDCC dedicated its first preserve, the Deer Grove Forest, near Palatine. Throughout its history, the district took on hundreds of parcels of lands, so that by 1929 it had acquired about 31,000 acres and by 2010, nearly 70,000 acres.

At the same time that the district expanded and developed its holdings, it balanced the often contradictory goals of ensuring public access and enjoyment of the preserves with the need to protect forested lands from what its administrators saw as "unintelligent use" by the preserves' millions of annual visitors. It created facilities for the general public, such as picnic areas, campgrounds, golf courses, swimming pools, and hiking trails. But it also kept large areas of land inaccessible by automobile and undertook educational and public outreach programs to encourage the appreciation and wise use of nature.

The images in this digital collection come from lantern slides, glass slides, and print photographs taken during the FPDCC's history. The collection consists primarily of images of flora and fauna from the preserves. Some images also come from the massive Skokie Lagoons project during the 1930s and from other construction projects that took place on forest preserve property. About 200 of the glass slides were generated by one of the early forest preserve advocates, Dwight H. Perkins, who used these slides to convince lawmakers and the general public to support a forest preserve district for the county.

The source for these images is the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Collection at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This collection has over 250 linear feet of textual, bound, and visual material. Access to the collection is made possible by a generous grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (