If You Go To Oak Street Beach Today, You'll Have More Fun Than These 1930 Chumps
By Mae Rice in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 15, 2016 8:32PM
Photo via Library of Congress
It's effing hot out today—almost 90 degrees, and it feels like 96, according to AccuWeather. If you're planning to beat the heat at Oak Street Beach this afternoon, we don't blame you. And, bonus: You'll actually taking part of a noble Chicagoland tradition. (Two traditions, if you're also playing hooky Ferris Bueller-style.) In 1930, Chicagoans were flocking to Oak Street Beach too, though in higher-coverage swimsuits and more oppressively dense crowds, as you can see in the photo above.
The crowding effect is no optical illusion. Present-day Oak Street Beach gets packed in the summer months, but it was even more crowded back in 1930, with "congestion" issues acknowledged by the Chicago Parks District. From the early 1920s through 1934, the beach got an estimated 55,000 visitors on hot summer days—roughly the population of modern-day Uptown. To make matters worse, the beach was smaller back then. So many people, so little space, such hot weather! Why are the people in that photo smiling?!
Since the 1930s, Oak Street Beach has improved. It's been extended with a landfill of sand imported from the Indiana Dunes. As of 2012, Oak Street Beach was 6.25 acres, according to a Chicago Parks District spokesperson. That's nowhere near the size of Chicago's biggest beach, 45-acre Montrose Beach, but it's still better than it once was.
Bottom line: There's never been a better time in history to go to Oak Street Beach on a Wednesday afternoon. If the people in the photo above could talk, that's what they would all shout at you.