Chicago History Museum – Major Renovation and Property Development

Chicago History Museum – Major Renovation and Property Development

The Chicago History Museum is embarking on a multifaceted park beautification project including renovations to the plaza and construction of the Richard M. and Shirley H. Jaffee History Trail. The project will also include renovation to the underground storage facility which sits directly below the plaza. The storage facility houses the Museum’s 23,000 linear feet of archives and manuscripts. Renovations will upgrade the structural integrity of the space and modernize the interior.


The extensive interior renovation of the vault will consist of architectural, mechanical, electrical, fire suppression, lighting, and compact storage upgrades. Environmental controls will be added to help preserve the integrity of the historical collection.

Each stop on the Jaffee History Trail will explore aspects of Chicago’s personality. Approximately 150 new trees and large beds of native plants are included in the new landscaping plan. The Trail will incorporate the park’s existing pathways, and a path will be added that loops around the entire parkland. With these changes, the plaza will connect more seamlessly to the surrounding area.

New Rain Garden Rendering
New Rain Garden Pergola Rendering
New Plaza Star Rendering
3.1.21 – Demolition of the Vault Area has begun.
3.22.21 – Property development work begins.
Excavation of a 13,000 pound relic from the Chicago Fire of 1871. The mass is a clump of metal objects that melted from the heat.
Removing the existing waterproofing on the east plaza foundation wall. New waterproofing will be installed.
Electronic Field Vector Map testing of the new waterproofing membrane on the Plaza deck.
Delivery of the new air handling unit to serve the renovated Vault Area.
Exposed electrical and plumbing lines that lead to the Children’s Fountain on the southeast corner of the site. These lines are in conflict with changes to be made, so they will need to be re-routed.
Concrete footings for the Pergolas on the east side of the Plaza.
Ductwork runs on the east side of the renovated Vault.
Development of the new Gateway to the History Trail.
History of Railroads exhibit under construction.
7.28.21 – Aerial view of the East Plaza renovation.
7.30.21 – Children’s Fountain at the new southwest entrance to the History Trail.
New Gateway Rendering
New Corner Sign Rendering
The East Plaza of the Chicago History Museum
3.18.21 – Preparing the layout for the new Vault Area which sits directly below the East Plaza.
3.29.21 – The Children’s Fountain is staying, but the sidewalk around the fountain is being replaced. A new sidewalk will be installed, and a new stone wall with signs will be installed as you enter the new walk path through the southwest corner of the property.
The relic will be cleaned before returning to the park as part of the Jaffee History Trail.
Where the east plaza, the 1980’s addition, and the Museum foundation wall, built in the 1930’s, meet. We will be removing and re-installing the entire height of the foundation wall which is roughly 15′.
Installation of new waterproofing on the existing Plaza stairs.
Newly installed air handling unit to serve the renovated Vault Area.
Covered Chicago History Museum items in preparation for jetting/cleaning the sump pump and catch basin.
Excavation and mud slabs for site foundation walls on the east side of the Plaza.
Brick masonry work has started on the planter bed retaining walls east of the Plaza deck.
Pergola foundations and electrical feeds for light fixtures in the Pergola bases.
Formation for the new Plaza Star.
First area of the new East Plaza being poured.
7.30.21 – Weathervanes exhibit along the History Trail. Each weathervane will depict an important aspect of Chicago’s history.

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