Before the Chicago Park District maintained the city’s beautiful natural spaces, parks on the South Side were created by the South Park Commission, an organization that provided green sanctuaries to congested neighborhoods and recreational activities to their residents. The commission completed its first ten parks on the South Side by 1905, but Fuller (Melville) Park trailed behind, mainly due to landscaping issues. While the train tracks, alleys, and streets that the architects had to work around were likely frustrating obstacles, the delay gave them additional time to finalize the park’s designs, which is why Fuller Park has unique architectural features distinct from other nearby parks built during the same time period.
The most notable of these features is the park’s symmetrical fieldhouse, which features banners featuring local teams and athletes alongside decorative quilts and mosaics. Two long, identical wings on either side of the circular entrance hall house a fitness center, two gyms, and an auditorium. As your eyes move up to the high, curved ceiling of the entrance hall, your gaze will eventually settle on the open doors leading to an outdoor garden complete with a stone fountain that is popular for wedding and event rentals.
Another architectural oddity is the grandstand on the west side of the park. Created to block park goers’ view of the train tracks, this structure offers a wide view of the basketball courts—two full courts with six hoops. Other recreational amenities spread across the park’s eleven acres include a set of workout and gymnastics bars; a swimming pool (that remained closed for the 2022 season); a combined soccer/football field; and a baseball field. On the east side of the park, a playground sits next to a set of benches that surround a water mister—perfect for cooling off after a day in the sun, or maybe for an afternoon partaking in one of the many classes and activities hosted at Fuller Park.
Many Chicago Park District staples, like Movies in the Parks or summer camps for kids and teens, are offered here—but the park’s programming goes beyond the basics with a schedule that includes outdoor yoga in the park, boxing classes, volleyball, touch football for boys and girls, and urban dance classes. If you’re looking to get involved, registration for fall sessions is open now.
My ideal day at the park? Shakily roller-skating across the basketball courts, followed by a picnic lunch on the grandstand. It may have been built with the intention of hiding the train tracks, but I love the close up view of the trains passing by.
Fuller (Melville) Park. 331 W. 45th St. chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/fuller-melville-park