DOWNTOWN — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday defended her plan to honor the city’s founder, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, after getting pushback from aldermen who want to rename Lake Shore Drive in honor of du Sable.
Last week, Lightfoot announced she wants to name a portion of the Riverwalk after du Sable and invest money to better develop his namesake park. The proposal came after the City Council deferred an effort to rename Lake Shore Drive. It was just the latest move in a contentious, years-long City Council effort to name the famous road after du Sable.
Lightfoot said her proposal — to name the Riverwalk and a festival after the famed settler and develop DuSable Park — would allow for more education around du Sable and his wife, Kitihawa. The $40 million proposal would include installing three statues of du Sable: one at his namesake park, one near the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue and one where the Chicago River branches off north and south. The Riverwalk would be named DuSable Riverwalk.
“What we can all agree on is it’s way past time for us to truly, permanently recognize the person who is responsible for the founding of this city,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday. “This gives us a real opportunity to have not only a lasting, permanent set of memorials … but also programming to educate and activate and bring people to the Riverwalk around the concept of getting to know who du Sable and Kitihawa were.”
DuSable Park is a 3-acre patch of land where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan. Lightfoot has not detailed how it would be developed, but said the city would accept requests for proposal to find a designer.
The DuSable Festival would expand on community events that take place every August on the anniversary of his death, the mayor’s office said. It would also highlight the history of the Potawatomi Nation, who are native to the region.
Ald. David Moore (17th), the chief sponsor of the effort to rename Lake Shore Drive, told the Chicago Tribune he does not support Lightfoot’s compromise. Lightfoot said Wednesday she will continue to work with Moore on the issue. The City Council is slated to reconsider the measure at its June 23 meeting.
Du Sable, a Black man believed to be of Haitian descent, arrived here in 1779.
He settled where the Chicago River and Lake Michigan meet, establishing a trading post and farm before selling the property in 1800 and moving to the port of St. Charles. But du Sable’s “successful role in developing the Chicago River settlement was little recognized until the mid-20th century,” the proposed ordinance says.
Renaming the Drive would help educate people, “especially tourists and new Chicagoans,” about du Sable’s life and importance to the city, the original ordinance says.
In addition to a school and the DuSable Museum of African American History in Hyde Park, a small monument sits near the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: