The Northwestern University Lakefill is an area of land that was reclaimed from Lake Michigan in 1964-1969 from landfill materials made available by the construction of the Port of Indiana. The Lakefill resulted from the university’s need to expand the campus’s physical footprint; Northwestern President J. Roscoe Miller received permission from the town of Evanston and the Illinois legislature (as well as numerous other groups) to reclaim 74 acres (30 ha) of underwater land.
FS -Full Screen, SL – Slide Show
The Lakefill, Evanston Illinois
The James Roscoe Miller Campus (more commonly known as the “Lakefill”) was constructed between 1962 and 1964. Its primary purpose was to provide land for expansion of the University by extending the eastern edge of the campus 1,000 feet into Lake Michigan. The project would increase the University’s educational land holdings from 85 to 159 acres and would reorient the entire campus towards the lake. Although adventurous, Northwestern University lakefill construction was not a new idea in 1962. Plans for expanding into the lake had been made by several University presidents, including Henry Wade Rogers in 1893 and Walter Dill Scott in the 1930s. Rogers’ plans included using the new land for recreational purposes such as a polo field and a gymnasium. Scott’s program was made in conjunction with the city of Chicago’s plan to extend Lake Shore Drive north to Evanston and included lakefront lagoons, a yacht harbor and a highway.
As solid ground was established, Northwestern began the construction of the Northwestern University Library, the Norris University Center and the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, all built from 1970-1975.
The initial stage involved construction of a seawall around the perimeter of the area to be filled in. Starting at a point 1200 feet from the original lakeshore, the wall was 2800 feet long. It was ninety-six feet wide at its base, tapering to eight feet at its top and rose ten feet above the water level. It was constructed of limestone rocks and fill from quarries in Illinois and Indiana. Next, more than two million cubic yards of sand were deposited on the site, to be covered with a two-foot layer of clay. It was during this stage that a controversy arose. Unknown to University officials, the contractors for the project were using sand from a site near Indiana Dunes State Park that activists wished to preserve as part of a new national park. The Save the Dunes Council appealed to the University to void its agreement with the contractors and find another source of sand for the lakefill. University officials felt they had done nothing wrong, and knew that they could not legally back out of their contracts. After it became clear that the sand was being taken from land near two steel mills and a new deep-water port, thus making it unlikely that it would be included in the proposed park, the University let the work continue as planned.
In recent years, the Northwestern University Lakefill has grown to include the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and Norris Aquatics Center, also known as SPAC (for Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center). Numerous paths intersect through the lakefill, providing an ideal route for walkers and joggers. Certain points along the lakefill shore allow for a clear view of Chicago.Tags: Evanston Illinois, The Lakefill