Project: Henry Palmisano (Stearns Quarry) Park
Location: Chicago, IL
Firm: Site Design Group, Ltd.
Year: 2009
Firm website:

Project Description: Henry Palmisano Park holds in its history an evolution of uses and values. Long operated as a quarry from 1830 through 1969, the site later became a landfill for the City of Chicago’s construction waste. Located in the neighborhood of Bridgeport, it is now a twenty-seven-acre environmental park designed to engage residents and support native eco-systems. As a joint project involving three Chicago agencies, the park exemplifies the city’s commitment to sustainability by the reuse of a post-industrial site as a place for exploration and discovery of natural systems.

Palmisano Park provides several native ecosystems, including prairie plant communities, simulated wetlands, and a large two-acre pond. These native ecosystems with bird and fish habitats have become a popular destination for thousands of Chicagoans. Tours and even overnight campouts are conducted by the city, universities, and organizations and draws the interest of sustainability activists throughout the United States. All stormwater on site, including from the massive hill—dubbed “Mount Bridgeport” by locals—is directed toward the pond and wetlands instead of the city’s sewers. The water flows through tiered educational wetlands that connect the community with nature and allows children and adults alike to walk amidst native plantings.

Exposed quarry walls, recycled materials, reclaimed limestone boulders, concrete outcropping, and remnants of abandoned infrastructure are as much a part of the park experience as the natural systems the site supports. With unusual terrain for the Chicago area, the central mound reaches a height of almost forty feet where visitors can view an impressive view of the Chicago skyline among native grasses and flora. This combination of experiences—natural, industrial, urban, residential—anchors the surrounding community to this new destination park, providing a local identity of urban sustainability.

Project Team Members:
Client/Owner: Chicago Park District
Photography Credit: Ron Gordon Photography and Site Design Group, Ltd.
Site Design Group Ltd. – Architect of Record, Landscape Architecture and Project Management
Ernest C. Wong, Principal-in-Charge; Michelle M. Inouye, Project Manager and Designer; Hana Ishikawa, Associate Project Manager;
Weston Solutions, Inc. – Civil and Environmental Engineering
Applied Ecological Systems, Inc. – Wetland Engineering
Kowalenko & Bilotti, Inc. – Environmental Engineering
Continental Associates – Electrical Engineering
Gagarin Farruggia Gibisch Reis, Inc. – Structural Engineering
Clauss Brothers, Inc. – General Contractor
Midwest Fence Corporation – Metalwork