From the 1850s through the late 20th century, the site that is now occupied by Millennium Park was controlled by the Illinois Central Railroad. In Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago he considered the railroad property to be so untouchable that he developed the Grant Park portion of the plan around it.
Construction began on Grant Park in 1917. The first areas to be constructed were the narrow strips between Michigan Avenue and the railroad tracks extending from Randolph Street to 11th Street. The original Peristyle was built at this time at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street.
With the completion of Grant Park, the railroad area remained a blight in its corner. In 1977 four Chicago civic groups proposed the "Lakefront Gardens for the Performing Arts." The proposed park, which included a performing arts pavilion, lacked both a funding strategy and significant government support. Ultimately, the Petrillo Music Shell was built in Grant Park as a compromise between the civic groups and the Chicago Park District.
In 1997 Mayor Richard M. Daley directed his staff to develop plans for a new music venue to be built over the active tracks and surface parking lot. What is now Millennium Park was first conceived in 1998 with the mission of creating new parkland in Grant Park to transform the unsightly railroad tracks and parking lots that had long dotted the lakefront. Over time, with Mayor Richard M. Daley's vision and Frank Gehry's involvement, the project evolved into the most ambitious public undertaking in Chicago's history.
Today, with its unprecedented combination of architecture, monumental sculpture and landscape design, the 24.5 acre Millennium Park has become the crowning achievement for Chicago in the tradition of its original founders.