I finally finished the PBS American Experience documentary, "Chicago - City of the Century" and found plenty to talk about in the paleo-future department. One particularly interesting element of the doc was the creation of Grant Park. Apparently plans were set in place to use the park for commercial purposes after the Great Fire of 1871. That is, until Montgomery Ward, (yes, that Montgomery Ward), took it upon himself to fight and attempt to preserve Grant Park for future generations.
According to the documentary, "Ward led a 13 year campaign to enforce the decision made in 1836 that the lakefront remain forever open, free of any buildings or obstruction. He even opposed Marshall Field for wanting to build a museum in the park. 'I fought for the poor people,' he said, 'not the millionaires.'"
With the Chicago Tribune against him as well as the other owners along Michigan Avenue he had "very little support" which seems evident given his 13 year campaign.
Grant Park has an interesting history in the 20th century as well. It was a scene of clashes between Chicago Police and protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It is also the home of many music festivals most recently becoming the semi-permanent home of Lolapalooza.