In 1969, the Chicago Park District began leasing this property, a former storage area for salt and snow removal equipment, from the Chicago Transit Authority. In 1981, the park district doubled the park’s size to more than two acres, purchasing the CTA land and acquiring additional property. Park facilities now include baseball fields, volleyball courts, and tennis courts. The park district officially designated this site Jonquil Park in the mid-1970s, when a number of properties were named for plants and trees.
The jonquil, a spring-blooming bulb that produces yellow or white flowers, is a type of Narcissus. According to Greek mythology, the vain Narcissus was so taken with his own reflection in a pond that the gods turned him into a flower. Jonquil Park features a bronze sculpture created in 1988 by internationally-known artist Richard Hunt, whose studio lies across the street in a converted street car barn. Inspiration for Hunt’s Eagle Columns came from a Vachel Lindsay poem about Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld (1847-1902), an early proponent of neighborhood playgrounds, who once lived nearby.
Funds raised in the surrounding Lincoln Park community, together with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, paid for the sculpture. Recent (2009/2010) sculpture conservation addressed bronze corrosion, graffiti residue, and staining. Stone losses at the granite bases were repaired, sinking sections of plaza paving were raised to level positions, and accessibility to the raised plaza was provided with the construction of a new ramp. Richard Hunt also designed new sculptural elements to eliminate potential damage from skateboards.