Over a century ago, nestled on the Lake Michigan bluff along North Sheridan Road a five-star hotel played host to the rich and famous. The likes of William Edens dined there during the opening of his expressway and George Gershwin practiced piano in the hotel’s main lounge before playing on stage. The breathtaking Hotel-Moraine-on-the-Lake served as a luxurious getaway for wealthy guests for more than six decades.
Today, Gershwin and Edens may have a hard time recognizing their Lake Michigan vacation spot. Long gone is the once swanky Hotel-Moraine-on-the-Lake, and in its place is the lovely Moraine Park – one of four lakefront parks in Highland Park. The 13-acre Moraine Park serves the community as a passive recreation park and features walking paths, picnicking areas, an outdoor art sculpture garden, a non-swimming beach, and Highland Park’s only dog beach area.
According to the Highland Park Historical Society, Hotel Moraine-on-the-Lake opened in Highland Park in 1898 to serve vacationing Chicagoans, many from the city’s exclusive Gold Coast. Hotel Moraine was designed by Highland Park architect, Ernst Mayo, for F.W. Cushing and named for the nearby granite rock shelf.
Originally open solely for the summer months, many guests spent their entire summer at the hotel. The Moraine Hotel operated at maximum capacity for its first 35 years but was negatively affected by the stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression. During World War 2, the hotel served as a barracks for Army and Navy officers.
In 1943, Jules Reingold, a wealthy real estate man from Glencoe, Illinois, bought the hotel and ran it successfully until his death in 1947. The Hotel changed hands several times between 1947 and 1963. In 1963, Richard S. Wright Enterprises purchased the hotel, capitalizing on the dining room and numerous meeting rooms to attract industry conferences. By 1968, the hotel was empty again. Illinois Bell rented and redesigned the hotel’s garage to serve as a school for telephone operators.
In 1969, Bert Schwarz purchased the land with intentions of tearing down the hotel and building a lakeshore high-rise. Moraine Citizens Committee, a group of Highland Park residents and politicians, mobilized to block the high-rise development through a city-wide referendum that granted the City of Highland Park the funds to purchase the Hotel Moraine property for a future park and nature preserve.
The original Hotel Moraine-on-the-Lake was demolished in 1972. In 1999, the Highland Park City Council deeded the property to the Park District of Highland Park in hopes that a park built on the property would best serve the community.
The Moraine Park outdoor sculpture park was installed in 2005 and features unique granite, marble, carved concrete & wood, limestone, and steel sculptures. The pieces were generously donated by Highland Park resident Perry Snyderman.
- Picnic Area
- Sculpture Garden
- Walking Paths
- Beach Access (Closed)