Moraine Park is a neighborhood park for passive recreation including nature walks, picnicking, and an outdoor sculpture area in the upper park. A ravine path from the upper park provides access to the beach. Moraine is the site of the historic Moraine Hotel where the likes of George Gershwin and William Edens (namesake for the Edens Expressway) often stayed.
Open mid-April through mid-November.
Please be aware that due to several years of high lake levels and erosion, the beach has undergone physical changes since it last opened. The site is not completely enclosed.
The beach is open to all, regardless of dog park membership.
A current parking sticker is required and must be adhered to your vehicle’s lower front window to park in the Moraine Park parking lot. A parking decal for Moraine Park is included with a dog park membership.
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 get-away 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 though 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. In 2009, the Park District renovated the park sculpture walk to include new landscaping and lighting. A Sustainable Coastal Planning Project conducted in 2015 culminated with plans to address the degraded ravine conditions and improved public access to the site. Conceptual plans were developed to repair and improve the ravine outfall and the stone walkway.
The District has plans to renovate the existing ravine path and is in the preliminary stages of assessing restoration of the ravine and the natural character of ravine outlet at the lake in collaboration with the City and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
Moraine Park has one of the most fascinating histories of any park in our community. And, like its predecessor, the Hotel Moraine-on-the-Lake, it is one of the most serene destinations on the north shore. Go there and you can quietly meander through the unique sculpture garden and down the picturesque ravine path to the beachfront – perhaps even spot the old ravine steps from the hotel. Back on the bluff, relax for a spell on park bench, listen carefully, and you too may hear Gershwin in the distance or is it just the winds of a time long ago?