Fort Sheridan was a U.S. Army base from 1887 until 1993, when it officially closed. Measures to secure the Fort for public benefit began in the late 1980s. For nearly a decade, we worked with surrounding communities to win congressional and presidential approval of legislation to have the U.S. Army transfer land to us for public open space, recreation and preservation. In 1997, the Army began conveyance of the northern section of the former base. The third and final parcel was received in 2001.
The Fort Sheridan cemetery has played an important role in the site’s history. It stands as a silent witness to the past. Gravestones here date back to 1890. Though we provide ongoing care and maintenance, the cemetery is still operated by the Army. For questions regarding burials, contact the Army's Cemetery Supervisor at 847-615-0232.
From the Spanish-American War in 1898 to Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s, Fort Sheridan served a vital military role. Learn more »
In the late 19th century, Chicago's labor and business interests collided. Violent confrontations and labor strikes repeatedly troubled the city. By the time of the Haymarket Riot of 1886, the Commercial Club, made up of prominent Chicago businessmen, had pressed the U.S. Secretary of War to establish a military post to maintain order. For that purpose, the Club purchased and donated over 600 acres of land near Highwood, which was formerly the site of a brick manufacturing village.
In 1888, General Philip Sheridan, who was Commanding General of the Army in the nation's capital, made history by naming the encampment after himself. Fort Sheridan's role evolved over the next century, from peacekeeper during the Pullman Strikes of June 1894 to training center for wars being fought around the globe. Its troops fought on horseback in the Spanish-American War, received artillery instruction during World Wars I and II, were deployed to Vietnam, and maintained NIKE missile systems throughout the Cold War.
Fort Sheridan's buildings represent a significant period of architectural history. Prestigious Chicago architects Holabird & Roche implemented the Richardsonian Romanesque style in the design of the tower and the original 64 buildings at the Fort. Massive brick construction and an abundance of arches and towers reflect this style.
The Fort's central tower remains a notable landmark today. Ninety-four buildings at the Fort are designated National Historic Landmarks. Landscape designer Ossian C. Simonds framed the military areas with native vegetation, working with the unusual combination of ravines, lake bluffs, and open areas to enhance the grounds for military and aesthetic purposes.
End of an Era
On May 28, 1993, Fort Sheridan ceased operations as an active military post. A reserve training area was retained by the Army, and several of the Fort's buildings and officers homes were sold by the Town of Fort Sheridan for private residences.
The Natural Scene
A unique Lake Michigan natural resource, Fort Sheridan is of statewide significance. The land here was shaped by the forces of glaciation and erosion. Efforts to restore the site and preserve its valuable ecosystems and rich human history is ongoing. Learn more »
Ravines and Bluffs
As ice-age glaciers slowly receded toward the poles, they carved out valleys, rivers, small lakes, and the Great Lakes basin. Over time, as water ran toward Lake Michigan it eroded the land and formed the site’s six rare ravines. The ravines and lakeshore provide a protected home for several endangered and threatened species.
Janes Ravine is one of the few remaining examples of a rare high-quality upland forest. The bluffs along the lake comprise the largest and best remaining examples of oak woodlands and prairies once prevalent along much of the lakeshore. The preserve’s open oak savanna is rare for this area. Located between prairie and forest, it is characterized by small groves of oaks that tower above grassy areas and wildflowers.
Microclimates and Ecosystems
Lake Michigan’s waters moderate weather extremes at Fort Sheridan, keeping the ravines slightly warmer during the winter and cooler in the summer. This makes it possible to find plants and trees here that are not found further inland, like arborvitae evergreens, thought to be the only wild, native arborvitae in Lake County, or the rare American dog violet, sea rocket, and buffaloberry.
The Preserve’s ecosystems include ravine, prairie, savanna, lakeshore, and freshwater lake. They provide diverse habitats for a great variety of wildlife and plant species. Over 140 species of birds follow the shoreline of Lake Michigan as they migrate north in the spring and south in the fall. Almost 60 other bird species are year-round residents.
The Main entrance (Gilgare Lane) has been widened to two full lanes and leads to a new 45-vehicle parking lot with five accessible spaces and an evaporator toilet.