Located on Northerly Island, just south of the Adler Planetarium, the 12th Street Beach dates to the 1920's. In 1909, renowned architect Daniel H. Burnham envisioned a new park composed of five man-made islands running south between Grant Park and Jackson Park. The South Park Commission was formed and began implementation of Burnham's Plan with the construction of Northerly Island in 1920. The island was built by backfilling a sheet iron wall using landfill and dredged material. The island was completed by 1925. Access to the mainland was provided by a bridge, later converted to a causeway. The Commercial Air Craft Association requested permission to use the island as a temporary landing strip. However a group of women's organizations suggested the creation of a public bathing beach instead of a landing field. The commissioners agreed, and created 12th Street Beach.
In 1933 and 1934, Northerly Island and Burnham Park served as the site of Chicago's second World's Fair entitled A Century of Progress. In preparation for the fair, the commissioners greatly increased the size of the island. The Adler Planetarium opened on the island before the fair. It is one of the few structures that remained open after the fair. By the 1940's, in addition to the public beach, Northerly Island also offered paths, walkways, scattered trees, and grassy open spaces. In 1948, a small airport called Meigs Field opened, but this site was eventually closed in 2003. The following year, after a new initiative called for the replacement of outdated facilities on the lakefront, a new beach house was constructed at 12th Street.
As construction on the Adler Planetarium began in 1925, erosion began to occur behind the iron sheet wall at the northern angle of 12th Street Beach. By 1926 aerial photos of the Planetarium disclose the presence of a rubble filled schooner hull where the erosion was greatest. An array of still extant stabilization pilings and aerial photographs from the mid 1920's showing the stern of the schooner permit us to estimate its length at around 140 feet. The schooner hull, now partially paved over at the stern lies embedded on foreshore of the 12th Street Beach, just south of the Adler Planetarium.
The UASC and its project leader John Gerty are presently mapping and documenting this wreck in hope that it may soon be identified.