HomeTop StoriesAlderman: 'Nude beach' sign in Rogers Park was not authentic

Alderman: ‘Nude beach’ sign in Rogers Park was not authentic

CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite what a sign that could be mistaken for an official Chicago Park District notice might say, it’s best to keep your clothes on when visiting Loyola Beach in Rogers Park.

ald. Maria Hadden, 49th, posted a photo to social media of a sign reading “Nude Beach Beyond This Sign” on Loyola Beach, which stretches along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Touhy Avenue to just north of Pratt Boulevard.

A photo of the sign, taken by Mark McCormick and posted to the Rogers Park News Facebook group, circulated on social media Monday morning. McCormick reported seeing the sign just north of the pier at the end of Pratt Boulevard.

Mark McCormick

Some of the people who commented on the Facebook post seemed to think a nude beach had actually been built in Rogers Park, while others wondered if the photo had been edited in PhotoShop. McCormick responded in the comments that he got right in front of the sign and took the photo.

WBBM Newsradio reported there were two signs, but no photos have surfaced of a second.

ald. Hadden reported that her office was notified that someone had installed the “cheeky sign” on a metal post on the beach. She stressed that it’s not really an official Chicago Park District sign — and her office has reported it to the Park District so it can be removed.

ald. Hadden stressed on social media that “at least some clothing is required on all of our beaches.”

The Park District itself also left a comment on Rogers Park News’ Facebook post: “This is not an official Chicago Park District sign. The Chicago Park District is working to remove all unauthorized signage. Please note unauthorized use of the Chicago Park Chicago Park The District’s Aquatics seal is strictly prohibited.”

The Park District later left a note saying the sign had been removed.

The mayor did not immediately call back for further comment.

In her Facebook post on the subject, Ald. Hadden noted that in 1932 the then Ald. George Williston (49th) had introduced a resolution to allow nude sunbathing on the same beach. Hadden included a Chicago Tribune clip from that era.

We’ve been made aware that someone installed this cheeky sign on Loyola Beach. Please note this is not…

Posted by alderman Maria Hadden on Monday, September 4, 2023

“However, the proposal was surrounded by restrictions designed to appease sniffing ladies and gentlemen snooping on the practices of nudist cults in Germany and elsewhere in Europe,” the Tribune report said.

Williston’s 1932 resolution was to have a Lakeview man, Dr. Arne L. Suominen — who was “assigned as a spokesman for a large group of citizens interested in sunbathing” to build a fence for that purpose on the beach at Rogers Park, the Tribune report said. The fence was to be high enough that it would not be visible from nearby buildings or other vantage points, and would be divided into separate areas for men and women, the Tribune reported.

According to Brian Hoffman’s book “Naked: A Cultural History of American Nudism,” physical culture promoter Bernarr Macfadden spoke about the idea of ​​the nude sunbathing area at Rogers Park Beach—predicting that 20,000 sunbathers would visit the enclosure, and that number would later grow to 200,000.

A 1990 Chicago Reader article by Ron Dorfman noted that Suominen was a “prominent Chicago naturopath.” As quoted by the Tribune in Dorfman’s article, Suominen praised nude sunbathing over bathing suits—partly on the grounds that a Swiss expert had stated that “unbalanced exposure makes one irritable rather than relaxing.”

If the ordinance calling for the nude beach closure were passed, the Tribune reported, the councilors said they would “ask the building commissioner to subject Mr. Suominen’s fence to a special inspection for knotholes.”

Dorfman’s 1990 article stated that the proposal for a nudist beach fence was not adopted.

Neighbors, including the students of a nearby Catholic high school, protested and the ordinance failed to pass the city council,” Dorfman wrote.

Also, according to Hoffman’s book, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union—headquartered a stone’s throw north in Evanston—lobbied hard against the proposed fence for nude tanning.

But Suominen kept trying, Dorfman wrote, presenting a 10,000-signature petition to the Lincoln Park Board calling for a place to sunbathe nude on the beach — suggesting that a ten-foot-tall sheet metal palisade fence should be erected to prevent keep it out of sight. The proposal before the Park Board died in committee, Dorfman wrote.

Dorfman’s 1990 article went on to document other calls for nude beaches or recreational spaces over the decades. He wrote that in 1949, Park Board President James H. Gately turned down a demand for a public space for nudity recognition.

And even in later eras that might have been considered more liberated, Dorfman wrote, people who dared to go naked on Chicago’s beaches didn’t get away with it.

An ad placed in the Reader in 1975 by someone calling himself Keith Speludnik brought to the advertised ‘naked-in’ on Oak Street Beach perhaps a dozen men, a woman and two children who had left their swimsuits off the shore dumped, applauded by a thousand or more spectators,” Dorfman wrote. “Police arrested three young men who walked back onto the beach without their suitcases.”

Nearly half a century later – and more than ninety years after those “sniffing” neighbors got the better of Dr. Suominen in Rogers Park – nudity is still illegal on Chicago beaches. And for that matter, Chicago’s beaches close for the season after Monday anyway.

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