In the early 20th century, Chicago businessman A. Montgomery Ward advocated that the lakefront must be publicly accessible, and remain "forever open, clear and free" lest the city descend into the squalor typical of American cities of the time, with buildings and heavy industry destroying any chance for beauty. Ward's influence lead to the protection of the lake shore parks system and to this day the city's lakefront is open from the former city limits at Hollywood Ave (5700N) down to the former steel mills near Rainbow Beach (7700S).
Ward fought for the poor people's access to Chicago's lakefront. In 1906 he campaigned to preserve neighboring Grant Park as a public park. Grant Park has been protected since 1836 by "forever open, clear and free" legislation that has been affirmed by four previous Illinois Supreme Court rulings. In the mid-1890s, architect Daniel H. Burnham began planning a park and boulevard that would link Jackson Park with Grant Park and downtown. As Chief of Construction for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, Burnham was known for developing the White City. After the fair, Burnham began designing a more functional Chicago. Burnham's plan, including a lakefront park with a series of islands, boating harbor, beaches, and playfields was published in his 1909 Plan of Chicago. Burnham's famous 1909 plan eventually preserved Grant Park and the entire Chicago lakefront.