Like the rest of Chicago’s modern lakefront, this site was developed on landfill. Its undulating landscape of wooded ridges and wet swales was designed to replicate the natural lake shore. Soon after its creation in the early 1920s the site attracted so many local and migratory birds that it was fenced off to serve as a bird and wild flower refuge. Public access to the interior of the sanctuary has remained restricted since then.
It escaped demolition in 1968 thanks to Lake View resident Bill Jarvis who was a passionate bird-watcher and native plants enthusiast. His tireless effort led to an agreement with the Chicago Park District to restore and maintain the sanctuary. The sanctuary was renamed after him after his death and is still maintained by volunteers organized by the Lake View Citizens Council.
The shallow ponds on the west side are fed by city water that flows into a marsh. Small flocks of black-crowned night herons roost in the taller trees in the spring during the day. A set-back of approximately twenty feet from the fenced sanctuary is a “no-mow” zone.