Located just south of the Beverly community in Chicago, Morgan Park was first settled in the mid-1800s. It was originally known as North Blue Island because of its proximity to the Blue Island area and its position on the blue island ridge. The area was named for its largest landowner, Thomas Morgan, who purchased all of the property between what is now the area bordered by 91st Street to the north, 119th Street to the south, Western Avenue on the west and Vincennes Avenue on the east.
An English native, Morgan came to the U.S. in 1843 and settled in Albany, New York for a short time. His father, a London banker, left him a fortune, which he in turn used to get a foothold on the ridge in 1844. There he cleared an area large enough to start a cattle ranch, which he ran for nearly 25 years.
Before Hyde Park was annexed to the City of Chicago, Morgan's son Henry was actually village president of the community in 1889. In 1869, the Morgan family sold 3,000 acres of his land to the Blue Island Land and Building Company. The company designed a new community laying out streets and building homes. Many people were already attracted to the rustic area. The Blue Island Land and Building Company's improvements sought to make the area attractive for those seeking relief from the hectic annoyances of city life. A sprawling community was born and quickly began to draw residents in large numbers.
Early on, education was an important part of the Morgan Park community. The Blue Island Land and Building Company made a concerted effort to create a great center of learning there. It brought the Mt. Vernon Military & Classical Academy (now known as Morgan Park Academy) there in 1873, the Chicago Female College in 1875, the American Institute of Hebrew, and the Baptist Union Theological Seminary was relocated there from Chicago in 1877.
In 1888, a serious attempt was made to bring the new University of Chicago to Morgan Park. The effort's chief benefactor, John D. Rockefeller, indicated midway through that he began to prefer the larger site of 57th Street and Ellis Avenue in Hyde Park, donated by Marshall Field.
After the university was opened in Hyde Park, it quickly absorbed Chicago Female College and Baptist Union Theological Seminary (which then became the university's divinity school). For 15 years, Morgan Park Academy served as a preparatory school for the university until the death of U of C president William Rainey Harper in 1906, which ended the university's sponsorship of the academy.
In 1998, prominent Chicago family, the Walgreens donated their home in Morgan Park along the ridge at 116th & Longwood Drive to the Mercy Home for Girls.
There are quite a number of notable individuals who hail from Morgan Park. They include: Denver Broncos offensive tackle (1965-66) Lee Bernet; Peter Cetera former bassist, vocalist and founding member of the rock band Chicago; Fred Evans, defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings; Mae Jemison, engineer, physician and astronaut — Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel in space as part of a NASA crew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour; Emil Jones, 37th President of the Illinois Senate; and Jeremy Rifkin, economist, writer and public speaker–Rifkin is the founder of the Foundation on Economic Trends.