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In 1929, when a large city dump in the West Town neighborhood had been completely filled, the Bureau of Sanitation transferred part of the site to the Bureau of Parks and Recreation. The city soon named it the Smith Athletic Field for Joseph Higgins Smith, alderman of the surrounding 32nd ward from 1914 to 1933. (At the time, the city regularly named parks for standing aldermen of the wards in which the sites were located.)

Although it had been named, the park had few improvements until the late 1930s, when the city installed playground equipment, constructed a small brick recreation building, and created an athletic field that was flooded in winter for ice skating. By the late 1950s, a World War II tank and artillery piece had been placed in the park. In 1959, the city transferred Smith Park to the Chicago Park District, along with more than 250 other properties.

After making initial improvements, the park district added a spraypool, swimming pool, and bath house in the late 1960s. In 1979, a large modern fieldhouse was constructed in Smith Park.

Nine years later, the park district dedicated its gymnasium to Tommy Positano, a high school student who had been active at the park, and who received a Junior Citizenship Award posthumously.