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Celebrating the Conservatory's 100 Year Anniversary in 2008!

 

The Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois is one of the largest and most stunning conservatories in the nation. Often referred to as "landscape art under glass," the Garfield Park Conservatory occupies approximately 4.5 acres inside
and out, and includes cold frames and propagating where thousands of plants are grown each year for displays in City parks and spaces. Garfield Park Conservatory is located in Garfield Park — an 184-acre site located on Chicago's redeveloping Westside designed as a pleasure ground by William LeBaron Jenney — and is the oldest of the three great original Westside parks (Humboldt, Garfield, and Douglas).
 

Garfield Park Conservatory History

 

In the late 19th century, each of the three large Westside parks had its own small conservatory and propagation greenhouses. After 20 years of use, these conservatories fell into a state of disrepair and became obsolete.

In 1905 Chicago's West Park Commission's general superintendent and chief landscape architect, Jens Jensen, demolished the three smaller greenhouses in Humboldt, Douglas and Garfield Parks to create what was intended as "the largest publicly owned conservatory under one roof in the world" in Garfield Park. Many of the original plantings came from the three smaller Westside conservatories.
 
Constructed between 1906 and 1907, the Garfield Park Conservatory was designed by Jensen in collaboration with Prairie School architects Schmidt, Garden and Martin and the New York engineering firm of Hitchings and Company. It represents a unique collaboration of architects, engineers, landscape architects, sculptors and artisans.
 
Jensen conceived the Conservatory as a series of naturalistic landscapes under glass, a revolutionary idea at the time. The simple yet strong shape of the structure, which is meant to emulate the haystacks of the Midwest, complements the collection of plants and foliage that it houses.
 
Referred to as "landscape art under glass," the Garfield Park Conservatory occupies approximately 4.5 acres inside and out, and includes cold frames and propagating houses where thousands of plants are grown each year for displays in Garfield, Lincoln, and Grant Parks.

 

Located in the midst of historic Garfield Park on Chicago's redeveloping West Side, the Garfield Park Conservatory is one of Chicago's best kept secrets and one of the nation's botanical treasures. It ranks among Chicago's most unique sites, attracting visitors from a variety of cultures, disciplines and interests.
 
Both Garfield Park and its conservatory are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years the Conservatory has been recognized as an internationally significant horticultural facility as well as a cultural asset to the surrounding community and the city of Chicago.

Conservatory Restoration

1994 marked the start of a multi-year, multi-million dollar plan to restore the entire Conservatory. Each greenhouse received new and improved systems for heating, plumbing, and ventilation while remaining sensitive to the building's historic and architectural integrity. In addition, new facilities have been constructed to support growing programmatic needs in the areas of education, visitor services, and career development.
 
In 2002 a Demonstration Garden was opened to offer gardeners, environmentalists, local garden clubs, and residents a place to learn and teach gardening techniques specific to the challenges of urban spaces.
 
The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance in partnerships with public and private organizations has developed an Urban Demonstration Garden at the Garfield Park Conservatory.
 
Through this new garden, the Alliance, Conservatory, and it's partners hope to offer gardeners, environmentalists, local garden clubs, and residents a place to learn and teach gardening techniques specific to the challenges of urban spaces. Moreover, such a space is providing the Alliance with a compelling platform for its own work with West Side community groups and residents to create, sustain and improve community green spaces.
 
The new indoor Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden provides a fun and engaging space for the Conservatory's many younger visitors. Children of all ages can follow an oversized vine from root to blossom leading them to the main exhibits. At the birth display, children climb a seven-foot seed and peer through windows to see the sleeping embryo. High above the greenhouse floor, an enormous bee can be “flown” by way of a crank into an awaiting flower to illustrate pollination. The Discovery Area includes a soil table where children can discover the magic of a hands-on soil experience with interactive garden additions that can take them back to prehistoric times. The Sensory Cart allows each visitor to touch and smell examples of the many seeds, flowers and fruits of the Conservatory’s collection.
 
The Chicago Park District committed $8 million towards these efforts. In addition, $1.4 million was secured from Empowerment Zone funds. Additional funding is being raised from private sources to complete the Conservatory's restoration for the twenty-first century.

 

 

Order the New Book About the Garfield Park Conservatory!

 

by Julia Sniderman Bachrach and Jo Ann Nathan.

 

Inspired by Nature:
The Garfield Park Conservatory and Chicago's West Side 

 

Chicago Tribune Books, December 15, 2007

...just in the nick of time, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance has published a book filled with reminiscences, historical accounts and stunning photos of the West Side's crown jewel...Bachrach and Nathan's book shows the landmark for what it truly is: a reflection of Chicago -- perpetually in transition, its demography in flux, but fundamentally true to an identity planted long ago, its thick roots now inexorably entwined with history.

Book Description
 
Published in honor of the centennial, Inspired by Nature blossoms into a living history that looks to the future, and covers everything from the history of the conservatory and Garfield Park to the revival of the surrounding community. This fascinating and comprehensive volume includes historical essays, archival photography and plans, as well as contemporary color photography by Brook Collins.  Inspired by Nature also features vignettes by Chicago Public School students, who write about their experiences as members of the Garfield Park Community.  A reflection of the passionate interest and partnerships behind the Garfield Park revival, as well as a celebration of nature’s important role in people’s lives, Inspired by Nature is an essential publication for anyone with an interest in Chicago history, urban parks and communities, and the botanic splendor of the Garfield Park Conservatory.

 

To Order

 

Call the Conservatory Gift Shop at 312-746-4147.

 

Centennial Celebration

Throughout 2008

 

 

Did you know that Chicago’s botanical gem under glass, the Garfield Park Conservatory, has been home to rare tropical plants for almost 100 years? So grab your party hats, and get ready to help us celebrate the Garfield Park Conservatory’s birthday on April 13th, 2008, 9 am to 5 pm, during our Grand Centennial Opening.