Garfield Park Conservatory: the green lung of Chicago

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Written by our special guest-writer Norma Ricaldone

Chicago is known for being home to some of the most incredible greenhouses: the conservatory parks, spacious glass houses where plants and fauna can live and reproduce despite the frigid climate during the winter seasons.

Today I will talk about the biggest one out all these conservatory parks, the Garfield Park Conservatory.

Built and designed by Jen Jensen between 1906 and 1908, this park was created to be one of the biggest public greenhouses in the whole of Chicago. This very ambitious project was dedicated to James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States of America.

Jensen designed this greenhouse following a very specific structure: he divided the place into different areas, creating different environments for the different species. The idea of creating various sections was something absolutely innovative, so the Garfield Park was defined as “art under a bowl of glass”.

Only recently this wonderful park has been added into the National Registry including all the historical sites in the city; and thanks to this, it has been gradually becoming an attraction that tourists from all over the world would fly to Chicago to go visit!

Even thou Garfield Conservatory Park is not located right in the heart of Chicago, it is quite easy to reach. You just need to take the underground following the green line towards Harlem, and stop at Conservatory-central Park. The entrance to the Garfield Park is just few metres away from the underground stop.

Once reached the park, from the main entrance, you will walk into the first ‘environment’: the Palm House. This is a tropical garden where plants grow so densely that they actually reach the ceiling!

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Moving onto the next ambient, you will find yourself in Sugar from the Sun. When in this section it is possible to admire how plants capture the sunrays turning them into sugar: the simple process that keeps Earth alive.

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The next section is the Children’s Garden, a place where kids can learn everything and anything about plants and nature. The little ones can be entrained here by the numerous activities offered in this department!

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Desert House is the next section following the children’s one. Here you can view all the cactus and plants that can live in the desert. I must say that the flowers they present here are absolutely wonderful.

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After the desert, it’s the Aroid House, a beautiful environment where different type plants turned the whole section into a wild green forest! At the centre of this department there is a pond, the Persian Pool, where 16 glass sculptures are positioned. In addition to this, the pond is also home to numerous colourful water lilies.

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The last environment in the conservatory is the Fern Room, a wild green space that Jensen designed and created to show the beautiful flora that grows in the state of Illinois.

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Garfield Conservatory Park is, however, not only about the internal sections, but even on the outside there are some incredible displays: themed gardens such as the Monet Garden, the Labyrinth, the Lily Pool, the City Garden and the Sensory Garden cover the entire area outside the greenhouse! Anyway, I will tell you about these spectacular gardens in the next article.

 

(photos by Norma Ricaldone)

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